Adele Elliott: Troubled bridge over water

August 17, 2013 4:08:12 PM

Adele Elliott - [email protected]


I suppose people around our area are a bit disappointed about the delays in renovation of the Old Highway 82 Bridge in Columbus. After all, we are in a big hurry to walk across the river to get to, um, the other side (?). 


Anyway, the originally projected opening date of sometime in July has past, and we are anxiously anticipating sometime in September for the big reveal. Cross your fingers. 


This tiny bridge seems to be cursed. The reasons for multiple delays could be plucked from an updated Greek tragedy. First, the primer (which had to be Mississippi Department of Transportation-approved) did not stick to the steel portion of the bridge. Well, it adhered in some places, creating a patchy coating. Of course, they did "ask Sherwin Williams," the company that supplied the paint. 


Representatives from that company conducted their own tests and concluded that the paint just needed more drying time. The consensus was that it may take a month, to a month-and-a-half for the first coat to dry. Then there are more coats. Now that I think about it, that projected date for finishing is still September, but in what year? 


If wet paint wasn't trouble enough, there is the issue of a flock of birds. Migratory barn swallows just couldn't wait for the ribbon-cutting. They built nests along one side of the troubled bridge. The birds are protected. Therefore, the nests must not be disturbed until they move on, sometime next month. Who knew birds had squatter's rights? 


Are you having trouble keeping up with all this drama? Not to worry. I think I hear the chorus chanting in the background. They should clear things up for us. 


Certainly, the Golden Triangle is not the only place with bridge woes. In the Russian village of Frolovo, a bridge over the Nozma River was stolen (ABC News; August 2013). Authorities found the thief easily. Tractor tracks led directly to his home. He had painstakingly dismantled the structure with a welding torch. Evidently, he planned to sell the valuable metal. He now faces the possibility of two years in prison. I wonder how he will feel about steel bars? 


Knitters with the Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh took a different approach to dealing with those pesky bridge issues. They "yarn bombed" the Andy Warhol Bridge which spans the Allegheny River (AP; August 13, 2013). These dedicated crafters created 580 blanket-sized panels, which were stretched along the pedestrian walkway. With the help of some riggers, huge sheets of knitting were draped on towers of the bridge. The public art instillation will remain until September 6. Could knitting replace primer on a bridge? 


Our Old Highway 82 Bridge is only running slightly over the $2.5 million restoration budget. Right now, it is at $150,000 above the money received from the Mississippi Department of Transportation, Lowndes County, and the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau. But, who didn't expect an overrun or two? 


So, very soon (don't hold your breath) we will be able to stroll from the Riverwalk to the island. There, we can view a shabby motel, the shell of a defunct nightclub, and the big trucks that speed along the highway. Someone should charge admission. 


An argument might be made that things could be worse. Luckily, the fates have provided us with a hero in the form of our city project manager. For the salary of a mere $90,000 he will certainly make sure that the rest of this venture runs smoothly. 


I invite my readers to join me for a promenade across the new bridge when it opens. That will definitely be in September, which year to be announced.

Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.