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DOT gearing up for bridge replacements for Lake Lanier's spans
Dawsonville Highway bridge over Chestatee River is next in line for upgrade
Dawsonville Highway/Ga. 53 over Chattahoochee River is expected to have paving completed this month as part of a $2.9 million repair/resurfacing project.

Bridge work ahead

Here are plans for Lake Lanier’s bridges

• Dawsonville Highway/Ga. 53 over Chestatee River: right of way acquisition finished; construction could start later this year. Construction cost: $23.2 million.

• Cleveland Highway/U.S. 129 over Chattahoochee River: right of way acquisition underway; construction could start in 2016-17. Construction cost: $10.5 million.

• Cleveland Highway/U.S. 129 over East Fork Little River: right of way acquisition to take place this year with construction start in 2016-17. Construction cost: $6.4 million.

• Browns Bridge Road/Ga. 369 over Chattahoochee River: right of way acquisition is underway. Construction is set to start in 2017-18. Cost: $28 million.

• Dawsonville Highway/Ga. 53 over Chattahoochee River: paving to be completed this month as part of a $2.9 million repair/resurfacing project.

Source: Georgia Department of Transportation

Motorists get ready: Bridges as old as Lake Lanier are lining up for replacement during the next few years.

Clarks Bridge on Clarks Bridge Road/Ga. 284 in Gainesville was the first to get a new, wider look in 2015, and others are set to follow soon.

“These bridges are 60 years old. Good gosh, they’re only designed to last about 50,” Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry said at a recent transportation forum in Hall County. “They’ve done pretty good, but it’s time to move on.”

Next up could be the $23.2 million replacement of the bridge on Dawsonville Highway/Ga. 53 over the Chestatee River at the Hall-Forsyth County line.

Right of way acquisition is finished on the project and construction could start later this year, DOT officials have said.

The green structure is also known as Boling Bridge and is distinctive by its overhead truss system. 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.

Two bridges on Cleveland Highway/U.S. 129 are scheduled for replacement starting in 2016-17 — one crossing the Chattahoochee River and the other crossing East Fork Little River.

The Chattahoochee bridge had a bit of a hiccup last month, as Hall County road planners met with the DOT about possibly revising the route, as officials had concerns over the project’s impact on residents.

The issue was settled, with the DOT moving forward on its original plans to put the bridge on the right side of the current structure heading north.

The U.S. 129 bridge replacements are part of a much larger project that has been broken into two phases totaling $102 million — widening from Limestone Parkway in Gainesville to the White County line. Both road projects could be decades away, according to Hall County’s long-range transportation plan.

Right of way acquisition is underway on Browns Bridge, a much-photographed and distinctive green bridge spanning the Chattahoochee River at the Hall-Forsyth line.

Construction on the $28 million project could begin in 2017-18.

Like the Cleveland Highway bridges, a much bigger project — the widening of Browns Bridge Road/Ga. 369 from McEver Road to Forsyth — is attached. The Browns Bridge widening is in the long term, even though some safety improvements are planned by 2025.

A DOT-hired contractor is busy repairing the bridge on Dawsonville Highway/Ga. 53 over the Chattahoochee River, with paving set to be completed this month, DOT spokesman Mohamed Arafa said.

The $2.9 million project is a short-term fix until the bridge is replaced. The larger $20 million project, according to Hall’s long-range plan, could take place in 2021.

One particular bridge watcher is Dieter Jager, who lives near Browns Bridge. He has long pushed for improvements there, complaining about the noise that traffic — especially heavy trucks — makes on the rough driving surface.

“That bridge is getting worse by the day,” he said. “It is unbelievable.”

He said he doesn’t understand why its replacement doesn’t take place sooner.

“They’re going to (replace) Boling Bridge first and ... it is in good shape,” Jager said.

Arafa said Boling Bridge and Browns Bridge “have both been a priority for Georgia DOT,” as the overhead trusses that characterize both are costly to maintain.

“The structures require periodic painting,” he said, adding the interconnecting steel beams “tend to trap debris, bird waste and water, all of which accelerate corrosion.”

Plus, Boling Bridge “historically has had more collision-type damage (from trucks passing through), which likely (is why) its replacement is in front of Browns Bridge,” Arafa said.