Metal support boxes will be constructed inside the landmark Concord Road covered bridge near Smyrna as part of a scheduled safety project that will close the iconic structure for much of summer 2017.
The popular Cobb County-owned bridge is one of the busiest one-lane covered bridges in the South, carrying 7,000 to 10,000 motorists daily. Slated renovations will strengthen it and keep it from leaning.
“The bridge is hit about once a month,” said Jim Wilgus, director of the Cobb County Department of Transportation (CCDOT). “The hits have caused it to lean, and we need to fix that.”
Built in the mid-1800s and rebuilt in 1872, the bridge has 7-foot height and 8-ton weight restrictions. While the federal government recommends bridges on public roads have 14-foot height clearance, the historic bridge is protected and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“Over several decades, the bridge has undergone extensive maintenance to repair issues caused by wood decay, increased vehicular use and hits,” said Bill Shelton, CCDOT road maintenance division manager.
Included in prior renovations were steel protection beams constructed on each end of the bridge to absorb the impact caused by over-height trucks. Motorists driving large frame vehicles who are unfamiliar with the area or the bridge’s restrictions are at risk for hitting it. In October 2016, a driver slammed a box truck into one of the headache beams so hard, it hit the bridge, causing it to lean.
“The headache beams have helped,” Shelton said, “but more structural support is needed to protect the historic bridge and motorists who don’t see it coming.”
While the East-West Connector, built in 1997, reduced daily traffic on the bridge, Cobb DOT engineers continue investigating safety options and support necessary for the structure to handle modern-day traffic.
This summer’s improvements include substructure repairs, installation of steel stiffening frames, siding and roof repairs, cleaning and painting of existing steel and guard rail replacement. The retrofit will cost approximately $630,000. The project is funded by the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. Construction will begin in June and be completed by late summer.