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Bridge at Clarks Bridge Park set for replacement
Project will include a pedestrian tunnel under road
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Traffic crosses an aging two-lane bridge over Lake Lanier at Clarks Bridge Park recently. The bridge is slated to be replaced with a new span. - photo by Tom Reed

Replacement of an aging two-lane bridge over Lake Lanier at Clarks Bridge Park is on the horizon.

The Georgia Department of Transportation is planning to buy eight parcels of right of way for the project, with the total cost expected to be $760,000.

“Once we get all the appraisals back in and can start the negotiations, we can hopefully tell (whether that process) might happen quickly,” said Teri Pope, spokeswoman for the DOT’s Gainesville office.

“The (property) negotiations will begin this fiscal year and the construction will follow,” she added.

The fiscal year ends June 30.

The project’s construction had been eyed for fiscal 2016.

But Todd Long, planning director for the DOT and a former Gainesville-based district engineer, has said that state Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, “called him and requested that (the project) be moved up,” Pope said.

Rogers confirmed as much.

“This bridge was slated to be replaced three or four years ago,” he said. “The former DOT commissioner put it on the shelf. ... With all the activities on the water and the age and old design (of the bridge), (the project) needs to be done.”

He added, “Most all the other major bridges have been re-engineered and upgraded for safety.”

The bridge was built in 1958 and is 834 feet long and nearly 24 feet wide, Pope said.

The new bridge is estimated to cost $7.1 million, she added.

The Ga. 284/Clarks Bridge Road bridge serves as a major North Hall artery and connects directly to Clarks Bridge Park, which is operated by Gainesville Parks and Recreation, and a 1996 Olympic venue owned by Gainesville and Hall County.

The Lake Lanier Rowing Club and Lanier Canoe & Kayak Club run year-round programs and training at the site.
Championship competitions, regattas and festivals are held annually, “and athletes come from across the country and world to train,” according to Gainesville’s website.

The project also will feature a pedestrian tunnel under Clarks Bridge Road, as the boathouse is one side of the road and the race course is on the other side.

“There’s a lot of foot traffic (across the road) and a lot of kids, so that (tunnel) would be wonderful,” said Kathy Mellette of Lake Lanier Rowing.

As for the overall project, “I guess there might be some impact to the people who live out that way, like me,” she said.

The road won’t be closed, but the exact nature of the project and how it might affect traffic won’t be determined until later, Pope said.

“That’s part of the bidding process,” she added. “The people who bid on it decide the best way to build (the bridge). That would be part of the review process.“

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