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Portion of Conkle Road closes to replace bridge

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

In a week and a half, a section of Conkle Road in Jonesboro will be closed to replace a bridge where the timber supports are rotting.

The replacement is necessary because many of the bridge's timber supports are rotting from the inside out, said Terry Legvold, 2003 SPLOST project manager.

"It's not in danger of collapsing," said Legvold. "They are just old wood piles and they are no longer capable of carrying large trucks."

Starting April 21, at 10 a.m., Clayton County Transportation and Development will close off a portion of the road in the immediate vicinity of the bridge over Reeves Creek.

The road closure is necessary to remove the existing, timber-enforced bridge, and replace it with a new concrete bridge, reinforced by steel beams.

Conkle Road serves as a connector road between the Mt. Zion shopping corridor and Fielder Road.

For no more than 90 days after the closing, drivers will need to take detours, or plan alternate routes.

One-third of the $750,000 bridge project will paid for by the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT). The other two-thirds will be covered using funds from the 2003 Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).

Legvold said the bridge was targeted for replacement in 2005 during GDOT's bi-annual statewide bridge survey.

In GDOT's Oct. 16, 2007 report on the Conkle Road bridge, engineers reported, "this structure requires [weight limit] posting due to insufficient load carrying capacity of the timber substructure piles." It went on to say, "the timber piles are either too small in size, or exhibit signs of advanced internal decay. A total replacement of the timber substructure is required to replace this structure to where posting is no longer required."

Legvold said the current weight limit posted on the bridge is 15 tons -- strong enough for a standard semi-trailer, but not strong enough a for a larger vehicle like as a timber truck. With an increase in traffic over the bridge - more than 7,000 vehicles daily as of 2005 -- Legvold believes a new bridge is needed to accommodate modern payloads.

"There will be no more weight limits on the type of vehicle that can go across that bridge," once the bridge is replaced, said Legvold. "Over the long run, it will enhance the overall safety of the road."

Legvold added the new, 62-foot long bridge would last for at least 50 years before needing to be replaced.

Jeff Metarko, interim director of Transportation and Development, said the bridge project highlights the need of the 2003 SPLOST.

"This is one of the good examples of why we needed the SPLOST when it was passed," said Metarko. "Without it, we wouldn't have the money to replace this bridge. The [Board of Commissioners] would have had to come up with the money through the general fund or by other means.

"Bridges don't last forever," Metarko continued. "This gives us the money to do the necessary improvements. What's replaced now should exist for many, many years to come."