GAINESVILLE - The Georgia Department of Transportation Tuesday night invited area residents to view plans and comment at Chestatee High School on replacing the existing State Route 53 Bridge over the Chestatee River portion of Lake Lanier at the Forsyth-Hall County Line.
The project drew mixed reviews at the open house, with some people questioning the bridge width while others questioned building it at all.
State DOT spokeswoman Teri Pope said people she heard from are ready for a new 'Bolling Bridge'.
"The reaction has been how soon can you do this," Pope said. "People are tired of the back-ups from maintenance on the bridge, from crashes on the bridge, there is no where else to go. It seems that the community is ready for this project."
Pope said if all goes well with right of way purchase work on the $11.5-million project it could begin in 2015 and take two years.
"The good news about construction is that we'll be able to build this bridge along the west bound lane of State Route 53," Pope added. "Existing traffic will continue to use the old bridge and traffic won't be impacted much at all."
According to Pope, Bolling Bridge dates back to 1956 when it was built as an overhead truss bridge, which has been part of the problem.
"Cherry Pickers and dump trucks come through the truss system, hit the steel support beams and damage it," Pope said. "The new bridge will be concrete and steel and will also have paved shoulders, so if your car breaks down you'll have an area to get out of the travel lanes."
The new bridge will also have the same number of columns going into the lake as the existing bridge, three columns, and the bridge will have the same 17 foot clearance above Lake Lanier's full pool of 1071 feet.
Bob Fryxell has lived just up the road from the bridge for 14 years and he said building a two lane bridge with plans to make Highway 53 a four lane route are a bit short sighted.
"I guess I'm surprised they're not going to make a four lane bridge," Fryxell said. "Both Hall and Forsyth County at some point are going to make Highway 53 four lanes each way and they're going to end up with a two lane bridge and four lanes feeding into it."
"We're building a two lane bridge because there's a two lane road," Pope replied. "Right now there is not a project to widen Dawsonville Highway in Hall, Forsyth or Dawson Counties. There is a need now to replace the existing bridge. What happens in the future will happen with widening and a new bridge structure would be built to carry the new lanes."
"I'm not in favor of it at all," said Andy Hall, who also lives near the bridge in Hall County. "I think that right now with the fiscal responsibility and the times we live in today that this project is not needed and the country can ill afford it."
Hall added that last year the state spent over $500,000 to repair the bridge.
"We understood at that time that would extend the life expectancy of the bridge for a number of years," Hall said. "By spending that money last year, we put new tires on a car we're going to send to the junk yard."
According to Pope when the replacement bridge is completed, the old bridge would be demolished, adding that the repair work was done to extend the old bridge's life until the new bridge could be built. The project would be funded by 80 percent federal and 20 percent matching state gasoline tax revenues.
Those who could not attend the open house may send comments on the project to Glenn Bowman, State Environmental Administrator