Design of the bridge over Interstate 285, which will connect the Braves stadium and mixed use development with the Cobb County’s convention and performing arts centers, received approval from county commissioners Tuesday night and a key Galleria Authority committee Wednesday morning.
The bridge will carry both pedestrians and transit vehicles, but Commission Chairman Tim Lee’s office confirmed Tuesday that the bridge will likely not be open to the transit vehicles in the Braves inaugural 2017 season in SunTrust Park. It is unclear when the buses would begin using the bridge.
Wednesday’s vote clears the way for the full Galleria Authority board — which oversees the convention center, preforming arts center and a group of specialty shops — to vote on the bridge design next week. The Galleria Authority’s approval, which is necessary because the bridge will tie into a parking deck on the property, is contingent upon three things:
- The county paying the Galleria for any land it takes.
- The Galleria not being responsible for any costs related to construction, maintenance repair, security and replacement of the bridge.
- The county being responsible for all liability.
The bridge is considered critical for pedestrian safety because it will keep people from walking along Cobb Parkway under I-285. It will be a concrete structure with brick paving that is designed to carry pedestrians and the transit vehicle over the interstate. Once on the Braves side, a ramp leads the buses down to Circle 75 Parkway, while pedestrians take a second bridge over Circle 75 and into the development.
Bob Voyles, chairman of the Galleria Authority Real Estate Committee, said the bridge will help the Galleria secure more conventions and will be vital link if it decides to build a new hotel on the property. The hotel study is currently under way.
The commission vote Tuesday allows the project to move forward; a project budget and funding sources will be approved later. Childress Klein Properties, the Galleria office building owner, also must approve the bridge and agree to sell the county air rights over a private road in the area.
An agreement with Childress Klein is not in place, and partner Connie Engel was one of two votes against the Cumberland CID providing $5 million toward bridge construction. Engel is a member of the CID’s board.
The bridge’s preliminary construction budget is $9.8 million — an amount that does not include the $800,000 already spent on bridge design or an unknown amount for the purchase of property that will be necessary to build the structure. Lee told the commission Tuesday that any additional costs related to the bridge would have to be approved by the commission.
The Cumberland Community Improvement District, a business district in the area, has agreed to pay $5 million toward the construction costs. The county will use Federal Transit Administration funds will cover $4 million; the Braves are contributing $380,000.
Rich Pellegrino, an outspoken activist and frequent critic of the commission, was escorted out of the commission chambers Tuesday when he shouted down commissioners as providing “corporate welfare” to the Braves with their bridge votes.
“I am supportive of moving forward, but remain cautiously optimistic that as far as cost, (Cobb) taxpayers will not be paying for it,” Commissioner Bob Ott said.