Brookhaven, GA, May 9, 2017 – by Trey Benton – A bridge replacement project in Brookhaven’s Ashford Park community is nearing completion, a $142,000 project that popped up out of nowhere when the City was made aware sections of it appeared to be degrading. After the City confirmed with DeKalb County it was actually Brookhaven’s property, an inspection was performed last November. Subsequently, the bridge that was originally constructed in 2006 connecting Camille Dr. with Valvedere Dr. by the County, was closed due to the finding of unsafe conditions.
City leaders promised they would have the bridge replaced and ready for the running of the 2017 Brookhaven Bolt, the largest fundraising event of the year for Ashford Park Elementary. And it appears they will make good on that promise. But not without some late breaking drama – two granite bollards, the culprit. The new bridge was designed and load rated for pedestrian traffic only. The bollards were installed at both ends to restrict use of the bridge to no-vehicular traffic, including golf carts.
On Tuesday morning, when Bolt organizers Adam Caskey and Todd Banister found out about the bollards, their hearts dropped momentarily. They were faced with whether to send some 2,000 runners across a bridge with poles on either end. Caskey told The Post that runners are already compressed when the field funnels down from a wide street to a narrower bridge. He said the bollards would cause an unsafe condition.
“At this part of the race, runners are making their moves and pressing on the last stretch. Having the bollards there creates a real safety concern,” said Caskey. “There’s little time left to find another route for the 5k race course that is officially certified by the USATF.” He said they had reached out to City Leaders to see what they could work out.
Tuesday afternoon, Mayor John Ernst said out of an abundance of respect for the Brookhaven Bolt and it’s importance to the City of Brookhaven, an executive decision was made among Councilmembers to remove the bollards from the Ashford Park bridge. He said that work would occur on Wednesday – but that the bollards would be gone only temporarily.
The Post contacted City Manager Christian Sigman and asked why the bollards were installed in the first place. “City Council did not provide direction to replace the bridge to accommodate vehicles,” answered Sigman. He said the bridge was replaced with the same intended use…pedestrians.
“The bollards will ultimately be replaced by new bollards that can be removed for future events such as this,” said Ernst. “It must be pointed out that under no circumstances can any motorized vehicle of any kind (gas or electric) be permitted on this bridge. As the City Manager has stated, the Valvedere Bridge is only designed for foot traffic and cannot safely accommodate a pace car or cart.”
Taking exception to the bollards, Ashford Park resident Ronnie Mayer recalled for The Post that when the bridge was originally constructed, there were signs on either end (where the granite bollards are now). Mayer said when the signs were installed, he called then DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones who had a County Roads and Drainage crew remove them off of the bridge and place them out to the side. The language on the signs was also changed from “No Motorized Vehicles” to “Automobiles and Motorcycles Prohibited”.
“This seems to me that this is the City Manager trying to flex his muscle,” Mayer said. “Why would you spend this much money knowing that it has been used for golf carts without making it accommodate golf carts?”
Sigman told The Post that golf carts are not allowed on public streets in Brookhaven and the bridge was not designed for vehicles of any type. “Actually, I suspect the illegal golf cart use contributed to the damage and shortened the life of the prior bridge,” said Sigman.
The City of Brookhaven has discussed the use of golf carts on City streets a number of times. The first time in 2013, again in 2014 and again in 2015. Each time they have decided to wait to adopt an ordinance.
The renew and replace work on the Ashford Park bridge, involves new footings and replacing the defective 17-foot section. The City says the design incorporates some of the new standards that were established when bridges at Briarwood Park and Murphey Candler Park were replaced., elements such as the use of granite and wing walls.