Southside bridge replacement project underway

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By Kaitlin Hoskins, News Editor

A public meeting on the replacement of Southside’s historic northbound bridge on Thursday, June 20, brought differing opinions from residents and local business owners.

The one thing most people agreed on, though, was that a new bridge for AL Highway 77 over the Coosa River was necessary. The disagreements were over whether the old metal bridge should stay. There was no true consensus on the matter.

Two options proposed by the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) were “Option A” which saw the current structure removed completely and “Option B” which retained the current bridge in its current location with a new bridge built between it and the southbound bridge.

The feelings in the Southside Community Center last Thursday were split nearly evenly. Some residents were worried about the erasure of history if the old bridge were to be removed. Others worried about the cost of maintaining such a large structure with the city’s current revenue. Most attendees were worried about traffic flow to Whorton Bend Road, Fowlers Ferry Road and Bucks Island, as well as the lengths of turning lanes.

One resident noted that the proposed length of the turning lanes would hold too few cars.

Seth Burkett with ALDOT discussed the resident’s concerns by saying that after the meeting and the public input period ends, the ALDOT team working on this project would reevaluate the lengths of the turning lanes.

Another Southside resident, Karen McBride, said she did not care which option was chosen, she supports whatever the city thinks is best, but she said it was time for change.

“Look, I’m 77 years old, but I’m for progress, too,” McBride said. “I’d just like to see it safer.”

When asked if she thought the old bridge would make a good pedestrian bridge, she said it “wouldn’t get used.”

“We don’t like to sit out in the heat,” McBride said.

Southside Mayor Dana Snyder is in favor of either option, but the one she and other officials want most is “Option A”.

“There has been a lot of talk about saving that bridge and the historical value of it, but I’m just wondering, if sometimes we have to just let the past go and move forward,” Snyder said.

If the existing bridge is kept and turned into a pedestrian walking bridge, Snyder said the city (or whomever took ownership of the bridge) would have to spend a million dollars on addressing issues on the structure.

“I’ve been underneath it,” Snyder said. “There is concrete falling off and exposed rebar. It needs to be painted. The surface needs patching. It’s deteriorating and needs repair.”

The structure was originally built in the 1930s.

She also stated that she is not an engineer, and she would defer to them on the matter of traffic safety for either option.

The new bridge that will be built no matter which option was chosen will be a two-lane bridge that sits higher than the current one-way northbound bridge. It will have two 12-foot lanes with a minimum of six-foot-wide shoulders.

ALDOT officials say they’ll take information from the public meeting before making a final decision on the project.

Residents may make formal comments through email at coosariver-bridge@dot.state.al.us, online form at www.ALDOTinvolved.com, voicemail at 256-571-7260 or by mailing in a public comment form to ALDOT – North Region, Attn: Logan Jolley, PO Box 550, Guntersville, AL, 35976.

Public comments will be received until July 5.

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