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Yellow River bridge welcomed by residents

LILBURN - Frank Faust's main concern with the bridge on Killian Hill Road over the Yellow River is safety.

It's just two narrow lanes, so when someone wants to turn, he said, people hit their brakes quickly to avoid collisions. And the bridge is low, so when it rains hard and the river rises, Faust sometimes fears that the bridge will be underwater.

So he's pleased with a Georgia Department of Transportation plan that will widen and elevate the bridge.

"I worry about it sometimes," he said. "It's going to be great. It's going to be a little inconvenient, but that's worth paying the price for."

The $5.9 million project will begin with land acquisition in the middle of next year, said Alan Chapman, the capital program director for the Gwinnett County Department of Transportation. Construction could begin as early as 2009.

Chapman said the bridge, which was built in 1960, is structurally sound. But the plan will widen it from about 25 feet to about 80 feet of lanes, plus sidewalks - that will include two travel lanes, a middle turn lane and a deceleration lane for a right turn into a subdivision.

The project will also raise the bridge 25 feet to avoid the high speeds that can be reached as people continue down the steep slope at the bridge, Chapman said.

"People can build up a lot of speed and not realize it as they're going down the hill," Chapman said. "It will be a smoother transition to the bridge area."

Construction will not close the bridge, which will be built in two parts, each wide enough to carry two lanes of traffic. There are currently no plans to extend Killian Hill to four lanes, Chapman said, but the bridge will be able to accommodate the lanes in the future if the plans change.

Chuck Williams, who came to a community meeting about the bridge, said he saw what was done with the bridge over the Yellow River at Five Forks-Trickum Road, and wanted to know what the plans were for his area. After speaking with some experts and looking at a map of the project, Williams said he was pleased.

"I think they're good," he said. "Taking the dip out of the road is a big thing."

Al Bowman, a structural engineer on the project, agreed that the changes were necessary.

"Everybody feels like it needs to be done," he said. "Anyone who's ridden this road knows."