Pedestrian bridge lacking funds to build

Proponents of the pedestrian bridge say the Emory Street bridge is unsafe for pedestrians and bicycle traffic. Others say residents have walked and ridden over the current bridge for years without accident. (Staff Photo: Larry Stanford)

COVINGTON — Plans for a pedestrian bridge over Interstate 20 between Oxford and Covington are being shelved until further funding sources can be identified.

The bridge, which would run parallel to the existing Emory Street bridge that spans Interstate 20 and would connect with existing sidewalks in Oxford, has been on the drawing board since 2010. It is seen as a way for Oxford residents and Oxford College students to reach dining and shopping areas in Covington without having to walk or bike over the old Emory Street bridge, which was deemed unsafe for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Initial cost estimates for the project in 2010 were between $650,000 and $750,000. In the past eight years, those estimates have more than tripled and the low bid for the project received in May was $2.2 million, about $800,000 more than the funding sources the city has for the project.

At the Covington City Council’s work session Monday night, prior to the regular meeting, City Manager Leigh Anne Knight advised the council that unless they objected, the city would not be pursuing the bridge project until more funding becomes available.

“We had asked the ARC (Atlanta Regional Commission) to see if they could put us in their last group of funding to get some additional funds to assist with the overage of some $800,000 on the bridge,” said Knight. “They have what’s called TIP (Transportation Improvement Projects) amendments. At the end of the day, ARC has come back and said they apologize, but we can’t go in the TIP right now.

“The way the numbers shake out is at the moment the total cost of the project is $2.2 million,” she continued. “We have $500,000 in an ISTEA grant (Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act grant from the Georgia Department of Transportation), and we have $503,000 for Last Mile grant from the ARC. Our match is $125,000 that we would have to put in. We’ve already expended $199,000 for engineering costs, bringing the total to $1.4 million, which means we still have a shortfall of $808,000. Staff is recommending that we put this on the back burner.”

By general consensus, the council agreed to shelve the project for the time being. Councilman Josh McKelvey did suggest possibly seeing if Facebook or Shire, two large industrial projects in the county, might consider providing the additional funding.

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Born and raised in Decatur, Ga. Graduated from Shorter College in Rome, Ga. in 1979 with B.A. in Communications. Worked in community newspapers for 25 years. Started at Rockdale Citizen/Newton Citizen in January 2016.