A Bridge Too Soon--GDOT Work on Rising Fawn Bridges Won't Start Until 2019

Project Engineer Clayton Bennett shows plans for GDOT's planned work on the Daniels Road and Rising Fawn exit bridges.

The Dade Planet glories and exults, struts and preens when it can bring Dade County the news faster than any of the other local media. This time, though, even The Planet must admit there may be such a thing as overdoing it. The following is not so much news you can use as news you can put in the bank to accrue interest.

Georgia Department (GDOT) employees at a “detour open house” they hosted on Tuesday at the Dade Senior Center discussed their plans to close two South Dade interstate bridges for work—in the summer of 2019. Thus if your daily activities involve crossing I-59 at the Rising Fawn exit (Puddin’ Ridge Road) or Daniels Road bridge, you may be in for a lengthy detour. But don’t get mad yet, because you’ll only be detoured for a short time--and not for at least a year and a half.

Why would the GDOT hold an informational meeting so far in advance? It’s part of the environmental process required before permits can be obtained and contracts awarded, explained project engineer Clayton Bennett. “The environmental process takes longer than anything else,” said Bennett. “These plans are pretty much complete.” But the work won’t even be put out for bid until this autumn, he added.

Like the Dugan Loop bridge GDOT gave an open house to discuss in December, both the Rising Fawn exit, or Puddin’ Ridge, and Daniels Road bridges over I-59 will be raised to provide a vertical clearance of around 17 feet. This, explained Bennett, is to keep them from being grazed by vehicles carrying higher loads. He said this happens oftener than you’d think.

“Sometimes when I go out and look at them, look at the bottoms of them, you can see little nicked places like that, if they’re hit hard enough,” he said.

It’s not, said Bennett, a matter of the bridges getting lower but of road cargo getting higher. “No, the bridges aren’t sagging,” he said. “People just have bigger pieces of equipment and sometimes they’re not conscientious about how tall they are. I had one bridge in the Dublin area where a guy hauling a track hoe actually cut some of our beams right in half.”

So how do you fix a bridge that’s too low? “They just jack it up,” said Bennett. “We pick the bridge up and actually just hold it in place.”

This is, apparently, not so much work that it can’t be done PDQ. The Daniels Road bridge will be closed for 45 days, but the Puddin’ Ridge, or Rising Fawn exit bridge, will be closed for only two weekends.

(A word for the geographically challenged: GDOT calls the Rising Fawn exit bridge the Puddin' Road bridge, and it also labels Highway 11 State Road 58 and Highway 136 White Oak Gap Road. Puddin’ Ridge is spelled on GDOT maps without the apostrophe, and pronounced by GDOT employees to rhyme with “It bein’ spring, the flowers was buddin’.”)

Both bridges are projected to be completed in the summer of 2019. “Depending on which contractor gets this, it’s doubtful whether they’ll both be done at the same time,” said Bennett. Contractors can fit the work into their own schedules—the Dade bridges are part of a larger project that includes bridges in other northwest Georgia counties—as long as they are completed within GDOT’s time limitation of two weekends for Rising Fawn and 45 days for Daniels Road. The Daniels Road bridge closure, since it will affect weekdays, is required to be done in the summer months. “I don’t want to detour school buses,” said Bennett.

During the bridge closure, for the Rising Fawn exit bridge, northbound drivers on I-59 wishing to turn west on the Puddin’ Ridge, toward the truck stop and gas stations, are directed to go on north to Trenton, then turn back south on I-59 to the Rising Fawn exit. Those traveling south on the interstate wishing to turn east toward Highway 11 are advised to go on to the Sulfur Springs exit where they can turn back north on 11.

Daniels Road Bridge traffic will be redirected down Highway 11, Byrd’s Chapel Lane and Back Valley Road. You can see detours and other project specs at the GDOT project website, dot.ga.gov, where you can also submit any comments. You may also call engineer Bennett for more information at (404) 635-2889.

GDOT, and with any luck The Planet, will provide more information on the bridge closures nearer to the time.

One more item before we close, this time not news that will happen a long time from now but news that is not slated to happen at all: The I-59 bridge over Byrd’s Chapel in Rising Fawn is not on GDOT’s list to be raised, as predicted earlier by Dade County Executive Ted Rumley. GDOT employees assured The Planet that the two aforementioned bridges were, with Dugan’s Loop, the only ones scheduled for work in this project.

The Dugan Loop bridge work, incidentally, will be started this year, said the GDOT staffers.

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