Should bridge be closed?

Published 1:29 am Friday, September 7, 2018

Commissioners to hear Pigeon Creek comments

After five years of silence about the condition of  Pigeon Creek Bridge on Lloyd Mill Road, the Covington County Commission is taking a look at the issue again after a recommendation to close the bridge from the state emergency bridge inspection.

“This bridge is continuing to decay,” Assistant county engineer Ron Weidler said. “It is 88 years old and the service life for a bridge is supposed to be 50 years.”

Weidler said that there have been no complaints from citizens about the bridge.

“There have been no complaints about the bridge,” Weidler said. “It is completely a safety issue.”

In 2013, the commission proposed closing the bridge after it was damaged by a truck. While it was repaired to a standard that it is safe for three tons, former county engineer Darren Capps said then it would cost $2.5 million to replace it, and that keeping trucks exceeding the weight limit off the bridge was a problem.

Weidler also said replacing the 700-foot bridge would be extremely expensive.

“It would cost around $2.3 million to $3 million to replace the bridge,” Weidler said. “We have 12 other paved bridges and to put it in perspective, to replace all 12 other bridges would cost the same as replacing Pigeon Creek Bridge.”

Weidler said that there are 284 bridges in Covington County and if they replaced every bridge that was older than its service life they would have to replace 159.

“That would be 5.6 bridges a year to replace,” Weidler said. “It is just not a good use of our tax dollars.”

Weidler said that the commission is looking at three other alternative routes that could fix the issue.

“We will meet with the Alabama Department of Transportation next week to start talking through our alternatives,” Weidler said. “We do not have a cost estimate of how much the alternative routes would cost, but I do know that it would be substantially lower than replacing it.”

Weidler said that in 2016, the last time they collected traffic count on the bridge, approximately 210 vehicles a day used the bridge.

District Four Commissioner Kyle Adams has another stance on the issue and believes that the bridge should not be closed without funding for an alternate route.

“I am not in favor of the closing of this road without funding for an alternate route and an alternate route being approved,” Adams said. “This bridge has been discussed for 20 years.”

Adams said that previous administrations should have dealt with the problem.

“This situation should have been addressed in previous administrations before any of the previous paving projects took place,” Adams said. “If the funds were there to pave those other roads, then it was there for this alternate route.”

Adams said that the closing of this bridge would affect the communities of Buck Creek, Hester Store, Garden, Brooks and Red Level.

“Our staff has spent the day researching back to 1971 of different resolutions that may have been in place that would require the state to fund the replacement of or new construction of an alternative route,” Adams said.

The Covington County Commission will meet this coming Tuesday at 9 a.m., and this topic will be on the agenda with time for public comment. The meeting, which will be held in the county administration building in Andalusia, is open to the public.