Ledger Inquirer

Inquirer: Path will be cut before pedestrian bridge reopens

A Concerned (though anonymous) Reader left a voicemail last week about a safety issue on the south side of town.

"I'm a concerned citizen (we've established that) calling you about a walk-through area located on Martin Luther King Boulevard between Havenbrook Court and ABC Recycling," he said. "It used to be connected to the walkway that connects to Cusseta Road. Kids walk through there and it's a real safety hazard. Please look into that for me. Thank you and have a blessed day."

Every day is blessed here at Inquirer Central but thanks nonetheless.

I rode by the MLK Boulevard end of this path and sure enough, it's pretty overgrown. No telling what kind of critters are lurking in those weeds.

On the way back to the office, I swung around to the Cusseta Road end, where the pedestrian bridge over the rail line ends. There, I found it locked and chained with a sign that says "Bridge Closed Under Construction." This might explain why the path on the other end hasn't been maintained recently: because no one is supposed to be using it.

As far as I can tell, the path leads to the pedestrian bridge and nowhere else, unless somehow kids are using it and then crossing the railroad tracks on foot. In which case, tall grass would be the least of their problems. Kids, don't do that.

The good news (because good news is what we're all about here) is that the pedestrian bridge restoration project is all but complete, said Deputy City Manager David Arrington. Contractors are putting the final touches on it and it will be open to the public again this week.

If it seems like it's taken a long time for this project to wrap up, it's because it has. I found city documents concerning the project that dated back to 2009.

There are two reasons it took so long, Arrington explained. One, anytime you have to deal with the railroad, it's going to take longer. That's just the nature of the beast. Two, the city had to get engineers to figure out whether it would be better to restore the old bridge or replace it with a shiny new one. The latter approach might have been better, he said, but it was way outside the city's budget, which you might have noticed recently isn't exactly teeming with excess cash.

As it was, it wasn't exactly inexpensive. It cost about $750,000 to refurbish the two ends of the bridge and replace the part of the span that actually goes over the railroad tracks, Arrington said. To replace the entire structure would have cost several times that.

That said, Arrington assured me that before the trail and bridge are reopened to the public this week, the overgrowth along the path will have been mowed down.

'Till then, stay outta there, kids.

-- Seen something that needs attention? Contact me at 706-571-8570 or mowen@ledger-enquirer.com.