Work is slated to begin in September on a long-awaited effort to replace the 55-year-old Clarks Bridge on Ga. 284/Clarks Bridge Road at Lake Lanier.
Plans call for Snellville firm E.R. Snell Contractor to use a barge in the $8.7 million project, which initially will involve building the new structure next to the current one.
The project had been set to begin last fall and then in the spring, but it got caught up in a lengthy permitting process with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, one that ended up costing an additional $50,000.
“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,” DOT district spokeswoman Teri Pope has said.
Also, the DOT is dealing with “some work restrictions in specific locations on the project because of the habitat for the Indiana bat,” Pope said.
The Indiana bat is a federally threatened or endangered species that has been spotted in Georgia. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the bat was listed as an endangered species in 1967 “due to episodes of people disturbing hibernating bats in caves during winter and killing large numbers of bats.”
In the Clarks Bridge project, the DOT “must protect the bat habitat from May 15 to Oct. 15, as that is the time bats could be in the area,” Pope said.
“Hall is one of the counties where the Indiana bat habitat is possible, so all projects had to be reviewed for their habitat,” she said.
“No bats were found on this project, but the area is a likely habitat. So, DOT did not allow land disturbance work to occur in the area of their possible habitat during the time bats could be in the area.”
The new bridge will feature two 12-foot vehicle lanes, as well as 4-foot bicycle lanes and 5-foot sidewalks in each direction.
Overall, 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/Clarks Bridge Road for 2,781 feet.
The current bridge, built in 1958, is 834 feet long and nearly 24 feet wide.
The new bridge will be built next to the existing bridge, so traffic can flow normally during construction.
Then, crews will build approaches to the structure and install a 63-foot pedestrian tunnel connecting Clarks Bridge Park and Lake Lanier Rowing Club/Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club’s boathouse to the Olympic venue and boat ramps.
Once the new bridge, approaches and tunnel are in place, the old bridge will be torn down.
The overall project completion date is Dec. 31, 2015.
“This project is more than a bridge for vehicles, it is a multimodal structure,” said Bayne Smith, DOT District Engineer for Northeast Georgia. “It will provide for motor vehicle traffic, cyclists and pedestrians with the addition of bike lanes, sidewalks and a pedestrian culvert. It will benefit our community and tourists who attend (sporting) events.”
Pope said work restrictions on the project will be “more than on most projects because it is unusual to have a sporting venue inside a road project.”
Lane closures will be allowed 9 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays and otherwise 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. They will be allowed on weekends unless a boating event is scheduled at the venue.
Also, a detour to allow for the tunnel’s construction cannot exceed 60 days and must occur during the summer holiday for the Hall County school system.
The 11.2-mile detour will direct traffic on U.S. 129/Cleveland Highway to Ga. 284 in Clermont and then south toward the bridge. Several roads, such as Honeysuckle Road, Lakeview Street and Lakeland Road, connect the two arteries.
Also, Pope said, the contractor must maintain two-way boat traffic on Lake Lanier through the project area at all times, with at least 30 feet per lane. The corps will set up buoys marking the boat pathways just before construction.
And the contractor must keep open the boat ramp area parking or launch area except for areas being changed or rebuilt during the project.