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Some area bridge projects under way, others years away
Work is nearly complete on the improvements to the Ga. 53 bridge over the Amicalola River in Dawson County. - photo by Tom Reed | The Times

Ga. 284/Clarks Bridge Road at Chattahoochee River
Built: 1958
Average daily traffic: 6,130
Length: 834 feet
Width: 23.8 feet (roadway only), 29.8 feet (entire bridge)
Sufficiency rating: 41.34
Status: A new bridge is planned, with a tentative December bid letting. Work could start in the spring.

Ga. 53/Dawsonville Highway (westbound) at the Chattahoochee River
Built: 1956 (rebuilt in 1992)
Average daily traffic: 24,810
Length: 1,216 feet
Width: 25.9 feet (roadway), 31.3 feet (entire bridge)
Sufficiency rating: 77.57
Status: DOT maintenance crews are monitoring and patching rough areas on the road surface. Construction of a new bridge is six or seven years away.

Ga. 53/Dawsonville Highway at Chestatee River
Built: 1956
Average daily traffic: 10,630
Length: 800 feet
Width: 25.9 feet (roadway only), 30.20 feet (entire bridge)
Sufficiency rating: 39.45
Status: A new bridge is planned, with right-of-way acquisition set for this year. Construction could start in 2014-15.

While most of area bridge work is still years away, the Georgia Department of Transportation is making some headway on a few key projects that could start within the next year.

One of the biggest projects on the horizon is the replacement of Ga. 284/Clarks Bridge Road bridge over Lake Lanier, near Clarks Bridge Park and the Olympic rowing and canoe and kayak venue.

The DOT is “working to get environmental studies updated” for the Federal Highway Administration and with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on permitting, said Teri Pope, a spokeswoman based in the DOT’s District 1, which includes Hall County.

The project has a tentative December bid letting, with work possibly starting in the spring, Pope has said.
Right-of-way acquisition is finished.

“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,” she said.

The work features a 63-foot pedestrian tunnel connecting Clarks Bridge Park and the boathouse shared by the Lake Lanier Rowing Club and Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club to the venue and boat ramps.

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, officials have said.

The current bridge, built in 1958, is 834 feet long and nearly 24 feet wide. Its 2010 average daily traffic count was 6,130 vehicles, Pope said.

Plans call for workers to “build the new bridge parallel to the existing structure, then shift traffic to the new bridge and demolish the old bridge,” she said.

The project is estimated to cost $8.6 million.

Elsewhere, maintenance work on the Ga. 53/Jasper Highway bridge over the Amicalola Creek in Dawson County is wrapping up and the bridge could fully reopen this week, Pope said.

“Scheduling the last of the subcontractors has been difficult,” she added. “They are behind because of recent rains on other projects and can’t get to the Ga. 53 bridge yet.”

The bridge is one of three included in a $1.9 million contract awarded to Comanche Construction of Marietta. The Ga. 11 bridge over the Middle Oconee River in Jackson County and Ga. 246 bridge over the Little Tennessee River in Rabun County are also a part of this contract.

Weather also has been an issue for workers trying to build the new half-mile Ga. 52 bridge over Candler Creek near Gillsville.

Grading is finished and workers started digging footings earlier this month, but rains have slowed progress.
The completion date on the $2.1 million bridge is Sept. 30.

Also in the works is an effort by the DOT to repaint the Interstate 985 bridge over Monroe Drive next spring or summer. The $250,000 project “is not for aesthetics — it is to protect from rust under routine maintenance,” Pope said.

Another bridge needing work is the Ga. 53 westbound structure over the Chattahoochee River on Lake Lanier.

“Engineers are still researching options and costs to repair the driving surface,” Pope said. “The epoxy coating on the driving surface is coming up and leaving a rough driving surface. This is not a structural issue. It just looks bad and makes for a rough ride.”

District maintenance crews are monitoring both bridges and patching the worst areas as needed.

Bridge replacement on Lake Lanier is the bigger issue for the DOT.

Most of the structures are nearly 60 years old, built when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the lake.

Of 12 bridges over Lanier, four have a sufficiency rating below 40 on a 0-100 scale that measures structural integrity and other factors. And three rate between 40 and 60.

At a 50 rating, a bridge is considered structurally deficient. At 40, it begins to work its way into replacement plans.

The Ga. 369/Browns Bridge Road bridge over the Chattahoochee River portion of Lake Lanier is scheduled for replacement in 2015-16.

Replacement of the Ga. 53 westbound bridge is six or seven years away.

The nearest time frame for bridge work is Ga. 53 over the Chestatee River portion of Lake Lanier.

Right-of-way acquisition is set for this year, with an estimated cost of $1.8 million. Construction on the bridge, estimated at $15.3 million, could start in 2014-15. At a Dec. 13 public meeting at Chestatee High School in northwest Hall, residents shared their views on the project, and their opinions were mixed — particularly as to the bridge’s width. The structure will have two lanes but wider shoulders, now designed at 10 feet on either side.

Tom and Mary Ellen Burg of nearby Harbour Point Yacht Club were among those favoring a four-lane bridge, but they were pleased about the shoulders. Also, “I wished they could build (the bridge) more quickly,” Tom Burg said.

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