The Georgia Department of Transportation is going to replace the bridge built in 1938 on U.S. Highway 41 over Tiger Creek.
Replacement of the Dixie Highway bridge near Ringgold, Ga., may not upset drivers once construction starts early next summer because the new concrete span will be built next to and just west of the existing one -- so the switchover should be seamless.
But a longtime Ringgold-area business owner who must move to make way for the bridge isn't happy about the way she's been treated by the state transportation agency.
"They did an eminent domain on us," said Faye Raby, whose husband, Ron, has run a tree service business for 30 years. "It's just been one big nightmare for us."
The Rabys must vacate their 720-square-foot office by Nov. 30, so it can be demolished.
The couple initially wanted the state to buy the office and the adjoining 41/2 acres the Rabys bought five years ago. Instead, the state bought the building and 0.45 acres on which it stands.
That leaves the Rabys with land they can't build on because it's in a flood plain, Raby said. She didn't want to say exactly what the state paid, but the couple got only about one-sixth of what they were hoping for -- and it's less than what they owe the bank, she said.
Project manager Krystal Stovall-Dixon said the state had to acquire 13 parcels for the bridge replacement, and all the acquisitions are done by the book.
"There's lots of rules and regulations that have to be followed," Stovall-Dixon said. "The problem is, as we all know, the market is down. We can't legally offer her more than the fair market value. That would be a waste of taxpayers' money."
Stovall-Dixon said the Federal Highway Administration randomly picks state projects to oversee, and "this is one of the projects they picked.
"We definitely would not be picking on [the Rabys], doing something we were not supposed to."
Bridge to have bike SPACe
GDOT plans to put the project out to bid in April and construction is expected to start a few months after the contractor with the lowest bid is hired, Stovall-Dixon said. The project is budgeted for $1.7 million and funded with state and federal dollars.
The current bridge was rebuilt in 1955, but a team of inspectors that looks at every bridge on public roads in Georgia gave it 34 out of 100 points. Bridges that score under 50 points need to go, Stovall-Dixon said.
The new bridge will be two lanes wide like the current one, but it will have a wider shoulder to accommodate bicycles.
"This is a on a state bike route," Stovall-Dixon said. "The shoulder will be 10 feet wider. It's not a bike lane, it's called a bikeable shoulder."
It should take 18 months to build the new bridge and tear down the old one, she said.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.