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Eyes on the Road: More money needed for bridge design

POSTED: February 18, 2013 12:28 a.m.

The contract has been awarded for construction of Clarks Bridge, but another bill has come due on early design work on the project.

Preliminary engineering originally cost $410,188, with $328,150 coming from the federal government and $82,038 from the state.

Officials now are saying the state needed another $50,000 to finish the work.

The Georgia Department of Transportation “apparently went into negative with this particular (work) due to two years of negotiating” with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said Srikanth Yamala, Hall County’s planning director, to a group of area government engineers and other leaders.

DOT district spokeswoman Teri Pope confirmed as much in an email: “The two-year coordination with the (corps) took much longer and cost more than we originally budgeted.”

She said in an August interview that the DOT was still working with the corps on permitting for the project.

“The lake is a very sensitive area and we are being extremely diligent and careful to ensure we protect (it) before, during and after this project,” she said.

On Feb. 4, the DOT awarded an $8.7 million contract to replace the 55-year-old bridge on Ga. 284/Clarks Bridge Road at Lake Lanier.

Work is expected to start this spring or summer, with completion set for Dec. 31, 2015.

The new two-lane bridge will feature bike lanes, sidewalks and a 63-foot pedestrian tunnel.

Officials have said the new bridge will be 952 feet long, nearly 50 feet wide and have five columns in Lake Lanier.

Bike lanes and sidewalks will run along Ga. 284 for 2,781 feet.

All totaled, the bridge and approaches to the structure will run for more than a half-mile.

The current bridge, built in 1958, is 834 feet long and nearly 24 feet wide.

Bill would raise amount required for 'vlaue engineering' study

Last week, the Georgia House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill that, state officials believe, would reduce project costs and improve funding opportunities for transportation projects.

“Making just a few changes to the current legislation will help the Department of Transportation save money,” said Rep. Bubber Epps, R-Dry Branch, who introduced the bill. “It will also bring transportation funding to areas that need it the most.”

State law currently requires the DOT to perform “value engineering” studies on projects costing $10 million or more to “see if there is any part of the project can be done another way that costs less,” district spokeswoman Teri Pope said.

Under the bill, the dollar threshold would be raised to $50 million, an action that would “mirror recent changes to federal requirements,” according to a House press release.

“While value engineering studies have provided an overall savings for DOT, projects totaling $50 million or less do not always benefit ... because the studies add unnecessary costs and delays,” the release states.

“Raising the requirement will provide GDOT the flexibility to target those projects that have demonstrated successful savings from value engineering studies and save time and money on those projects that historically have not yielded much savings from value engineering,” Epps said.

In essence, Pope said, the change “will speed up the preliminary engineering or design phase of work” for projects from $10 million to $49 million.

“This change takes out a layer of planning and review, making the design a little faster.”

Under the bill, a value engineering study would no longer be required for such area projects as the widening of U.S. 129/Athens Highway from Ga. 332/Gillsville Highway to the Pendergrass Bypass and the new Exit 14 on Interstate 985.

Jeff Gill covers transportation issues for The Times. Share your thoughts, news tips and questions with him:

jgill@gainesvilletimes.com

facebook.com/jeffagill

@JeffGTimes


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