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All Lake Lanier bridges now on pace for replacement
Longstreet, Bell's Mill bridges among last of lake's original structures set for demolition
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Longstreet Bridge - photo by Scott Rogers

The end is now in sight for Lake Lanier’s original bridges.

Construction is underway or targeted for all the structures built when the lake was created in the 1950s, with the latest work starting recently on the two Cleveland Highway/U.S. 129 bridges in North Hall.

E.R. Snell Contractor crews are busy clearing and grubbing trees on what will be approaches to the Longstreet and Bell’s Mill bridges. The Longstreet bridge crosses the Chattahoochee River; Bell’s Mill traverses East Fork Little River.

“Cranes will be in the water after the first of the year,” Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Katie Strickland said last week.

Work on the bridges combined costs $34.3 million and is slated for completion in March 2020.

The plan is to build the new structures to the right of the current bridges.

“This will allow us to maintain traffic on the current bridges until the new bridges are completed,” Strickland said.

The old bridges would be torn down once the new ones are up and running, she added.

Chad Towe, owner of Towe Diesel Services off Lakeview Street near Bell’s Mill Bridge, said he had to sell property to the DOT for the bridge construction.

He’s not sure yet what impact the project will have on his business, but he regrets one thing for certain.

“I hate more than anything that I lost my big maple tree,” Towe said of the century-old landmark. “Now, (the property) is bare. It’s like I’m sitting here naked.”

The U.S. 129 bridge replacements are part of a much larger project that has been broken into two phases totaling $102 million: widening U.S. 129 from Limestone Parkway in Gainesville to the White County line.

The widenings are “still in long range,” Strickland said.

Elsewhere, work has been underway since late 2016 on replacing Boling Bridge over the Chestatee River on Dawsonville Highway/Ga. 53 at the Hall-Forsyth County line.

The $19 million project is on pace for March 2019 completion, Strickland said.

“Beams are being placed on the columns,” she said. “Retaining walls are being constructed and grading is ongoing.”

Officials have said the bridge project has a unique feature: 30-foot towers to accommodate osprey, a bird of prey that likes to make the bridge its summer home.

The biggest of Lanier’s bridge projects is the replacement of much-photographed Browns Bridge on Browns Bridge Road/Ga. 369 over the Chattahoochee at the Hall-Forsyth line.

The $27 million project was awarded to a Scott Bridge Co. on Oct. 20 with an April 2020 completion date.

Strickland didn’t know that project would start.

“Typically, we issue a letter that they can begin work within 30 days of the award announcement,” she said.