Historic Mitchell Street Bridge re-opens

Used only by the walking dead since 2008, downtown's Mitchell Street bridge re-opened to the living Thursday following a four-year rebuilding project totaling $8.8 million.

The bridge, which crosses the Gulch just south of Philips Arena, connects Castleberry Hill to Northside Drive. When it opened in 1924, it was a centerpiece of the downtown railroad junction that made Atlanta a regional transportation hub.

Now, nearly 80 years later, city planners once again see the bridge — which served as a backdrop in the AMC zombie series, "The Walking Dead" — playing a central role in Atlanta's future.

"A new Mitchell Street Bridge, the new structure we'll soon build to replace the Spring Street Viaduct and the Multi-Modal Passenger Terminal we are building will not only help revitalize this community, they will transform it into a thriving 'destination' for all Atlanta residents and tourists alike," said Fifth Congressional District State Transportation Board Member Emory McClinton.

The bridge, owned by the city, closed in March 2008 after state Department of Transportation inspectors gave it a sufficiency rating of 2 out of 100. Federal stimulus money provided the funding for the new structure, constructed by Archer Western Contractors Inc. The bridge now features three lanes, a parking lane on its south side, expanded sidewalks and a bike lane on the north side.

Bridge boosters say the structure will provide a boon to Castleberry Hill, but merchants in the thriving retail area are taking a wait-and-see approach.

"It could be a good thing, but it could be a hindrance,' said Melody Voirin, manager of No Mas! Cantina. Voirin noted that traffic was detoured to pass in front of the restaurant while the bridge was being constructed.