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Dawson County commissioners considering closing crossing
Dawson County Commissioner Gary Pichon takes a look at Black’s Mill Bridge last week. The county is considering closing the 60-year-old crossing. - photo by Michele Hester

County commissioners are considering closing a local bridge that state transportation officials have deemed functionally obsolete.

Originally constructed in the early 1950s, Black’s Mill Bridge, a single-lane wooden crossing on Black’s Mill Road, has “served its design life,” according to Dawson County Public Works Director David Headley.

“As far as the bridge goes, if you are taking a less than 5-ton vehicle across it, it’s safe. You drive a fire truck or a school bus across it, it’s not safe,” he said.

Last week, Headley asked the county commission to consider closing the bridge until funds are available to make needed improvements.

“Some of the things we are looking at are the exterior safety components, such as guardrails, such as the approaches, such as the decking itself,” he said. “Based on the longevity and the nature of those external components to that bridge is where we’re saying it’s structurally not sound.”

In its most recent evaluation, the bridge received a 44.78 rating out of 100 points from the Georgia Department of Transportation, down from 59.08 two years before.

According to Headley, closing the crossing would cost the county about $1,000 compared to an estimated $40,000 needed to rehabilitate the bridge.

He did caution that there is no guarantee that rehabilitating the bridge would increase its inspection rating.

“I don’t think it’s going to bring it up, because I don’t think GDOT is going to rate it any different,” he said.

A third option to upgrade and replace the single-lane structure with a two-lane paved road and 26-foot span arch culvert at $325,000 is unlikely now, but could be considered for future 1-cent tax projects.

Headley said a traffic report shows 150 vehicles use the road on a daily basis. Closing the bridge, he said, would not affect school bus or mail traffic.

Public hearings would be required before the county could close the crossing.

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