Lula’s historic Cobb Street bridge will be getting repairs in the near future as all involved parties have reached an agreement to upgrade the structure.
The bridge closed in October after failing a Georgia Department of Transportation inspection. It was also previously closed from April 2011 to October 2012 for a similar issue.
Lula City Manager Dennis Bergin said in addition to repairs, the bridge will be brought to a 5-ton standard. It currently is rated for about 3 tons.
Bergin said the Georgia DOT, Norfolk Southern and U.S. Rep. Doug Collins’ office all played an important role in hammering out an agreement.
The DOT in June set a deadline of this Friday for repairs to be made or Norfolk Southern to face fines of up to $500 a day. Norfolk Southern spokesman Rick Harris said “no fines have been levied” and he doesn’t anticipate any after the agreement.
Harris said railroad officials met with DOT officials Tuesday at the bridge site and agreed to fix the bridge at Norfolk Southern’s expense. He said the railroad’s bridge department committed the same day to the repairs, and orders for materials were made Tuesday.
“Norfolk Southern appreciates its longstanding partnership with the DOT and the mutual cooperation in the discussions leading up to the agreement,” Harris said.
He added that “Norfolk Southern is committed to safely operating through the communities it serves.”
Harris said Norfolk Southern is replacing six timber beams supporting the bridge deck and one timber post.
Both Harris and Bergin said it will be at least 30 days before the materials come in. The city manager said more about a timetable for the work will be known at that time.
“It’s a pretty significant amount of infrastructure that needs to be replaced,” Bergin said.
Previously, the city and DOT had said the bridge needed to be repaired, and Norfolk Southern in March proposed tearing down the bridge and replacing it. The railroad had agreed to pay for the demolition and offered to make a cash contribution of $100,000 to Lula.
But the city maintained that the bridge over railroad tracks should be repaired.
After a pair of closures in the last five years, Bergin said the improvements to the Cobb Street bridge should help fend off such problems for the foreseeable future.
“We feel confident the longevity of the bridge is being extended in its current form,” Bergin said.
Collins said in a press release that his office helped facilitate meetings of the involved parties. He added that his office was in contact with the national DOT and Georgia DOT during the process.
“As a result of these negotiations, this historic landmark will be preserved and maintained to ensure the safety of the community and the efficiency of the railroad. I have very fond memories of driving over this bridge on my way to baseball games growing up,” Collins said in the release. “This highly trafficked area is vital to Lula’s economy. Trains pass under it multiple times a day, and it serves as a main route to cross a town divided by railroad tracks.”
Bergin expressed appreciation to all parties involved in the discussions. The city manager is glad to move beyond the previous disagreement and see the bridge get its long-awaited repairs.
“We’re going to be able to put this in the history books,” Bergin said.