Park St. Bridge To Be Torn Down

Toccoa City Commissioners will allow Norfolk Southern Railroad to tear down the Park Street Bridge.

City commissioners voted 3 to 1 to abandon the bridge and have it torn down at their meeting Monday.

Last year, the Georgia Department of Transportation ordered the city to close the Park Street Bridge following an inspection and it has stayed closed since.

Norfolk Southern Railroad owns the bridge and offered to tear the bridge down and pay the city up to $150,000.

The railroad did offer the option of repairing or replacing the bridge, but then having the city take over maintenance of the bridge in the future.

People spoke in favor of and against tearing down the bridge at a public hearing prior to Monday’s vote.

Russell Powell owns property in the neighborhood and was one of a number of people who spoke in favor of getting rid of the bridge, primarily for traffic reasons.

Powell said that the traffic has improved in the neighborhood around the bridge since the DOT ordered it closed.

“Since the bridge has been closed, the traffic is nice,” said Powell.  “There has really been a lot of improvement to the neighborhood.  It is safe to walk in the streets.”

On the other hand, Mariesa Pavliscsak grew up in the area around the bridge and called it a historic landmark and said she knows what that bridge means to residents in that area.

“I know what it means to many residents there to have this access to Currahee Street,” said Pavliscsak.  “I understand the bridge is in need of repair.  If Norfolk Southern is willing to repair or replace, by all means why do we not let them proceed to do that?”

She suggested having the city set up a capital improvement fund to handle future maintenance of the bridge once it was repaired by the railroad and turned over.

After listening to the public, City Commissioner David Austin said he supports tearing down the bridge.

“We sent out 88 letters and we have had mostly positive response from folks here to close it,” said Austin.  “I think their arguments are valid.”

Also as part of the bridge tear down agreement, the railroad has offered to repair an erosion issue on railroad right-of-way near Big   A Road and neighboring private property being caused by city storm water.

Austin said that erosion issue has been ongoing for many years and he feels the fact that the railroad is willing to fix it is a very important part of this agreement.

However, Commissioner Evan Hellenga said he is concerned about the finality of removing the bridge.

“If we lose that bridge, we will not get it back,” said Hellenga.  “I think that is one thing to look at too.”

Hellenga was the lone vote against the agreement to tear down the bridge.

Vice-Mayor Terry Carter recused himself from the vote because he owns property in the neighborhood around the bridge.

Under the agreement city commissioners approved, the railroad will tear the bridge down, provide the cash payment to the city, and fix the mentioned erosion issue.