Written by Bonnie Jefferson
Back in the 60s, one of the better songs I heard began with “cut down all the trees…put in a parking lot”. Because of all the roads and alleys being paved and the new parking lots going in around town, it seemed like the song was talking about my home.
I was in downtown Albany yesterday and I saw the most disturbing thing. The DOT was actually tearing down the wonderful Broad Avenue Bridge. What a shame. It was historical from many forms.What I remember most in my 50+years in Albany was two things: As a a teenager I used to have dreams of riding in a white car and starting across a bridge, high water rushing underneath and getting part way across and the bridge collapsing. I would always wake up then with no idea of what bridge it was. As I got older, the dream progressed to the point that it looks like the Broad Avenue Bridge. For many years after that I was sort of afraid to cross that bridge, especially if I was in a white car!
The other thing I remember about the bridge was a fateful day in July, 1994. I worked on the east side of the river and lived on the west side of town. As the crow flies, about 10 blocks away. Tropical Storm Alberto had come through Albany, dropping buckets full of rain and the river rose somewhat. But Alberto moved out of here, went to Alabama where it dropped more buckets of rain. Then it went east to just north of Atlanta. It continued raining heavily. Then we hear that earthen dams in north Georgia were breaking because of the intense pressure of the water behind them.
At the time, I was married to an Albany City Police Officer who was, as often as he could, was keeping me informed of what was going on. Some of the bridges had already closed that morning but we were all at work. Around 10 a.m. he called to tell me that the Broad Avenue Bridge was now the only one still open. I was upset to hear that because it was so old. Later that morning I received a phone call telling me that that bridge was also going to close and if I didn’t want to be stuck on that side of town, we had better get out. I wanted to be home. I always felt safer at home even though I lived only a few blocks to the river.
My co-workers and I discussed it and decided it would be best to just lock up the office and go. The one of my co-workers said “I’m going to be right on Bonnie’s bumper because if they try to close that bridge before we get there, I have no doubt she is going across!” The other co-workers agreed so we headed to our cars. They lined up behind me and we took off. When we got to the bridge it was still open but I increased my speed anyway because no matter what, as scared of that bridge as I was, I WAS GOING ACROSS…and no one better try to stop me!!
It turned out that the bridge stayed open for longer than expected. But when we went across, there was all that water, rapidly moving like in my dreams.
When it was all over, the Broad Avenue Bridge had helped to save hundreds of people trying to get to the side of town they lived in. It was inspected and found to be still as sturdy as it had ever been.
After that I was never scared of that bridge again. In fact I preferred to cross that bridge from one side of town to the other from then on. I KNEW it was totally safe.
Granted we probably do need another bridge because of all the traffic but there was absolutely no reason to tear that bridge down. A pedestrian bridge or bike bridge, a way to join the 2 sides of town that have always seemed to be divided. There are so many things going on downtown, that the bridge was a way to join us as a community in a better way.
But now it’s a fact. The bridge is coming down, bit by bit.
Whatever they built there will not be used by me to change sides of town. I think I would be heartsick to drive across anything at the downtown end of Broad Avenue again.
And so I say goodbye to my yellow brick road. You will always be in my heart.