Editorial: Kudos to city and state officials for finding a compromise on Walnut Avenue/I-75 bridge project

The Walnut Avenue bridge spanning I-75 is a main artery for Daltonians — and thousands of others.

To the west of the bridge, it connects them to the Dalton Convention Center, Dalton State College, restaurants and hotels. To the east, it links Dalton residents to plenty of restaurants, hotels, retail shops and other businesses. It's a main thoroughfare not only for us, but for the thousands upon thousands of travelers who stop at exit 333 to stay at a hotel, fuel up their cars or eat before continuing their trip on I-75.

That's why in a previous editorial we expressed our concerns that a proposed plan to renovate the Walnut Avenue bridge span over I-75, forcing its total closure for five weekends, would cause serious disruptions — not only in convenience, but in lost revenue for the many businesses on both sides of the bridge. Closing the bridge on five straight weekends could have an economic impact of as much as $400,000, according to a Dalton Convention and Visitors Bureau estimate.

We were also concerned that the bridge shutdown would lead to traffic snarls on other roads in Dalton, particularly Dug Gap, Shugart and Tibbs roads, as drivers searched for ways around the bridge work.

We were happy to report late last month that local and state officials sat down and figured out a plan that will ease the pain of the bridge renovation.

Under the new plan, one lane of the bridge will stay open to traffic during the renovation. Construction was moved from 2018 to the summer of 2019 between May 31 and Aug. 15 when traffic from Dalton State College isn't as heavy because of the summer semester.

Work is expected to take two weeks. The state Department of Transportation project will raise the bridge to allow larger cargo to be transported on the interstate.

We commend the entire group who worked together to find a better solution: Public Works Director Benny Dunn; Brett Huske, director of tourism; Public Works Assistant Director Andrew Parker; City Administrator Jason Parker; state Sen. Chuck Payne, R-Dalton; Doug Phipps, Dalton Convention Center general manager; other city officials; and the GDOT project managers.

This common-sense solution shows how potentially major problems can be mitigated when we work together. We hope to see this spirit of compromise continue throughout our community.

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