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Foundation work begins on downtown pedestrian bridge
Project is contracted at $2.18 million
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A pile driver drives large steel piles into the ground Tuesday as construction continues on the Jesse Jewell Parkway pedestrian bridge. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

The sound of Gainesville's pedestrian bridge going into place echoed through the downtown streets this week.

The repetitive clash of metal on metal shook the stretch of Jesse Jewell Parkway where Gainesville's old public safety building stood.

Workers with Covington-based Rogers Bridge Co. are erecting pieces of the bridge by using a pile driver to push the foundation 80 feet into the ground.

"These 14-by-14-feet steel piles serve as the base for the bridge," said Barclay Fouts, a Gainesville engineer who serves as project manager for the site. "The driver is like a 6,600-pound hammer that lifts up nine feet and drops over and over."

The crew started on the first of four foundations that will hold the bridge support beams. A second support beam and the downtown endpoint will sit between the Georgia Mountains Center and the old city hall, and the fourth foundation will mark the midtown endpoint on the demolished public safety building site.

Projected to be 450 feet long and 10 feet wide, the bridge will span the four-lane road and feature a concrete base, metal handrails and fencing along the sides. It will look similar to the design on the sign at the site.

"Next week we'll also start grading the ground to slope it around the foundations," Fouts said.

City workers put up a fence in the Henry Ward Way parking lot in February and moved two water lines and a sewer line to make way for the foundations.

They also removed four trees and the Georgia Mountains Center sign and soon will replace it with a new marquee at the intersection of Jesse Jewell and Main Street. The new sign will feature LED lighting and a "V" shape so passing motorists can see it.

"Four trees have to come out there at the corner so people can see the sign once it's installed," said Tim Collins, assistant director for public utilities. "We'll be planting back trees and landscaping after we get the bridge built."

The city received four bids by Sept. 16, 2010, for the bridge project, and the Gainesville Redevelopment Authority approved Rogers Bridge Co. of Covington for a total contract of $2.18 million, which fell below the city's original budget of $2.2 million to $2.5 million.

With a projected six-month contract, the bridge should be complete before August. After the foundations go into place this spring, workers will install support beams and the precast walkway this summer.

Officials hope construction won't have a significant effect on traffic.

"It's moving along well, and installing the precast is a pretty fast process," Fouts said. "We hope we can complete that part during the day, but we may also do it at night."

City View, a planned high-rise hotel or office building featured as the keystone of redeveloping midtown, is paying for the bridge. The city will pay up to $3 million for the bridge once a certificate of occupancy is issued for an office building or hotel that will sit in place of the old public safety building.

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