7 state-owned bridges you didn’t know were in ‘poor condition’

Betty's Creek Road in Rabun County. (Credit: Dopp Kit Media)

Betty's Creek Road in Rabun County. (Credit: Dopp Kit Media)

Oct 19, 2023

Ever wonder if that bridge you take to school or work every day is safe or how inspectors decide if a bridge is structurally sound?

Those questions are at the heart of what Meg Pirkle and Donn Digamon do at the Georgia Department of Transportation. Chief Engineer Pirkle is responsible for managing the agency’s preconstruction, engineering, programming, intermodal activities and operations. While Digamon is state bridge engineer.

Georgia currently has 26 state-owned bridges rated in poor condition, according to U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal High Administration data.  The poor rating doesn’t mean the bridges are dangerous or unusable to motorists, state and national transportation officials said.

“There's a big variance in what is poor and it can refer to one element [of a bridge] or many,”  Pirkle told State Affairs. “We inspect all of our bridges every other year. And if they need attention, we provide the correct attention. ”

Currently, only one state-owned bridge is closed to traffic, Digamon said. It is a bridge on Valentine Industrial Parkway over I-85 in Jackson County. Construction is underway to replace the bridge. That project is slated to be done  in September 2024.

Here’s a sampling of some of the most heavily traveled, state-owned bridges that are classified in poor condition.

Torras Causeway over Mackay River, State Route 25 SEGlynn32,9001986
The Torras Causeway spans the Mackay River and connects St. Simons Island to the mainland. It is a crucial piece of infrastructure for local tourism and commercial businesses.
Snapfinger Road/Snapfinger CreekDeKalb27,9001954
This bridge is in Decatur and passes over Snapfinger Creek. The creek got its name from an incident in which a surveyor fell and broke or “snapped” his finger while crossing the creek.
Little McMillan Creek, U.S. 84Wayne17,8001957
U.S. 84 is a four-lane highway that crosses South Georgia from the Alabama line and runs through the towns of Jesup, Blackshear and Waycross.
Two Run Creek at U.S. 41 Bartow11,9001949
This concrete slab bridge is 102 feet long and 28 feet wide is a vital link for Bartow County, carrying a high volume of commercial trucks and passenger vehicles. 
Betty Creek, SR 15, U.S. 23Rabun9,3301926
State Route 15 and U.S. 23 connect Rabun to the rest of the state. They’re also used by businesses and county residents to move goods and services through the county.
Darien River, U.S. 17, SR 25 McIntosh6,7901944
U.S. 17 and State Route 25 are the most important roads in McIntosh, connecting the county to the rest of the state and nation.
Satilla River Overflow, U.S. 82 Brantley5,6801964
U.S. Highway 82 crosses over The Satilla River Overflow, a low-lying, flood-prone area in Brantley County. Climate change has made the area more vulnerable to flooding. So, the Georgia Department of Transportation is building a new $8.5 million bridge that will be higher and wider than the existing one.
Note: While these state-owned bridges are rated in “poor” condition, motorists can still use them, Georgia Department of Transportation officials said.
Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration

Bridges are classified in good, fair or poor condition based on their inspection ratings and definitions from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Ratings are based on the materials, physical conditions of the deck or riding surface, the superstructure, which is the support immediately under the driving surface, and the substructure, also known as the foundation and supporting posts and piers. General condition ratings range from 0 (failed condition) to 9 (excellent).

Here’s a look at each:

Good: If the lowest rating is greater than or equal to 7, the bridge is classified as “Good.”

Fair: A rating of 5 or 6.

Structurally deficient (or “poor” condition):  One of the key structural parts of the bridge — the deck, superstructure or culvert —  is rated in poor or worse condition. A rating of 4 and below is considered poor or structurally deficient. A culvert is a structure that takes water past an obstacle or to an underground waterway.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, Bridges & Structures

Want to know what shape the bridges in your community are in? 

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration keeps data on all of America’s bridges. Log onto the site here. Here’s what you should know before you dive in:

  1. Check the box that says “2023 NBI Data” on the left side of the page.
  2. Now go down to the “Find Bridges” category. Check  the box that says state name. That will  open a window with the names of states. Check box 13. That’s Georgia. Then hit the blue “select” button on the right side in the window
  3. Go back to the left side of the website page and hit Bridge Condition. A window will open. Go to the section inside the window. It will say “Select multiple options from the list.” Three options will appear: G-Good, F-Fair and P-Poor. Put your cursor over the P. A blue bar will appear. Hit “select” on the right side in the window.
  4. That should pull up the 239 Georgia bridges rated poor. 
  5. Play around on the website to find out more about bridges in general. Have fun!

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Have questions, comments or tips? Contact Tammy Joyner on X @lvjoyner or at [email protected].

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Header image: Betty's Creek Road in Rabun County. (Credit: Dopp Kit Media)