Fed funds sought for bridge
Stimulus money could fix Jimmy Carter span

NORCROSS - When the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District formed in 2006, one of its long-term goals was eventually replacing the Jimmy Carter Boulevard bridge over Interstate 85.

Because of federal stimulus dollars made available in May, that goal could now be completed by 2012.

That's if Gwinnett County and the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District get their way and are approved for one of the U.S. Department of Transportation's TIGER grants.

Standing for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, TIGER grants can range from $20 to $300 million and are aimed at aiding "major-impact" transportation projects.

The total cost of the Jimmy Carter Bridge replacement, which would increase the total number of lanes from seven to 11, is estimated at $79 million.

Long known as a traffic nightmare during rush hour, the Jimmy Carter Boulevard bridge being replaced would definitely have a major impact on the area, said Gwinnett Village CID Director Chuck Warbington.

"This bridge replacement is a critical component to not only improving overall mobility within the village and the county, but also to enhancing the aesthetic appeal of the area," Warbington said. "Our goal is not only to ease congestion now, but to plan for the growth we expect to see in coming years."

Warbington said because no state can receive more than $300 million in TIGER grants for its projects, the Jimmy Carter bridge replacement will be competing against other projects in Georgia. He said there are a number of factors, though, which should make its application competitive.

For starters, the project already has the financial support of both the county and the CID. Ten million dollars would come through the county and Special Local Option Sales Tax dollars and $2 million would come from the CID.

The project also will appear in the state's transportation plan this fall, Warbington said. To that end, in 2007, Georgia DOT's Office of Bridge Design recommended the replacement of the bridge due to its poor geometry and current sufficiency and load rating values.

In 2006, the Atlanta Regional Commission in its congestion report called the arterial roadway the seventh-most heavily congested in the metro region.

Additionally, the Federal Highway Administration has noted in its documentation that the bridge operates in an "unstable" traffic condition, well below the standard level of service.

Aside from those, Chairman Charles Bannister also pointed out that the bridge serves as a gateway to Gwinnett for those coming in from Atlanta.

"The bridge has long been a primary gateway to Gwinnett County," Bannister said. "Rebuilding the bridge and increasing its functionality, efficiency and attractiveness will not only boost mobility in the area, it will give visitors a great first impression upon entering our community."

Warbington echoed that statement, adding the project has the broad-based support of the entire southern portion of the county, too

"We're looking to have some sort of gateway monument associated with this bridge," he said. "The intent here is to have a statement that says when you leave Atlanta, you know you're coming to Gwinnett."