September 26, 2013 9:36:29 AM
Nathan Gregory - [email protected]
It's official. The city will cut the ribbon on the Old Tombigbee River Bridge on Old Highway 82 at 10 a.m. on Oct. 18.
The city issued a press release Wednesday verifying the pedestrian walkway would be ready in time for the BBQ & Blues Festival scheduled to begin an hour after the ceremony. The historic bridge connects downtown Columbus to the area commonly referred to as "The Island."
Crews have completed the majority of painting and are removing scaffolding, Kevin Stafford of Neel-Schaffer said. The firm oversaw design and rehabilitation of the structure. They're also in the process of cleaning debris off piers under the bridge, including bird nests made by barn swallows, an environmentally protected species, who have migrated after nesting there this summer. Final accent lighting installation is also under way, he said.
"(Crews) have completed the base for the sidewalk connection to the Riverwalk trail," Stafford said. "Bollards and concrete will be completed over the next week. They have started attaching the wood foundation for the boardwalk to the steel superstructure and will start the actual boardwalk construction in the coming weeks."
Those projects are short-term and can go on simultaneously so the bridge will be ready in time for the ceremony, he said.
The city, Lowndes County and the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau matched $500,000 of a $2 million grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation. Malouf Construction was awarded the construction contract. The project cost $2.2 million. Stafford told The Dispatch previously that any cost overruns would be covered by MDOT at no expense to the city.
"Developing the Old Tombigbee River Bridge into a pedestrian walkway adds a vibrant centerpiece to the Columbus Riverwalk that will benefit our citizens and local businesses for years to come," city officials said in the release.
CCVB executive director Nancy Carpenter said the restored bridge will be an attraction that will draw traffic to Columbus.
"Development of this new walkway provides citizens and visitors a unique opportunity to access the beautiful Tombigbee River that flows through our city," she said.
The bridge, built in 1927, was closed to vehicles in 1991. It was posted to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.