June 20, 2019 - Smyrna - Cobb County is rolling out yet another tool designed to warn drivers of the seven-foot clearance of the Concord Road covered bridge. The county has installed mast arms along Concord Road that will have plastic-covered PVC pipes suspended at seven feet. If a too-tall vehicle hits these pipes, they should not try to pass through the covered bridge. Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com

Cobb covered bridge warning pipes damage car windshields 

Three cars were damaged Sunday by PVC pipes designed to alert drivers to the Concord Road covered bridge’s low clearance in Cobb County. 

Cobb County spokesman Ross Cavitt said a large vehicle struck the pipes on the Smyrna side of the bridge “at a high rate of speed.” That vehicle did not stop or remain at the scene, he said. 

The impact broke three pipes and damaged a weld holding up the chains, which Cavitt said caused some of the pipes to be suspended below the seven-foot clearance. 

Cavitt said several cars hit the pipes, and drivers of at least three vehicles reported windshield damage.

“We’re working with those who reported damage to help them make repairs,” he said.

Cobb police closed the roadway so county Department of Transportation crews could remove the pipes. 

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The Concord Road covered bridge spans Nickajack Creek just south of the East-West Connector. It’s best known for repeated accidents as inattentive drivers keep trying to fit tall vehicles under its low rafters.

The bridge has had about two dozen close calls since December 2017 when the county installed 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 from vehicles, protecting the bridge.

Since the hits to the metal beams kept coming, the county in June rolled out a more conspicuous system: dangling PVC pipes suspended over the road on the approach to the bridge. 

Traffic signal mast arms hold the dangling pipes over Concord Road at a height of seven feet, which is the same maximum height for the one-lane bridge. 

The system is intended to be struck by too-tall vehicles as they approach the historic covered bridge, giving them time to turn around.

Cavitt said the county has been discussing whether it should use different materials for the pipes and will meet Tuesday to see what changes can be made. 

“We did not anticipate the speed at which some of these over-height vehicles would hit the chains,” he said. “However the devices have stopped the ongoing bashing of the bridge’s protective beams and frequent traffic backups.”

At least one person has asked Cobb County to consider changing out the PVC pipes to a softer material.

Robbie Hewitt of Smyrna said he’s asked the county to switch the material to something similar to the rubber used in traffic lane dividers “so they won’t bounce so hard” when they are hit by large vehicles. 

Cobb County employees make weekly visits to the site to straighten the PVC pipes when they become tangled or knocked over the mast arms after being hit so hard by drivers of large vehicles, Hewitt said. He believes the cost of sending employees to fix the dangling pipes on a weekly basis could eventually add up. 

“A simple change of material could cut the cost dramatically,” he said. “As a Cobb resident I hate seeing my tax dollars wasted like this.”

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