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Oak Hill Road Bridge to be replaced
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Correction: There was a reporter's error in the original version of this story. Local 2005 and 2011 SPLOST funds will cover the full cost of the Oak Hill Road bridge replacement; the state will not cover any costs.

Here's a clarifying quote from county Transportation Director Tom Garrett:

"When the 2011 SPLOST list was developed, GDOT was presumed to have funding in the project, since it is identified as a GDOT project. However, due to the continued down grading of the bridge's load carrying capacity, the project needs to move forward. Unfortunately, GDOT's funding for this project is considered long-range. Therefore, the project will have to be completed from 2011 SPLOST and remaining 2005 SPLOST funds, which are sufficient to complete the project."

The Covington News strives to have its news reports be fair and accurate, and it is our policy to promptly correct all factual mistakes.

A portion of Oak Hill Road will be closed in coming months to replace one of the county’s oldest bridges — just west of Smith Store Road — which is closed to school bus traffic because of concerns over its stability.

Construction could start on the bridge in September or October and cost between $1.1 million and $1.2 million, county Transportation Director Tom Garrett said Thursday.

The Newton County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to pay $67,222, using 2005 SPLOST money, to URS Corporation to update the bridge replacement design and bid out the project, which could happen in September, Garrett told the board Tuesday.

The bridge crosses Snapping Shoals Creek and was built in 1960, the Georgia Department of Transportation said previously. The bridge has a "low original design capacity" because of its wooden supports, which were replaced several years ago but were only a temporary fix, Garrett said.

Garrett said the bridge was recently downgraded from a capacity of 13 tons to 10 tons; school buses and large trucks are not legally allowed to cross it.

Construction could take six to seven months, but the road itself should only have to be closed at that point for around four months, meaning it could be open in January or February 2014.

The original design called for an on-site detour road to be built next to Oak Hill to allow traffic to continue to flow, but Garrett said that option would have extended total construction time and added $550,000 in costs, including purchasing a right-of-way and moving utilities for the detour road.

"The commissioners recognize this will be an inconvenience, but we’re trying to be good stewards of taxpayers’ money," Garrett said Thursday.

About 4,000 cars cross the bridge daily, Garrett said.

Garrett said detour signs will be installed when construction starts, and noted the most common alternate routes for drivers traveling west on Oak Hill will be to go north or south on Smith Store Road.

If heading north, drivers can connect to Salem Road and then travel west on Brown Bridge Road. If heading south, drivers can connect to Bethany Road and then use either Richards Chapel or Veal roads or go all the way to Ga. Highway 212.

Once the bridge is replaced, it will be opened to school bus and larger truck traffic again.

The 2011 SPLOST originally contained $317,400 for the repair with the state expected to cover the majority of the repairs; however, Garrett said in a follow-up statement that the bridge needs to be replaced more quickly than anticipated, so local SPLOST funds from both the 2005 and 2011 SPLOSTs will pay the entirety of the bridge replacement costs.

 Mount Tabor bridge repair near

The bridge repair on Mount Tabor Road should be completed in August, Garrett said Thursday. A

ll the concrete has been poured and the strength is being tested now, which will be followed by the asphalt overlay.

Damaged in a 2009 flood, the bridge has been closed for major repairs since February of this year.

 Future bridge repairs

The county also is continuing to work on repairing other older bridges, and is planning to hire an engineering firm to evaluate which bridges need the most immediate repairs, what work is needed, and how much the work is expected to cost, Garrett said, noting the idea was raised by county Chairman Keith Ellis.

While the state does a regular evaluation of bridges’ conditions, the reports don’t give extensive detail about recommended repairs and don’t include cost estimates or suggested timetables, Garrett said.

"When you’re seeking additional funds from GDOT or somebody else, and say, ‘We need help,’ they will ask, ‘How much do you need?’ It helps to have some sort of reasonable cost estimate, and we can’t answer that question right now (on many projects)," Garrett said.

The highest priority bridges after Mount Tabor and Oak Hill roads are on Brown Bridge Road, which is one of the county’s most heavily traveled roads.