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DOT open house will show alternative routes as bridge is repaired
The Georgia Department of Transportation is planning a public information session for the proposed replacement of the Joseph A. Johnson bridge that spans the Middle Oconee River on Galilee Church Road in Jackson County. - photo by Brandee Thomas

Bridge open house

  • What: Georgia Department of Transportation will host an open house to discuss the plans to replace the Joseph A. Johnson Bridge on Galilee Church Road. The meeting will be a drop-in session, where interested parties can review the plans and express any concerns that they may have to GDOT staff.
  • When: 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday
  • Where: Galilee Christian Church, 2191 Galilee Church Road, Jefferson
  • Online: After the meeting, the plans for the project will be available at under public outreach.
  • Contact: If you are unable to attend the meeting, you may also view the plans after Tuesday at the GDOT office at 2505 Athens Highway in Gainesville; however, you must make an appointment first by calling 770-532-5526.

A nearly 50-year-old Jackson County bridge is on the Georgia Department of Transportation’s shortlist for replacement.

"Every two years, the (state DOT) is required to give every bridge on an interstate, state route or a road that is travelled by school buses a sufficiency rating," said Teri Pope, the communications director for the Northeast Georgia District of the state department of transportation. "Based on the score, the bridge may come into our work program for replacement or repair. The Jackson County bridge will be replaced."

The Joseph A. Johnson Bridge over the Middle Oconee River on Galilee Church Road in Jefferson was built in 1961. Although the bridge is not located on an interstate or state route, Pope said it is traveled by school buses.

"One of the reasons why we are replacing that bridge is because it is old, and the design standards have changed so much over the years," Pope said. "It’s cheaper and quicker for us to tear it down and start over."

On Tuesday, the DOT will unveil the details of the project during a public information open house at Galilee Christian Church in Jefferson.

While an exact timeline for the project isn’t available yet, the replacement process is expected to take around a year to complete. During that time, the bridge, which is located in a residential area, will be closed to traffic. Drivers will have to take an alternate route since they will be unable to pass over the bridge until the replacement is complete.

"There will be a detour in place that will be marked with the proper signs," Pope said. "At the (open house) drivers will be able to see the proposed detour and express any concerns. That’s why it is very important for people to come to the meeting. We want to make sure the community knows about the (detour) before they get to the bridge and see that the road is closed."

Among other things, the new bridge will feature shoulders for drivers to use in case of emergencies.

"If a car dies on the bridge now, the driver has to stay in the (traffic) lane until they can push it out of the way off the bridge. There’s no safe place on the bridge to pull over," Pope said. "When we replace the bridge, we’ll build in a safe place on the side, which will also help make it safer for a pedestrian to cross the bridge without being in the road."

During the meeting, attendees will be able to review the proposed plans and ask any questions that they may have. There won’t be a formal presentation of the information.

After the meeting, the plan will be available under the public outreach section of the DOT Web site.