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DOT gearing up to replace bridges over Lake Lanier

GAINESVILLE — Motorists get ready: Bridges as old as Lake Lanier are lining up for replacement during the next few years.

Clarks Bridge on Clarks Bridge Road (Hwy. 284) in Gainesville was the first to get a new, wider look in 2015. Others are set to follow soon.

“These bridges are 60 years old. Good gosh, they’re only designed to last about 50,” said Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry during a recent transportation forum in Hall County. “They’ve done pretty good, but it’s time to move on.”

Next up could the $23.2 million replacement of the bridge on Dawsonville Highway (Hwy. 53) over the Chestatee River at the Hall-Forsyth County line.

Right-of-way acquisition is finished on the project and construction could start later this year, DOT officials have said.

The green structure is also known as Boling Bridge and is distinctive by its overhead truss system.

Officials have said the bridge project has a unique feature — 30-foot towers to accommodate osprey, a bird of prey that likes to make the bridge its summer home.

To the south, right-of-way acquisition is under way on Browns Bridge, a much-photographed and distinctive green bridge spanning the Chattahoochee River at the Hall-Forsyth line.

Construction on the $28 million project could begin in 2017-18.

The widening of Browns Bridge Road (Hwy. 369) from McEver Road to Forsyth is attached.

The Browns Bridge widening is in the long term, even though some safety improvements are planned by 2025.

A DOT-hired contractor is busy repairing the bridge on Dawsonville Highway (Hwy. 53) over the Chattahoochee River, with paving set to be completed this month, DOT spokesman Mohamed Arafa said.

The $2.9 million project is a short-term fix until the bridge is replaced. The larger $20 million project, according to Hall’s long-range plan, could take place in 2021.

One particular bridge watcher is Dieter Jager, who lives near Browns Bridge.

He has long pushed for improvements there, complaining about the noise that traffic — especially heavy trucks — makes on the rough driving surface.

“That bridge is getting worse by the day,” he said. “It is unbelievable.”

He said he doesn’t understand why its replacement doesn’t take place sooner.

“They’re going to [replace] Boling Bridge first and ... it is in good shape,” Jager said.

Arafa said Boling Bridge and Browns Bridge “have both been a priority for Georgia DOT,” as the overhead trusses that characterize both are costly to maintain.

“The structures require periodic painting,” he said, adding the interconnecting steel beams “tend to trap debris, bird waste and water, all of which accelerate corrosion.”

Plus, Boling Bridge “historically has had more collision-type damage [from trucks passing through], which likely [is why] its replacement is in front of Browns Bridge,” Arafa said.