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The historic Cobb Street bridge in Lula must be repaired by July 8 or Norfolk Southern Railroad will face a fine of up to $500 a day, City Manager Dennis Bergin reported.
The Georgia Department of Transportation agreed with the city that structural repairs can, and should, be made to the bridge, Bergin said.
The bridge has been closed since October 2015.
Norfolk Southern Railroad didn’t respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Bergin said five structural deficiencies have been identified for correction.
Norfolk Southern proposed in March that the bridge be torn down. The railroad agreed to pay for that demolition and to make a cash contribution to the city of about $100,000.
The Georgia Department of Transportation, in a June 8 letter to Chris Bennett, with Norfolk Southern, said the bridge was closed because it no longer is “rated” for more than three tons.
The letter also says it is the notice to the railroad “of the necessity to repair and maintain the bridge.”
City officials have continued to say the bridge should be repaired.
“We wanted the bridge repaired. We think it serves a meaningful purpose,” Bergin said, in addition to its historic significance.
He added the town has one underpass that is limited in the kind of traffic that can use it and two railroad crossings.
The crossings are blocked daily, Bergin said, because of rail traffic.
““We know the economy is doing a lot better because the railroad is doing a lot better,” Bergin said.
The railroad said in March that the approach to the bridge is too steep to meet current standards.
Bergin said he has been working with U.S. Rep. Doug Collins’ office about the issue.
“We’ve looked at any number of options,” he said.
The railroad’s position is that “the bridge needs to be replaced, above and beyond the existing deficiencies,” Bergin said.
However, he added, “Right now, the deficiencies wouldn’t dictate replacement,” while admitting that “at some point” the bridge’s age likely would require a replacement or closing.
He said the bridge “has suffered deficiencies over the last 10 years, all of which should be expected at some time.”
Lula Mayor Milton Turner said in March he would prefer to see the bridge turned into a walking structure rather than be demolished.
Bergin pointed out the city went through a similar process of whether the bridge would be closed or repaired about four years ago.
He said the city would like to see a specific schedule for repairs.
“It’s not like it’s something that can happen overnight,” he said.