After Meeting, DOT Project Will No Longer Require Closure Of Walnut Avenue Bridge

By Bruce Frazier:

After a meeting with a group of Dalton city leaders, the Georgia Department of Transportation has agreed to revise plans for the renovation of the Walnut Avenue bridge span over I-75. The new plan will allow the bridge to remain open to traffic during the bridge renovation and also moves construction to the summer of 2019 when traffic to and from nearby Dalton State College will be at a minimum. The DOT project will raise the bridge higher over the interstate to allow larger cargo to be transported on I-75.

The original plan called for construction work to take place over the course of five weekends in late summer or early fall.  That plan would have required the bridge and interstate interchange to be closed to all traffic.  On January 5th, City Administrator Jason Parker and Public Works Director Benny Dunn and a group of city leaders were joined by State Senator Chuck Payne at a meeting with managers of the DOT project.  Also attending the meeting were Assistant Director Andrew Parker from Public Works, Director of Tourism Brett Huske, and Dalton Convention Center General Manager Doug Phipps. At that meeting, Dalton leaders expressed the community’s concerns about the impact the bridge closure could have on the community.  The Dalton Convention and Visitors Bureau estimated that closing the bridge on five consecutive weekends could have an economic impact of as much as $400,000 on the community.

Public Works Director Benny Dunn proposed a different plan that would allow the bridge to remain open, and DOT leaders were receptive. DOT Project Manager Clayton Bennett worked with the Dalton Public Works group to develop a plan that would raise the bridge and effect the other renovations while leaving one lane of travel in both directions open.  The DOT also agreed to schedule the work sometime in 2019 between May 31st and August 15th to coincide with Dalton State College’s summer term when traffic on nearby College Drive should be at a minimum. The new plan should be able to be completed with two weeks of work.

“When we scheduled the meeting with GDOT we were hoping to get the weekend closures reduced down to possibly two and having the other work done through a staging process,” said Dunn.  “We were extremely pleased when the GDOT rep, Clayton Bennett, said he could do ‘all’ the rehab work under traffic without having any bridge closures.  GDOT will incur some extra construction costs by doing the work under traffic, but it will absolutely benefit the City.  We are so thankful for GDOT’s willingness to work with the City and with the support we had from Senator Chuck Payne.”

“That bridge is a lifeline for residents, businesses, Dalton State College, and tourism in general,” added Parker. “The change to the plan ensures that lifeline will stay open. We really appreciate the willingness of DOT to meet on fairly short notice, and their flexibility in considering options. Considering how far along in planning they were, we were surprised and very thankful for the changes.”

“I’m extremely proud of and thankful for our delegation that met with the DOT to make these vital changes to the original plans and I also want to thank citizens who made comments as requested by DOT,” said Dalton Mayor Dennis Mock. “DOT is also to be commended for their willingness to listen and revise plans according to our community’s wishes and needs.”

The Walnut Avenue Bridge is currently at a height of 15’11” over the interstate.  The renovation project will use hydraulic jacks to lift the bridge span to a height of 17’ over the interstate to adhere to new standards and allow for the transportation of oversized cargo loads on the interstate.

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