Debate Picks Up Over Park St. Bridge

January 17, 2014

Opinions differ over whether the Park Street Bridge in Toccoa should be closed for good.

The issue came before the Toccoa Planning Commission at a meeting Thursday to get public comments before city commissioners moved forward with making a final decision on what it would require Norfolk Southern Railroad to do with the bridge it owns.

Last year, the Georgia Department of Transportation ordered the city to close the bridge following an inspection and it has been closed since.

Toccoa City Manager Billy Morse said last year that the city could make the railroad fix the bridge with no strings attached.

However, he said the railroad wants out of the bridge business and offered the city other options, including replacing the bridge with a more modern bridge or repairing the bridge and then making a cash contribution to the city for it to take over maintenance and ownership of the bridge.

The final option was for the railroad gave is for the railroad to remove the bridge and then pay the city up to $150,000.

Multiple commissioners expressed interest last year in looking into having the bridge removed, pending a public comment period.

Some residents at Thursday’s Planning Commission meeting said they want the bridge removed for good, citing decreased traffic in their neighborhood and safety factors.

However, other residents said they want the bridge to remain open, calling it a landmark and citing its convenience for getting from their neighborhood across the railroad tracks to Currahee Street.

Following discussion, Toccoa Planning Commissioner Angie Garland said she felt the issue should be tabled for now.

“I do not feel like I have enough information,” said Garland.  “I am not comfortable making a motion at this time.”

She added that she felt it was important to hear from Norfolk Southern on the matter.

The Planning Commission voted unanimously to table the matter to a future date.

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