A little bit of work has been happening at the Laurens Street bridge to beautify the area around the newly-built structure.

City of Aiken Public Service crews worked this week to paint the silver, chain-link fence black to match the fencing that was installed at the end of Colleton Avenue.

At the corners of the bridge, the ground has been mulched, and Brodie junipers and Royal Raindrops crabapple trees have been planted.

The City is continuing to look at “other beautification opportunities” for the bridge and surrounding area, according to City Manager Richard Pearce’s “Issues and Updates” letter.

Pearce said the City saw opportunities to use funds from its plant bank to replace greenery that was lost during construction.

Pearce said he has gotten a few anecdotal comments about the bridge. Some people expressed their distaste with the look of the bridge through the Aiken Standard “TalkBack” while others said it was the functionality, not the aesthetics, that mattered.

Pearce said that, since the bridge was within public right-of-way, it didn’t fall under the jurisdiction of the Design Review Board, which works towards preserving the character of the historic district.

It was an emergency repair in which federal money was used, and it was a project that only had a short time to be completed, he said.

The bridge was an emergency repair prompted by the S.C. Department of Transportation when a corner of the structure began to fail after heavy rains in April.

The project was mostly covered with Federal Relief funds, which meant it had to be completed within 180 days. The bridge was demolished in mid-June.

The project went just a few days over deadline, which meant SCDOT had to pay 20 percent of the remaining cost – that was about $6,000 out of the approximately $2.5 million the new bridge cost.

The bridge reopened in October.

The bridge, which was flat before, was designed differently with a small arch to meet new requirements established by Norfolk Southern, which has a railroad track running underneath.

This increased elevation meant that the portion of Colleton Avenue that intersects with Laurens Street had to be permanently closed.