The Georgia Department of Transportation is scheduled to reopen the College Street Bridge by Thanksgiving. The bridge on County Road 5813 — more commonly known as College Street — was closed on May 26 to demolish and replace the old bridge. The former College Street bridge had been functional for over 125 years, and it was a historically designated landmark. However, it had to be replaced because the increasing frequency of trains with double-stacked freight cars had rendered the bridge both unsafe and inefficient. According to Penny Brooks, district communication officer for the West Central Region of Georgia, construction of the bridge was scheduled to take six months, and it has remained on schedule despite COVID-19 precautions. “Because that railroad is located in an active neighborhood, this project was decidedly undertaken with what are called design-build techniques, so the contractor we brought in to do this job has an accelerated timeline,” Brooks said. “The project could’ve taken a year to do. It is basically being done in about half a year’s time. It actually is way more convenient for the neighborhood around the tracks.” Because of this accelerated timeline, the bridge is scheduled to open to the public by Thanksgiving Day. The beams for the bridge have already been placed, and the concrete deck pour should be completed in the next few weeks. Then, the construction workers will lay down the asphalt, and the bridge will be opened. However, the project will not be completed at that point. To honor the history of the original bridge, construction will move to a nearby park to build a historical monument to the bridge using the original bricks. The entire project will be completed by spring of 2021.
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This is an opinion article. Any views expressed belong solely to the author and are not representative of The Cluster. Homecoming is intended to be a positive experience. As a Mercer community, we are supposed to come together to celebrate the impact that our school has had on us and our world since its founding in 1833. However, this year, plans have changed. We will still have a homecoming, but it will exclude most alumni, and it comes at a great risk to the health and safety of the students. Everyone keeps telling Mercer students to remain positive, but it seems like it is time to let go of our hope for normalcy and accept that life is crazy right now. This thought process should extend to cancelling Homecoming. I am getting tired of “making the best of things” this year. Everything that happens this year is shrouded with the disappointment of what could’ve been, and Homecoming is no exception. Schools all over the country are shut down for the semester, and the odds are not great for them to open in the spring. We are lucky to be here, but being on campus is taking a toll. We are constantly working to keep everyone safe: hands washed, masks on, desks cleaned and distance kept. We are getting the “Mercer experience,” but it is only a shell of what it once was. Clubs meet over Zoom, we cannot all eat together and events have to be modified to keep us apart. We are losing community for the sake of safety. Now, Homecoming is also slowly being taken away, and we are supposed to pretend that everything is the same as it once was. The annual Half Century Club gathering has been cancelled, as have all other alumni indoor events. The stadium will not be full of screaming fans, and campus will be lacking the electricity that a big game brings. It is so disappointing. I know that we should be thankful for the game and glad that we get to be together as a community. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to overcome these feelings of hopelessness as we prepare for the watered-down versions of events that used to bring us so much joy. As Homecoming approaches, I mourn for the alumni who do not get to “come home.” I feel the pain of the seniors who are losing their last great college football experience, and I am distressed that the freshmen will think that Mercer is nothing but empty seats and half-hearted cheers. I pray that this will not be the year that they remember. All of these changes are making me wonder if Homecoming is even worth the effort. I understand that it is a tradition, and people look forward to it every year, but is a disappointing Homecoming better than no Homecoming at all? I want to say yes. I have been trying, like we all have, to remain positive through this time, and I want to believe that Homecoming will still be a good experience. If I am honest with myself, though, I do not think it is worth it. I would rather keep the memories of last year and the years to come untainted by this event. I do not want to look fondly on my time at Mercer and think, “Homecoming was my favorite event… except for in 2020.” Additionally, there is irony in the fact that Homecoming could very easily be the thing to send us home. We are inviting athletes and fans from halfway across the country onto our campus, and Five Star Stadium could easily become a breeding-ground for COVID-19 transmission. At Mercer, we have mostly remained vigilant in our safety protocols, but you do not have to look far off campus to see that everyone is not doing the same. We will not know when people walk through the gates whether or not they have been keeping themselves safe. Have they been exposed? Are they exposing us? There is no way to know for sure. As much as it pains me to admit it, I believe that it is time to give up our positivity. I am so thankful that Mercer students can be on campus, but I cannot avoid the disappointment of knowing that this is not how things are supposed to be. Homecoming this year will be a shell of what it once was, and I honestly do not believe that the benefits will outweigh the possible costs.