UPDATE 6:58 p.m.: Estimated reopening February 2023 per Clayton County

Clayton County Department of Transportation Assistant Director Keith Rohling says prep work has begun as part of repairs for the East Conley Road bridge. However, rainy weather and supply chain issues may delay the job, and the Georgia Department of Transportation would have to inspect and sign off on the bridge before it reopens.

Rohling told The Clayton Crescent that the bridge sits on its “original timber pile support structure.” The temporary fix involves “putting a concrete pier wall around the timber piles to help support them and prevent any further deterioration,” he explained. Also, “The structure itself is narrow and doesn’t meet the current standards of side barriers.”

A contractor is on site, but rainy weather this week has slowed things down. “They started this week putting in erosion control managers,” Rohling said.

Rain is slowng repairs to the East Conley Road bridge. (Photo: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent) Credit: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent / The Clayton Crescent

Each step in the repair process takes time. Besides the weather slowing things down, he said concrete orders are taking six to eight weeks to arrive.

“First, you have to excavate to decent material,” Rohling said. “Then you put in the form and rebar. Then, you pour the concrete,” which could be done one of two ways—by pouring the lower footing, then the pier wall; or by pouring it all at once.

After the concrete is poured, it has to cure for two weeks.

So when will the bridge reopen? That’s hard to say precisely, but the county estimates the bridge should be open again in February 2023, about six months from now if all goes well.

The county issued this press release Friday afternoon: “Lewallen Construction Company will begin repairs to East Conley Road Bridge mid-August. This work requires the closure of the entire bridge. Traffic control measures and signs are in place to guide motorists around the work zone. Residents and businesses within the work zone will continue to have access to their homes, mail and package delivery, emergency services, and trash pick-up. Motorists are urged to use caution and to avoid the area if possible.”

The county suggests these detours:

  • Cedar Grove Road to Bouldercrest Road to Anvilblock Road to State Route 42
  • Moreland Avenue up to East Conley Road

“With a couple of different pours, all require some cure time,” he explained. “So, hopefully as short as possible, but even after all the work is done, GDOT has to inspect it.”

GDOT posted the East Conley Road bridge’s weight limit as 5 tons. Big-rig trucks that have been using the bridge the past few years weigh 3.5 to 8 times that much. (Photo: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent)

Depending on GDOT’s review, “we would be able to open [the bridge] without any load limits….Right now, letting the concrete cure to its strength and all that, you’re talking about two months. But we don’t know all the preliminaries.”

Rohling said that talks to split the repair costs between the county and Old Dominion Freight didn’t work out.

“Unfortunately, legal on both sides couldn’t come to an agreement, so we’re not getting assistance from them as we’d hoped,” he said. “We’ll ask GDOT to pick up costs under the local bridge program. We’ve been working to fix this ever since GDOT posted the five-ton limit.”

Members of the East Conley Zoning Committee have been vocal about hordes of big rigs cutting through their residential streets and ignoring the posted weight limit on the East Conley Road bridge.

An 18-wheeler weighs about 35,000 pounds (17.5 tons) empty and cannot weigh more than 80,000 pounds (40 tons) full. That means each 18- wheeler that has been using the East Conley Bridge was about 3.5 to 8 times over the bridge’s posted limit.

Could the county sue the trucking companies to pay for the damage?

“I don’t know whose trucks used it or not, so it would be hard to go after any one entity,” Rohling said.

The Atlanta Regional Commission’s 2007 Community Impact Technical Report on freight logistics reads in part, “Freight movement has increasingly invoked ‘not in my backyard’ reactions from communities concerned about noise, air quality, traffic, safety, and land use issues leading to concerns about the location of freight facilities and the movement of cargo.3 Trucking, which is the primary mode of freight transportation in the Atlanta region, generates the greatest number of community issues. Issues related to truck movements include inadequate infrastructure, wear and damage to pavement, insufficient loading space at customer facilities, and heavier truck movements adversely affecting automobile speeds on roadways. There are also a number of health impacts on communities given their proximity to freight facilities and pollution. Air pollution issues stemming from diesel emissions, hazardous materials spills, accidents caused by truck movements, noise pollution and vibration, and safety issues can have serious health implications for community residents. Despite community apprehension, there is a mutual understanding that freight transportation plays a vital role in the economic well-being of communities and businesses. National efforts have been made to balance the movement of freight with community goals by making freight transportation operations and facilities ‘good neighbors.'”

That 2007 study did not look at impacts on Conley or Clayton County, which business and government leaders have long touted as the ideal location for freight, warehousing, and logistics.

Read more about Georgia Department of Public Safety and federal weight limits for trucks

Read about the Atlanta Regional Commission’s plans for trucking and other freight infrastructure in the coming years

Robin Kemp is executive editor and CEO of The Clayton Crescent, which she founded in 2020. She has worked for Gambit, CNN, The Weather Channel, Clayton News, Henry Herald, and numerous freelance outlets....

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