Related to the Heritage, Natural Environment, and
Other Unique Qualities of Life in the Mentone Area
* * * * Points of View of Concerned Citizens * * * *
(Click on the picture to enlarge.) (Click on the picture to enlarge.)
Replacement Design Preservation Design
A new bridge (over the West Fork of Little River) on the Lookout Mountain Parkway section of SR-117 is being planned by the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT). The above illustrations are not ALDOT’s final designs, but are simply estimates of how the new road/bridge could be routed. Everyone with an opinion regarding this issue is encouraged to submit his or her ideas on the project to the officials listed below as soon as possible. If you also want to publish your ideas and observations here, please email them to SR-117_Issues@MentoneAlabama.org.
Bridge Replacement Project BR-0204(512) was sponsored by Alabama State Senator Lowell Barron who is no longer in office. John Cooper, Director of ALDOT in Montgomery, is ultimately responsible for the project design, funding and construction. Johnny Harris, Division Engineer of ALDOT in Guntersville, is the local ALDOT representative and the person most involved in technical and on-site issues.
Plans for the new bridge were announced by Senator Barron and ALDOT on January 6, 2005, as reported by Darrell Norman in The Gadsden Times. Restatements of the plans were reported by both The Gadsden Times and The Times-Journal of Fort Payne on February 9, 2005. The Groundhog also reported on the issue in its February, 2005, issue. ALDOT presented six possible design options and solicited public comments at a meeting in Mentone on May 3, 2005.
ALDOT probably made a commitment during May or June of 2005 to a design such as one of the two described here. (See the page on ALDOT's May 3rd, 2005, meeting for more details.) It is also possible for the existing bridge to simply be widened, or for other changes to be made to the highway which would help solve the safety problems.
Replacement Design -- Build a 40-foot-wide replacement bridge which can accommodate three lanes of traffic on the downstream (southwest) side of the existing bridge. Demolish the existing historic Mentone Bridge.
Preservation Design -- Add a single-lane bridge on the upstream (northeast) side of the existing bridge for northwest-bound traffic. Keep the existing historic Mentone Bridge for southeast-bound traffic with a pedestrian walkway protected by a concrete partition. Minimize the distance between the two bridges to keep the new bridge within the existing right-of-way.
The Replacement Design illustrated above requires destruction of some woodland and the relocation of electrical, phone, cable and water lines. The Replacement Design also requires destruction of the existing historic Mentone Bridge and removal of the many tons of debris from Little River. Finally, the Replacement Design does not include a pedestrian walkway separated from vehicle traffic by a concrete barrier. Therefore, the Replacement Design is certainly the more objectionable alternative.
The Preservation Design illustrated above does not require destruction of any houses or other structures or woodland, and it preserves our historic Mentone Bridge for traffic from the northwest, with the downstream edge of the bridge partitioned off for use by pedestrians. This concept requires construction of only a single-lane bridge for traffic from the southeast. The Preservation Design will cost significantly less than the Replacement Design because: 1) the bridge to be constructed is only half as wide, 2) the amount of property to be expropriated is much less, and 3) the existing bridge does not have to be demolished and the debris removed from the premises. The Preservation Design will also not be delayed by the prolonged and expensive litigation expected with the Replacement Design.
The forty-foot-wide bridge in the Replacement Design preferred by ALDOT is more than twice as wide as the existing bridge (much wider than even the SR-117 overpass on I-59). It is rated for 55 MPH and will facilitate much more heavy truck traffic on the Lookout Mountain Parkway, increases in which will reduce truck traffic currently flowing through Ft. Payne on SR-35. Not only will Mentone be compromised by the increased truck noise, but so will be Valley Head, Cloudland, and all points in between these otherwise quiet communities.
The forty-foot-wide bridge envisioned by ALDOT can easily accommodate the three lanes of vehicle traffic proposed by Mentone's mayor and town council in their original request for a new bridge on June 23, 2004.
The Georgia Department of Transportation has been expected to widen sections of the road between Summerville and Menlo to four lanes, to widen most of the road from Menlo to the state line to three lanes, and to replace the bridge over the East Fork of Little River (Project No. BR-0005-00(530)). There might also be plans by ALDOT to widen most of SR-117 to at least three lanes from the state line to I-59. If so, the historic Mentone Town Square, including the Hitching Post and the Log Cabin Restaurant, might some day soon no longer exist, and Mentone's part of the Lookout Mountain Parkway will become known as the Barron Mountain Truckway.
Mentone Mayor Rob Hammond says that Mentone's existing concrete arch bridge must eventually be destroyed by ALDOT. The reason for this is unclear, but it might be that the Federal Bridge Relacement Program being tapped by ALDOT for the project is most easily utilized in situations where an existing bridge is to be demolished. One of the very few known similar structures was a beautiful arch bridge on SR-35 over a creek on Sand Mountain northwest of Rainsville which ALDOT recently demolished according to the requirements of the same funding program.
The Mentone Bridge, built in 1928, is one of the last arch bridges in Alabama and is a beautiful, historic landmark which should be preserved as a symbol of Mentone. If a forty-foot-wide new bridge must be built, the existing bridge could still be used as a wide walkway, possibly with plantings on its edge next to the new bridge. If a new bridge is built upstream, then a walkway across the old bridge could eventually become part of a walking/jogging/bicycling route extending from downtown Mentone past the Library and Civic Center complex to the eastern town limits.
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