The bridge plans call for a 10-foot pedestrian and bicycle pathway alongside the traffic lanes, an improvement from the 5-foot sidewalk currently in place. Many bikers and pedestrians use the bridge because it connects the town’s Little Tennessee Greenway from one side of the river to the other. But with no physical barrier between motorized and non-motorized lanes, Franklin Town Manager Warren Cabe said, the increased width would offer little improvement in safety.
“They would not, and could not in their funding, pay for a railing between the traffic lane and the pedestrian lane,” Cabe said.
So, at a special meeting in March, the town board voted unanimously to pay up to $36,000 to build a 3.5-inch concrete barrier to separate the two zones.
The bridge, built in 1931, isn’t showing the kinds of structural deficiencies that will make it dangerous anytime soon, said Kevin Moore, project engineer for N.C. DOT. Increased maintenance costs and functional shortcomings like the lack of safety features for greenway users, however, mean it’s time to replace. N.C. DOT will start taking construction bids in Feb. 2016 and expects the project to take 18 to 24 months, wrapping up around Dec. 2017.
“You have to decide, do we keep doing maintenance to this bridge, or do we go ahead and replace it,” Moore said.