Friday January 19, 2007
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Renovated Fifth Street Bridge opens

Ben Keyserling / Student Publications

By James Stephenson News Editor

Construction on the Fifth Street Bridge was completed at the end of November, finishing a project that had taken most of the past few years. The bridge serves as the main pedestrian and vehicular connection between Tech Square in Midtown and the rest of campus. The bridge spans the downtown connector of Interstate 75/85.

"The main idea was to open up the connection [between Tech Square and campus] and provide a park-like setting," said Frank Lamia, facilities construction administration manager.

According to Lamia, by creating a park above the interstate, the bridge creates a more pleasant experience for people crossing between Tech Square and main campus. Prior to the project, the bridge was narrow and pushed pedestrians near the interstate.

The original bridge was not capable of maintaining the amount of traffic that it would have cross it to get to and from the Management Building and Barnes and Noble bookstore.

"The bridge creates a buffer between the pedestrian and the interstate. From the sidewalk, you cannot see the interstate, and the trees along the bridge cut down on the noise from the traffic," Lamia said.

According to Lamia, the goal of creating a different experience crossing the interstate was accomplished. The bridge span is twice what it was and has several feet worth of space between the widewalk and the trees and fence separating the bridge from the interstate. The trees are elevated to block the view of the interstate from the sidewalk, so pedestrians are not forced to watch traffic pass by underneath them.

"Overall, the bridge accomplished what it intended to do. You do not feel like you are going over an interstate," Lamia said.

According to Lamia, the best part of the project is the fact that the project will keep evolving and progressing as time passes. A large part of the project was the foliage that surrounds the bridge to create that buffer zone between the bridge and the interstate. The trees and vines also help create the park-like atmostphere that were part of the original design.

"The trees were just planted and haven't had time to grow yet. When they fully develop, they will create even more of a buffer between the pedestrian and the interstate. The trellises will have vines grow up them, as well," Lamia said.

The project was headed by the Department of Transportation (DOT). The total cost of the project was $10.3 million. The cost that Tech paid was just under 400 thousand dollars because the lighting system and the trellises were not included in the original bid.

The project was completed by the projected finish date, which was the end of November, and came in under budget.

The lighting system was designed to extend the feel of Tech Square across the bridge. It was one step in opening up the entrance to Tech Square from main campus.

"Overall, it was very successful. The design is simple, but it does what we need it to," Lamia said.

Rumors have circulated about plans to reproduce the project at the North Avenue and Tenth Street bridges. However, Lamia nor the DOT could confirm the speculations.

"The DOT is about to start a project to rebuild the Fourteenth Street bridge to make it wider," Lamia said.

The successful completion of the Fifth Street Bridge project could influence the start of the bridge projects on North Avenue and Tenth Street.

Reaction from the student body has been generally positive towards the completion of the project. Most students felt that the project took a long time, but the final project was worth the wait.