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Lake Lanier bridges are close to completion. Here’s what’s left to do
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Work goes on at Browns Bridge on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. Crews are expected to finish work in spring 2020. - photo by Nick Bowman

Dieter Jager has lived with Browns Bridge in his backyard for more than 50 years, and now he wants a piece of it.

The Lake Lanier bridge at the Hall-Forsyth County line is being replaced, with its distinctive, green metal overhead truss going away.

“I would love to have a chunk of metal, which I would put in my yard as memorabilia,” Jager said.

The $27 million project at the Chattahoochee River is set for completion in April, marking the end of an era — for the most part — for Lake Lanier’s original bridges, which were built in 1955 and 1956. 

“We’re excited about the status of the Lake Lanier bridge replacement projects,” said Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry said. “We recognized that replacing them with state-of-the-art structures is vitally important for the ongoing connectivity of the communities and counties in the region.”

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Nick Cox helps lower a bin on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, at the Browns Bridge construction site. - photo by Nick Bowman

Several years ago, the state began pushing to replace the bridges that were put in place as part of Lake Lanier’s creation in the mid-1950s.

The biggest of those projects is at Browns Bridge, where workers have been unloading steel beams and closing lanes in the process.

“The only issue now is there are a lot of traffic jams going on,” Jager said.

Elsewhere in Hall, workers are moving forward on bridges on Cleveland Highway/U.S. 129 in North Hall.

Longstreet Bridge over the Chattahoochee should open to traffic by the first week of January, Georgia Department of Transportation district spokeswoman Katie Strickland said.

Barrier wall construction at the site is set for early December.

Bells Mill Bridge at East Fork Little River should open to traffic in March, with workers planning soon to pour the bridge’s driving surface.

In a November 2017 interview, Chad Towe, owner of Towe Diesel Services off Lakeview Street near Bell’s Mill Bridge, said he had to sell property to the DOT for the bridge construction — and that he was not sure yet what impact the project would have on his business.

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Browns Bridge isn’t the only new Lake Lanier bridge nearing completion: The new Bells Mill Bridge over Little River is well on its way to being finished as crews work Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. - photo by Nick Bowman

“I hate more than anything that I lost my big maple tree,” Towe said of the century-old landmark. “Now, (the property) is bare. It’s like I’m sitting here naked.”

Work on the U.S. 129 bridges combined costs $34.3 million and has an official March 2020 completion date.

The new Boling Bridge on Dawsonville Highway/Ga. 53 at the Hall-Forsyth County border opened in August 2018.

Like Browns Bridge, the old Boling Bridge had a green truss that went away when the sleek but flat $19.7 million was finished.

In November 2018, the DOT held a hosted a ceremony to hand over pieces of the former bridge to the city of Gainesville, Hall County and Forsyth County.

Then-District Engineer Brent Cook said at the time, “These structures are a piece of history for the surrounding communities. Finding a way to memorialize it was a challenge, as we can’t give everyone a piece of the bridge.”

The last remaining bridge to be replaced is the Dawsonville Highway/Ga. 53 westbound structure over the Chattahoochee River arm of Lake Lanier.

Construction could start in the summer of 2020 on the new bridge, which will be built northeast of the existing one, and take 2-3 years to complete, according to DOT.