City officials discuss proposals for reuse of Fifth Avenue Bridge on Friday

City Commissioner Mark Cochran (left) used Legos on March 19 to illustrate his idea of having just two lanes on one side of the Fifth Avenue Bridge for traffic, to make the bridge more pedestrian friendly.

You could have heard a pin drop.

It was almost as if City Manager Sammy Rich turned on a vacuum cleaner and sucked all of the air out of Rome City Hall on Wednesday afternoon.

Floyd County owns the Fifth Avenue Bridge, he told members of the Redevelopment Committee. That means the bridge city officials would like to refashion as the “gateway to the River District” isn’t theirs.

County officials will be present Friday morning at the Courtyard Rome Riverwalk when city leaders discuss proposed changes for the bridge. Moving forward, city leaders would have to work together with county officials on any kind of plan.

One question raised was if the city could simply ask the county to deed the bridge to them.

“We’ve already spent a lot of money and human capital,” Commissioner Jamie Doss said.

It doesn’t hurt to ask, Committee Chair Wendy Davis said.

“I am so derailed here,” Davis added.

The county government owns and is charged with maintenance of all the bridges in Floyd County, including those in city limits.

Committee members then turned their attention to the rest of the River District renovations.

Mayor Craig McDaniel stressed that the city needs to look at redevelopment in that area from a comprehensive point of view.

As an example, he cited the Four Stone Real Estate group’s plans for as many as 200 housing units along with retail, commercial and entertainment options.

The city is also preparing documents for water and sewer improvements along North Fifth Avenue and West Third Street.

The city needs to consider Georgia Department of Transportation plans for the widening of Second Avenue at West Third Street, McDaniel said.

Whatever work the state does on Second Avenue will increase traffic on the Fifth Avenue Bridge, Community Development Director Bekki Fox said. That further complicates the city’s desire to reduce traffic flow on the bridge from four lanes to two.

The city has $2 million in the 2017 SPLOST budget for improvements to the River District. The original conceptual plan for the River District designed by Goodwyn Mills and Cawood consulting puts a price tag of $6.7 million on the redevelopment.

The city could go into the bond market to get whatever financing is ultimately needed for the project, Davis said. She intimated she would like to see the project completed wholesale rather than in a piecemeal basis.

The Friday morning meeting at the Courtyard Rome Riverwalk is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. and last approximately two hours.

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