Dugan Loop Bridge Work This Summer: Other County Bridges to Follow.

GDOT map of Dugan Loop detour. See more at dot.ga.gov/ps/public/publicoutreach.

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) will close the Dugan Loop bridge over I-59 for about 45 days this summer, but the work is not expected to disrupt local traffic seriously. Dade County Executive Chairman Ted Rumley estimates about 20 families will be affected, and the worst the work will mean to them is a 3.7-mile detour.

During the closure, local traffic will be redirected to the Slygo Road bridge nearby. (See above GDOT map.)

In keeping with the small impact, a public information meeting GDOT conducted on the project Tuesday at the Dade County Public Library was not particularly well-attended, those who did attend did not seem particularly worried, and a court reporter engaged to record their comments sat in a corner looking lonely.

Gail Hedden, the rare and coveted Concerned Resident at Tuesday's public information meeting, chats with county boss Ted Rumley (left) and Dist. 4 County Commissioner Allen Bradford.

Gail Hedden, who lives at the intersection of Slygo Road and Dugan Loop, said she'd showed up at the meeting mostly out of curiosity about how much traffic was going to be redirected past her house. “I wanted to see what they were doing, because I didn’t understand," she said. "I thought they were going to tear the whole bridge out. But no, they’re just going to jack the bridge up.”

GDOT project managers Lisa Jones and David Hernandez confirmed that was exactly what will happen. “The purpose of the project is to raise this bridge up to a minimum of 17-foot vertical clearance between the bottom of the bridge and the interstate beneath it,” said Ms. Jones. “Then, when we raise the bridge up, we have to do some work on the roadway to make the roadway match the elevation of the bridge.”

Currently the bridge is 16 feet, 5 inches above I-59, according to GDOT figures. Ms. Jones said the idea of raising it is to avoid the possibility of a taller truck striking the bottom as it speeds by on the interstate below. But she did not know if there had been past instances of such an eventuality in fact coming to pass.

As Dade residents may have surmised, GDOT schedules can be malleable and the project engineers were uncertain what part of this summer the project will start, but they said Dade will be alerted about a month before the bridge closure.

County boss Rumley said this is only the tip of the iceberg--all the rural county interstate bridges would also be raised, he said, the next one being the bridge at Byrd's Chapel. Rising Fawn would follow, he said.

As to the projected--and locally dreaded--GDOT revamp of the bridge over Lookout Creek on Highway 136 East, Rumley said that was still a couple of years down the line. He predicted that that work would not involve a complete bridge closure--at least not unless a temporary bridge was built alongside--because that would cripple local travel too profoundly. “It would be probably a third of Dade County or more that couldn’t get to the county seat, plus you've got your high school just across the bridge," he said. “It’s going to be a challenge.”

Well, that's, ahem, a bridge Dade residents can cross when they get to it. Meanwhile, asked The Planet, GDOT being in the room, what about the traffic lights at Dade's two major intersections, where Highway 11 meets Highway 136 East and 136 West? GDOT did work on them on a grand scale, digging up sidewalks and installing new poles. The new lights are supposed to modernize traffic flow--but so far they loom uselessly above the road, covered with black plastic. When will the covers be yanked off, and Dade's bright new future be unveiled?

The GDOT project engineers had no idea. They were bridges, not intersections, explained Jones and Hernandez; but they promised to find out.

Meanwhile, The Planet asked county boss Rumley when the new lights would fire up. Later in the winter, he replied. "They said probably December but it could be on up through February,” said the county exec. “They’re ready to go, from what I understand. The rumor is, they can’t afford to pay the power bill to turn them on.”

Pure gospel, or an example of the Boss’s famous wit? That is beyond The Planet’s power to discern. But such tidings as do crystallize clearly enough to be grasped by its feeble ken, The Planet will, as always, duly share with its faithful Readers. Until then!

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