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Helen gets new walkway over Chattahoochee River

POSTED: April 21, 2009 11:29 p.m.

Pedestrian bridge installed in Helen

Workers bring in a pedestrian bridge in downtown Helen. The bridge, installed today, will open to the public in several weeks once concrete has hardened.

SARA GUEVARA/The Times

The Georgia Department of Transportation closed the Main Street bridge over the Chattahoochee River in downtown Helen Tuesday so crews could install a new pedestrian bridge.

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HELEN — This Alpine village might be known, at least partially, for people hoisting beer steins.

But it was two cranes that took center stage Tuesday, lifting a 154-foot, 30,899-pound pedestrian bridge and guiding it carefully into place next to the Main Street vehicle bridge that crosses the Chattahoochee River downtown.

Workers were dealing with about 2 inches of clearance as they put the green structure in place, securing each side to concrete footings on either side of the river.

The new bridge nearly touches Paul’s Steakhouse & Lounge, just off Main Street.

City Manager Jerry Elkins watched as the Georgia Department of Transportation supervised the work.

"For many years, we have needed an additional walkway across the bridge," he said. "One of the problems we were having is people walking beside the roadway between it and the Main Street bridge rail, which is dangerous."

The city and state DOT split costs on the $330,000 project, with the city’s 1-cent special purpose local-option sales tax paying for its share, Elkins said.

The work began early in the day with the delivery of the steel bridge in two pieces.

Police officers directed traffic away from the downtown area. The detour involved taking Main Street to Edelweiss Strasse and Chattahoochee Strasse.

Workers spent two hours putting the pieces together and installing bolts.

With onlookers present, including from
inside Paul’s, they put the bridge in place at 1:45 p.m., said Teri Pope, DOT spokeswoman.

However, the bridge won’t be ready for pedestrians for a while, possibly by late June.

Workers now will pour a 5-inch concrete deck that will serve as the walking surface. The layer of concrete will require about 30 days to completely harden, Pope said.

Until then, tourists can use the 5-foot-wide pedestrian bridge on the opposite side of the new bridge, which is 8 feet wide. The two-lane vehicle bridge has been in place since 1938, with the pedestrian bridge attached later.

Elkins said the city eventually would like to replace the old pedestrian bridge with one that matches the new bridge, "hopefully in the next four or five years."

"But with the economy downturn, who knows at this time what will happen."

For now, though, local residents Fred and Annette Garmon were pleased with the new addition to their town.

The city "needed it because there is so much foot traffic here on the weekends," Fred said.



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