Cobb County has a new, creative way to warn drivers of tall vehicles that they will not fit under the Concord Road covered bridge.
Crews were finishing the installation Thursday of a second device — dangling plastic pipes — on the approach to the bridge. It joins the protective metal beams that sit much closer to the bridge and have prevented almost two dozen collisions since they were installed in late 2017.
It was a move born of exasperation. County officials say after this, they’re out of ideas for how to stop drivers from slamming into the wooden covered bridge built in 1872.
The new warning system uses traffic signal mast arms that extend over both sides of Concord Road and hold several dangling PVC pipes, county spokesman Ross Cavitt said. The pipes will be suspended at a seven-foot clearance, which is the same maximum height for the one-lane bridge spanning Nickajack Creek just south of the East-West Connector.
After drivers see existing bridge height warning signs, vehicles that are too large to pass under the bridge will strike the pipes and follow signs directing them to turn around to avoid becoming another statistic.
“We’re hoping that this works,” Cavitt told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
County commissioners in April approved a contract with Detection Engineering Technology, Inc. to install the new device at a cost not to exceed $19,540. Cavitt said the work will be paid for by sales tax dollars set aside in the county’s budget for Concord Road improvements.
The covered bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a centerpiece of Cobb’s Concord Covered Bridge Historic District, which features homes and mills dating to the 1800s.
While it has a long and treasured history, the covered bridge is best known for repeated accidents as inattentive drivers keep trying to fit tall vehicles under its low rafters. It has been the victim of 22 close calls since December 2017 when the county installed the protective metal beams at both ends of the bridge as part of an $800,000 taxpayer-funded rehabilitation. The beams are designed to absorb the blow, protecting the historic wooden bridge.
The county spends between $300 and $500 to repair the protective beam each time a driver tests fate and ends up on the losing end, Cavitt said. The driver’s insurance company usually get the bill, however.
Even with those devices in place, the county regularly uses social media to inform its followers about another vehicle bonking the beams. Just last week, a work van became the latest addition to the virtual wall of shame when it hit the metal beam while crews were working to install the PVC pipe device.
“There’s a very easy detour that’s probably quicker,” Cavitt said.
Drivers of large vehicles can use Hurt Road to get around the bridge. Hurt Road connects to Concord Road both north and south of the bridge. There’s also a turnaround point at the Silver Comet Trail Concord Road parking lot north of the bridge.
Cavitt said he hopes the county’s latest project to protect the bridge will be the final initiative needed to encourage drivers not to press their luck.
“We don’t really have a plan after this,” he said.
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