Lee County -- School buses and some emergency vehicles are not crossing two bridges in Lee County, after their load limits have been reduced because of low grades from the Department of Transportation inspections. The school system had to add another bus and run longer routes to bypass those bridges, while the county is working to make repairs to them.
Georgia Department of Transportation Inspectors lowered the weight limit recommendations on the two bridges two weeks ago. One is on Pinewood Road near Bronwood Road. It has been lowered to a three ton limit, closed to all trucks. Even the smallest school busses weigh more than three tons.
The other bridge is on Palmyra Road at Uncle Jimmy's Lane, which has a load limit now of six tons, but again all trucks are to avoid it.
School buses and fire trucks have been ordered to stay off the bridges, but ambulances are still using them in an emergency. Lee County School System Transportation Director Ricky Canterbury admits it scared him when he was told school buses needed to avoid two bridges in Lee County they had passed over for years.
"Once I got rid of the scare, and I thought about the Minnesota bridge, I said they are coming here really trying to protect in case there is a flaw. We took it serious," Canterbury said. Georgia Department of Transportation officials say the Inspectors gave the Pinewood Road Bridge a grade of 47 on a 100 scale. The Palmyra Bridge was given a grade of 52. Both need bracing or concrete encasing of pilings underneath according to Inspectors. School buses have re-routed around the Palmyra Bridge, but an extra bus route had to be added to deliver the children on the west side of the Pinewood Road Bridge. That will cost the School System roughly $20,000 more for the remainder of the year.
"To us, our cargo is a little more precious to us. We're not hauling heads of lettuce, we're hauling little kids," Canterbury said.
Firefighters say bypassing the bridges has only added one extra mile for their trucks to reach most homes affected.
Lee County Public Works officials have already started taking bids to see the cost and time needed to repair or replace the bridges, and have applied for State Funding to help pay for them.
Signs warning trucks about the lower weight load limits on the bridges have been posted at turn-offs before they reach the bridges.