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Consultants Present Options for Preserving Murmur Trestle

The “Murmur trestle” made famous by its depiction on the back cover of the R.E.M. album is likely to be saved, but in what form remains to be seen.

Consultants with Kimley-Horn presented three options at public hearings last week to turn the partially demolished trestle over Trail Creek between Poplar Street and Dudley Park into part of the Firefly Trail. They came up with the concepts after soliciting public input both online and in person. “Clearly, we heard from folks that they’re of two minds,” said consultant Eric Bosman, with some people viewing the trestle as a historic icon, and others as dilapidated and dangerous.

The trestle is dilapidated, a structural assessment found. Eighty percent of the wood would have to be replaced to use it as a pedestrian bridge, and 30 percent if it’s left in place as a sort of monument. “We would basically be rebuilding the trestle with 2019 wood,” Bosman said. It wouldn’t be the first time—the railroad routinely replaced pieces, and most of the wood dates back to the 1970s.

But it is also iconic, and the consultants said they tried to come up with a design that would honor the trestle’s history, both from a music standpoint and as part of the rail spur that brought in the materials to build Athens and make it a manufacturing hub.

Cost and how quickly the bridge can be constructed are concerns, according to Bosman, as is the environmental impact. Creosote used the treat the wood appears to be dripping into the creek below.

Concept A involves restoring the trestle and adding a steel and concrete deck on top. It’s the cheapest option at $2 million to $2.8 million, but would have the highest maintenance costs at over $38,000 a year.

Concept B would restore a portion of the trestle, flanked by modern steel arches on either side. That would cost $2.9 million to $3.3 million to build and about $28,000 a year to maintain.

Concept C would stabilize the trestle and leave it as is, with a new S-shaped bridge weaving in between the gap at slightly below grade, offering a unique view of the trestle from below. It’s the most expensive option at $4.1 million to $5.2 million, but also the cheapest to maintain at $10,000 a year.

For comparison, a standard steel and concrete bridge like the one over the North Oconee River would cost $3.7 million.

Documents and a comment form will be available online through the end of May. Kimley-Horn will give a presentation to the ACC Mayor and Commission on June 11, followed by another round of open houses in September before a final design is selected.