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Newton County works with engineer on plan to repair, reopen closed bridge
Work to begin Monday to fix 66-year-old structure's support area containing 'extensive' corrosion
County Road 213 bridge
The County Road 213 bridge crosses the Alcovy River near Georgia Hwy. 36. - photo by Courtesy of Newton County

COVINGTON, Ga. —  Newton County will begin work Monday, May 16, on repairing a bridge and eliminating a lengthy detour for motorists after GDOT ordered the structure closed for failing a regularly-scheduled inspection.

The County Road 213 bridge over the Alcovy River will remain closed until the local government makes the repairs and receives approval from GDOT — which found extensive corrosion where steel piles meet beams supporting the bridge's deck.

Repairs are expected to take about a week, depending on weather conditions, county spokesman Bryan Fazio said.

The county worked with engineers on the plans and received approval from GDOT Wednesday to begin the work, Fazio said. 

District 1 County Commissioner Stan Edwards said the closing was "an emergency scenario already."

"(It was) made worse by the fact that another bridge fix — replacement — within three miles and on the same road was completed only a couple of months back after being closed for many months," Edwards said, in reference to a CR 213 bridge over West Bear Creek.

GDOT ordered the 66-year-old Alcovy River bridge closed to traffic Monday, May 9, and the county began detouring traffic that day south along Henderson Mill and Dixie roads.

The bridge is about four miles south of Covington near the historic Starrsville community. GDOT records show an average of about 3,100 vehicles per day travel on the road, which is a major east-west route between state highways in central Newton and Mansfield.

The concrete-and-steel bridge was built in 1956 and is about 349 feet long. It has a posted load limit of between 18 and 27 tons, depending on the vehicle, according to GDOT records.  

GDOT spokesman Gil Pound said a regularly scheduled, specialized inspection Monday, May 9, found "extensive" corrosion where four steel pilings meet one of the structure's bent caps. That meant support of the bridge was not up to standard "which is why the closure was put in place," Pound said.

The state's bridge inspection unit is part of the GDOT Office of Bridge Maintenance and Design, Pound said. It checks most Georgia bridges on a two-year cycle and does specialized inspections every four years, he said.

One Facebook user commented that she was driving a 15-ton school bus westbound on CR 213 toward the bridge Monday when a sheriff's deputy arrived to begin closing the road to traffic.

She said she has driven a school bus over the bridge four times a day for five years.

"There are several buses that turn left onto 213 and cross (the bridge)," she said.

Edwards said GDOT — not the local government — is responsible for making sure bridges in Georgia are in good repair.

District 5 Commissioner Ronnie Cowan said he does not believe any county officials are to blame for the shutdown.

"Nothing lasts forever," Cowan said. "It (the shutdown) is much better than it collapsing and somebody falling into the river down there."

The county does not have the time or staff with the required expertise to check bridges for structural problems, Cowan said.

He said the state government employs bridge engineers and is in charge of monitoring the structures. It is similar to state waste management experts monitoring local landfills for deficiencies and ordering local operators to fix them if needed, Cowan said.

"That's the way it's supposed to work," he said.

Cowan also said Newton County government has been working to replace or repair its aging bridges "and make sure they're not a hazard to anybody."

Recent projects have included a bridge replacement on Bethany Road and plans for two others along Brown Bridge Road.

"This is just another one on the list," Cowan said. "We're just going to have to bear with it while we get it fixed."