Hwy. 54 hospital pedestrian bridge closer to reality

There has been plenty of talk in Fayetteville in recent years about building a pedestrian bridge across Ga. Highway 54 at Piedmont Fayette Hospital. An update on the project was presented to the Fayetteville City Council at the Feb. 25 retreat.

The city is currently waiting to hear if a grant proposal that would help facilitate the project has been approved. If successful, those funds paired with others already received could make the project a reality.

The idea a few years ago of installing a pedestrian bridge over four-lane Hwy. 54 near Piedmont Fayette Hospital gave way to a lesser proposal of upgrading the intersection at street level. But more recently the city has renewed its interest in trying again for the larger pedestrian bridge project.

The city in mid-2011 was approved for a $400,000 grant from Ga. Dept of Transportation for the at-grade crossing and to install a multi-use path from Togwatee Village to Lester Road. But conversations over the need for a pedestrian bridge continued.

The move to try again for the pedestrian bridge stems from a portion of the DOT approval process that dealt with the speed limit along Hwy. 54. Unlike the view held by the city, DOT wanted to keep the speed limit at 55 miles per hour rather than lowering the speed to the 45 miles per hour the city believes is more appropriate, City Manager Joe Morton said previously.

“The grade-level improvements won’t be as significant as what we need, and we won’t resolve the issues of pedestrians crossing the highway,” Morton said in 2012. “So we are discussing with DOT and Fayette County the idea of going back to the original proposal of having a pedestrian bridge (over Hwy. 54).”

The idea of having a bridge over the roadway was enhanced by the annexation last fall of 1,200 acres around the hospital and the arrival of Pinewood Atlanta Studios immediately to the north.

“We already saw before Pinewood that we needed a lower speed limit (on Hwy. 54). Having a pedestrian bridge rather than the grade-level improvements would satisfy our needs,” said Morton last year. “So this is the opportune time to go back and revisit the proposal.”

Community Development Director Brian Wismer at the retreat reiterated that, over time, the plan evolved to one that would install a pedestrian bridge over Hwy. 54. That plan carries an estimated $2.4 million price tag.

The option of a pedestrian bridge gained traction due to pedestrian safety concerns, usability and the opportunity to have it serve as a gateway structure to the city, Wismer said.

The city is currently awaiting a decision on a $1.26 million request made to the Ga. Tollway Infrastructure Bank.

Another funding source, one now available to the city, is a $749,000 sum from the Transportation Alternatives Program.

Also in play is the original $400,000 DOT grant that can be used for bridge construction and for engineering on the multi-use path to Lester Road.

The combination of those funds, including the potential approval of the $1.26 million sum, should provide the capital necessary to bring the project forward, Wismer said.

A decision by the Ga. Tollway Infrastructure Bank is expected in the coming weeks.