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Residents share views at bridge meeting
GDOT plans to replace Ga. 53 bridge at Hall-Forsyth County line
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Anne Dittman looks at a map Tuesday evening during a Georgia Department of Transportation open house at Chestatee High School about the replacement of the Ga. 53/Dawsonville Highway bridge at the Forsyth-Hall County line.

Comment on the plans

Learn more: Plans can be viewed at the Georgia DOT Area Office at 2594 Gillsville Highway or at the Georgia DOT District Office at 2505 Athens Highway, both in Gainesville.
Comment by mail: Send comments by Dec. 23 to Glenn Bowman, State Environmental Administrator, Georgia DOT, 600 W. Peachtree St., 16th Floor, Atlanta, GA 30308.
Comment online: Post comments on the DOT's website.

Coming Sunday

Many of Hall County's bridges over Lake Lanier were built in the 1950s, along with the lake, and are now wearing out. Sunday, The Times looks at those bridges and planned improvements, as well as the condition of other bridges in the county. 

Some want the bridge wider, some want it built sooner than planned and still others are concerned about the osprey, the fish-eating bird that takes up annual residence on the river crossing.

Andy Hall of Forsyth County doesn't want a new bridge at all, saying he believes the nation, saddled with a $14 trillion deficit, can't afford it right now.

The Georgia Department of Transportation got a mixed bag of comments Tuesday night at an open house meeting on the replacement of the Ga. 53/Dawsonville Highway bridge over the Chestatee River part of Lake Lanier at the Hall-Forsyth County line.

Residents gathered in the cafeteria at Chestatee High School, off Sardis Road in northwest Hall, pored over maps showing the bridge's design and route and asked questions of DOT engineers.

Teri Pope, spokeswoman for the DOT's District 1 office in Gainesville, said the overriding concern seemed to deal with the bridge's capacity.

The DOT is planning to replace the current two-lane steel truss bridge with a two-lane concrete bridge.

"Neither Hall nor Forsyth has added (widening Ga. 53 to the bridge) to their plans yet," Pope said. "There are so many other needs."

She added: "Bridges are the most expensive thing we build, so you don't want to put that money out there if it's not going to be utilized."

Pope said she told residents concerned about that issue to let government officials know that they feel that widening roads leading to the bridge is a priority.

Tom and Mary Ellen Burg of nearby Harbour Point Yacht Club were among those favoring a four-lane bridge, but they also were pleased to see the bridge feature 10-foot shoulders.

Also, "I wished they could build (the bridge) more quickly," Tom Burg said.

Harbour Point resident John Tefft, attending the meeting with his wife, Cheryl, said he is concerned the DOT is doing nothing to lessen noise from the bridge, which will be closer to his neighborhood than the current bridge.

"They could ... have some sound buffer walls," Tefft said. "It might not look quite as pretty, but it sure would take care of some of the sounds. What I'm hoping is that this bridge will be so much better that there won't be so much road noise."

Some truck drivers traveling across the bridge "love to (downshift) and make all sorts of noise, especially if it's after midnight," Tefft said.

Pope said that if the DOT was planning to build a four-lane or wider bridge, "then there would be a noise study" to see if a sound wall is needed.

Residents could submit comments in writing Tuesday night, but the public otherwise has until Dec. 23 to send comments to Glenn Bowman, State Environmental Administrator, Georgia DOT, 600 W. Peachtree St., 16th Floor, Atlanta, GA 30308.

Comments also can be posted on the DOT's website.

Plans and handouts can be viewed at the Georgia DOT Area Office at 2594 Gillsville Highway or at the Georgia DOT District Office at 2505 Athens Highway, both in Gainesville.

Right-of-way acquisition is set for fiscal year 2013, which begins July 1, and construction is scheduled for fiscal 2014, which begins July 1, 2013.

The current project cost is $13.5 million, with the work expected to take two years to complete.

Once the new bridge is built and the roadway on either side is tied into it, the old bridge will be demolished, Pope said.

Many of Lake Lanier's bridges are starting to wear out, as they were built in the 1950s, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the lake.

The Ga. 53 bridge over the Chestatee River was built in 1959.

The DOT has talked with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources about the osprey that have nested at the bridge over the years, Pope said.

"We will do whatever they tell us" to mitigate that situation, she said.

 

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