The Georgia Department of Transportation(GDOT) held a public information meeting on Thursday to prepare Dade County for its upcoming high-tech bridge replacement at Highway 299 and I-24. GDOT and its contractor, Wright Brothers Construction, have been building the new bridge by the roadside and plan to swing it into place within 56 hours over the weekend of May 12-14.
The new technology that allows such a feat is called ABC for accelerated bridge construction. "It really does minimize impact by not having to close down the bridge for months on end," said GDOT's Jill Goldberg at the meeting.
ABC has been used to replace other bridges in the United States but this is a first for Georgia. "If it's successful, we're going to look at doing it in other locations to alleviate that congestion and the delay and impact," said Ms. Goldberg (below).
She said if heaven does not smile upon GDOT's endeavor weather-wise on the 12th, the rain date will be the next weekend, possibly even a later one--though definitely not Memorial Day weekend, May 26-29, which is excluded by GDOT rules.
"There will be some impact on I-24," project engineer Andrew Hoenig admitted, but he and the other speakers all stressed GDOT's efforts to minimize it.
Temporary pavement has been laid in the I-24 median, and the plan is to begin diverting traffic onto it late the night of Thursday, May 11.
But Chris Brown (left) of Wright Brothers Construction, the contractor on the job, assured the audience that neither on Thursday night nor Friday during the day will the bridge or any of the exit or entrance ramps to I-24 be closed, and Dade drivers should be able to perform their commute as usual. Bridge closure will only be from 9 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday.
During that replacement window, eastbound I-24 traffic will be diverted onto the temporary pavement for the first 28 hours, then westbound for the second 28.
During the bridge closure, State Road 299 traffic will be detoured around the bridge 9.72 miles southbound and 7.31 miles northbound for the first phase; for the second, the same detour southbound but a longer one northbound, 18.1 miles. Detours will be plainly marked, GDOT promises.
"The detour that was originally marked was more than triple the detour that's in place now," said Ms. Goldberg. "We owe a lot of thanks to Dade County for working with us on that and letting us use some county and local roads to minimize that." Usually, she explained, the policy was to detour from state road to state road.
Dade Road Boss Billy Massengale (left) and 911 director Alex Case
GDOT expects some additional traffic congestion during the project to result from onlookers, sightseers and rubberneckers, and in fact the GDOT and contractor reps at the meeting made the bridge replacement sound like something to see. Chris Brown described heavy equipment called "Go-Hoppers" that will be used to haul bridge sections into place.
"These really are the latest and greatest," said Brown. "You're going to have 96 wheels under each one of these trailers on the ground. It can really roll."
The old bridge, he said, will be taken down in sections and hauled away.
But you don't have to risk the traffic to get an eyeful. Ms. Goldberg said live cameras will be set up and those inclined can follow the action at the GDOT website, GDOT.com. The Planet will endeavor to provide a specific link closer to the date
Dade County roads boss Billy Massengale and 911 director Alex Case attended the meeting, Case explaining that he had to stay on top of road closures and conditions for dispatch purposes. Even John Deffenbaugh, Dade's representative in the Georgia
House, put in a rare appearance.
Dist. 1 Commissioner Mitchell Smith (second from right) with constituents including Rex Harrison (right).
County Commissioner Mitchell Smith, whose District 1 the 299 bridge project will impact the most, also attended.
"I don't think it will be as simple as they say," he prognosticated gravely.