Athens Drive bridge closure affects daily commutes


Photos by Caroline Moore

Road closed construction sign where the Athens Bridge is being remodeled. The bridge is not scheduled to be reopened for another year.

The long-term bridge closure just blocks from Athens Drive High School has had a significant impact on local families’ pick-up and drop-off schedules. 

Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan was voted on by the House Nov 6 and resulted in billions of dollars being invested in North Carolina. The funds are being used to improve highways and bridges, public transportation, broadband internet, and water infrastructure.

The Athens Drive Bridge above Interstate 440 was closed Feb 6. The road will remain closed for the next year while crews destroy and rebuild it. According to the NCDOT, the new bridge will be longer and wider to allow more Beltline traffic.

A detour will take drivers south and east of the Beltline to take Kaplan Drive to Melbourne Road to cross I-440. They would then have to use Powell Drive, Western Boulevard and Jones Franklin Road to get to Athens Drive on the opposite side of I-440. 

Local families and students have been affected by this change when it comes to getting to and from school and other activities. Athens Drive is said to be an already busy street and now there is fear of enumerated traffic.

“There is an impact no doubt about it and some of the impacts are negative,” said Stephen Mares, principal. 

Residents in neighboring areas show concern about the added traffic on their road. Some reacted with anger and frustration, with hope that the new bridge will be big enough to lessen traffic. 

“More traffic is coming through certain neighborhoods and that’s frustrating to some of the neighbors because there’s more speeding, and they’re worried about their kids,” said Mares. 

Students at Athens share some of the same exasperations. Getting to school became difficult for some that usually get dropped off or drive to school. 

“I already live around 30 to 35 minutes away from the school, so now I have to wake up earlier to get to school on time, even so, I barely make it on time,” said an Athens student, who chose not to be named. 

Students also have concerns on what to expect each day when it comes to being late because of heavy traffic. They have had to take new routes that take longer than expected. 

“Traffic isn’t taken into consideration when students are tardy, it’s seen as their fault for not leaving [their homes] early,” said an anonymous student. 

This closure is expected to last until Feb 6, 2023.