An artist's rendering of the proposed bridge at Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Interstate 85.
NORCROSS -- A diverging diamond for traffic won't be the only new angle on the Jimmy Carter Boulevard bridge over Interstate 85.
Leaders with the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District unveiled a new design for the bridge, bringing a modern flair to the gateway to Gwinnett.
With planned construction next summer to transform the bridge into a diverging-dimaond interchange, the business group plans to use its own funds to create a new aesthetic, with a 35-foot-tall "vertical enhancement."
"We wanted it to be an iconic image as you come into Gwinnett County," CID Director Chuck Warbington said, adding that the new landmark would take the place in drivers' minds of the former I-85 water towers, which were taken down last year. "This would be a monument that would fill that void."
Considering the bridge as the gateway to Gwinnett from Atlanta, the CID created a committee of stakeholders from Norcross, Peachtree Corners and southern Gwinnett as well as the business area to create a look for the bridge.
The rendering chosen, he said, was in the middle of some drastically different options, creating a modern aesthetic while harkening back to the traditional look of a suspension bridge.
"It really took people by surprise, the impact," he said. "This is going to change things, put the area on the map."
Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce Vice President Nick Masino said the rendering reflects the community.
"Gwinnett has grown into a modern, international, metropolitan community; and the design of this bridge effectively communicates those facts," Masino said. "This landmark at a key entry to our county will serve to be an identifiable entrance to our community, and will accommodate our growth, improving the quality of life for businesses, residents, and all those who utilize this interchange."
Peter Drey, architect for the 14th Street bridge in Atlanta, completed the design for the Jimmy Carter interchange.
"Our proposed design organizes the traditional elements of bridge architecture -- bridgeheads, supporting structures, safety screens and pathways for motorists and pedestrians -- into a modern composition of dynamic shapes that recall historic highway bridges," he said. "Its tall trusses are split in the center to emphasize its location astride the Eastern U.S. continental divide, a nationally significant geographical feature."
In July, officials from the nearby Gwinnett Place CID revealed a plan for the Pleasant Hill bridge several exits up I-85 with a more rounded approach.
With the same timeline expected -- next summer -- that bridge is also slated to become a diverging diamond interchange, a new approach expected to cut congestion in half by diverting traffic to the opposite side of the road over the bridge.
Warbington said the aesthetics were determined independently. "There was no intention of making a consistent look because they are very far apart," he said.
On Jimmy Carter, the construction is expected to take $3.5 to $4 million in sales tax funds for the roadwork. The business group will chip in another $500,000 to $1 million for the aesthetic improvements, which also include lighting upgrades that will change seasonally.
Warbington said the roadwork will require two 24-hour shutdowns of the busy road, and the vertical improvements can be added at the same time.
"It works really well with the horizontal improvements," he said. "But all the curb appeal is strictly the business owners in the area footing the bill."