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DOT to unveil plans for new bridges
Meeting for replacements on 369 is Tuesday
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Forsyth County News

New bridges

The state Department of Transportation has scheduled a public information meeting on three Hwy. 369 bridges over Lake Lanier in Hall and Forsyth counties:

• When: 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday

• Where: Little Mill Middle School, 6800 Little Mill Road

If you can’t attend: Those interested can send comments to Glenn Bowman, State Environmental Administrator-Georgia DOT, 600 W. Peachtree St., 16th Floor, Atlanta, GA 30308.

Deadline: All comments will be considered in the development of the final project design and must be received by June 1.

It’s a different world than it was in 1955.

And while three Hwy. 369/Browns Bridge Road bridges were fine in a world before cell phones, global positioning systems and a booming population, they’re no longer able to keep up with the demand.

The state Department of Transportation will be rolling out plans next week for replacing the bridges that each span Lake Lanier. They include the heavily traveled green truss bridge connecting Hall and Forsyth counties.

A public information meeting/open house is set for 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Little Mill Middle School.

DOT engineers and consultants will be available to discuss the proposals. A formal presentation isn’t planned, said Teri Pope, a DOT spokeswoman.

The Hall-Forsyth bridge, known simply as Browns Bridge, crosses the Chattahoochee River portion of Lake Lanier. The other two bridges are at Six Mile Creek and Two Mile Creek, in northeastern Forsyth.

“Getting the community involved during the early design work allows the GDOT to incorporate their ideas and information easily,” Pope said. “It’s always great to hear the priorities and concerns of the people who use our infrastructure daily.”

All three bridges were built in 1955 and have average daily traffic of 13,100 vehicles, according to DOT statistics. Browns Bridge, at 1,372 feet, is by far the longest of the three structures.

Project costs and schedules are “being finalized now,” Pope said. “We will have those details at the open house.”

The new bridges “will be built parallel to the existing structure, so that traffic can run on the existing bridge the whole time the new one is being built,” she said.

“Then, we’ll shift the roadway over to meet the new bridge, and traffic will use the new bridge and the old bridge will be removed.”

Four-lane bridges aren’t in the works because there are no imminent plans to widen Hwy. 369.

“If you put a four-lane bridge out there, [motorists] would be zooming to try to pass on that bridge” before the road goes back to two lanes, Pope said.

“[The DOT is] building parallel bridge structures, especially in a situation like this. When the road is widened, new lanes for a bridge will come, but they will likely come as a separate structure.”

Hall County planners originally considered a proposed widening of Hwy. 369 between McEver Road and Forsyth County as one of the regional projects to be funded by the 1-cent transportation sales tax, which will go to voters July 31.

Government leaders then decided in August to pull it in favor of a south Hall project.

They are talking about it again, this time in the vein of 25 percent local discretion funding that would come from the sales tax.

The widening project would be expensive, but Srikanth Yamala, transportation planning manager for the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization, said in April that officials might be able to leverage state and federal dollars for the project.

Pope said that one of the key upgrades with the new Hwy. 369 bridges is that they will feature paved shoulders of 8 to 10 feet in width.

“Right now, there’s like a 2-foot area between the travel lanes and the edge of the bridge,” she said.

Wider shoulders will mean that “if your car breaks down or you’re in a crash, or if you wanted to walk across the bridge, you could do those things without getting in the travel lanes,” Pope said.

Also, the bridges will be sturdier.

“Our chicken trucks can carry up to 40 tons. That’s 80,000 pounds apiece,” Pope said. “That’s a whole lot different from in 1955.”

One other upgrade is fewer columns going into Lake Lanier.

“Boaters, lake lovers, environmentalists all love that,” Pope said.

Jeff Gill of the FCN regional staff contributed to this report.