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Hall County Bridges Starting to Show Age

Mon January 23, 2012 - Southeast Edition
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GAINESVILLE, Ga. (AP) Bridges built as Lake Lanier sprung up in the 1950s are starting to show their age, according to a published report.

The Gainesville Times found that of the 12 bridges over Lanier, four have a sufficiency rating below 40 on a 0 to 100 scale that measures structural integrity and other factors. Three rated between 40 and 60.

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

The newspaper studied a Georgia Department of Transportation bridges database.

Department spokeswoman Teri Pope said “we must replace these aging structures as needed” but also noted funding is at an all-time low.

“It is like when you buy a new house: Everything works well, but after about 15 years, everything starts breaking or needs replacing at the same time,” said Pope of the DOT’s Gainesville-based District 1. “We are at a critical point.”

The federal government began building Lanier in 1950s. It is now the main water source for the metro Atlanta area.

One of the bridges in dire shape is the narrow, two-lane Boling Bridge on Georgia 53 at the Chestatee River portion of Lanier on the border of Hal and Forsyth counties. The $13.5 million project is expected to take two years. The DOT is planning to replace the current steel truss bridge, built in 1956, with a two-lane concrete bridge.

Engineers met with the public in December about the project, which may reach construction in state fiscal year 2014, or beginning July 1, 2013.

But while some favor the work, others say the money isn’t there.

“We don’t have the money to do this project or many other projects,” Forsyth County resident Andy Hall said.

Pope said the DOT inspects every bridge every two years “and more often if needed based on the condition of the bridge,” then makes decisions on sufficiency ratings.

Georgia has 14,649 bridges statewide and 941 of them, or 6.4 percent, are considered structurally deficient. Nine states have lower percentages, said David Spear, DOT press secretary.

“We believe the state’s bridges, all in all, are in reasonably good condition,” he said. “Still, we have a backlog of nearly 7,000 routine bridge maintenance items statewide and would need to spend $500 million in 10 years to address all of them — funds we simply do not have.

“So we prioritize the work and do the best we can to manage the workload.”

Georgia ranks 49th nationally in per capita spending on transportation networks despite being one of the nation’s fastest-growing states.

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