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Walther Blvd. bridge to provide Georgia Gwinnett College connection

Officials plan to build a bridge over Ga. Highway 316 to connect two stretches of Walther Boulevard. The bridge is expected to provide a link to Georgia Gwinnett College. (Staff Photo: Camie Young)

Officials plan to build a bridge over Ga. Highway 316 to connect two stretches of Walther Boulevard. The bridge is expected to provide a link to Georgia Gwinnett College. (Staff Photo: Camie Young)

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A sign directs drivers to Walther Boulevard along Ga. Highway 316. (Staff Photo: Jason Braverman)

As crews continue the work on two bridges going up along Ga. Highway 316, officials are making preparations for another one.

Gwinnett officials signed off this week on agreements setting up the construction of a bridge connecting two sides of Walther Boulevard in Lawrenceville.

The street is bisected by Ga. Highway 316, but officials have hopes that it will soon be a major link for Georgia Gwinnett College students to downtown Lawrenceville.

“I think a lot of people will use that,” Lawrenceville Mayor Judy Jordan-Johnson said of the new bridge, comparing it to the nearby Collins Hill Road bridge, which is under construction as part of an interchange that spans to Ga. 20.

While Collins Hill Road has been the most traversed entrance to Georgia Gwinnett College since it opened less than a decade ago, the Walther Boulevard bridge could be safer to traverse for local traffic, as it will not allow access to Ga. 316, Johnson said. She also pointed out that the road is on the side of campus where dorms have recently been built.

Gwinnett Transportation Director Kim Conroy said the county is working with state officials to ensure the safety of students is kept in mind, with a bike lane added to the bridge. This week, commissioners agreed to pay for the electricity for street lights on the bridge.

“We appreciate the support of the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners, the city of Lawrenceville and the Georgia Department of Transportation in making these improvements to the Walther Boulevard overpass project,” said Renee Byrd-Lewis, GGC’s vice president of advancement. “With the college’s current enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and projected enrollment of 13,000 in 2015, we are focused on ensuring efficient access to services and commercial zones close to campus. The addition of street lights and a bike lane will increase safety and mobility for our students and the public, so this forward-thinking investment is a win-win for the entire community.”

Also this week, commissioners agreed to buy right-of-way and easements for the project. Deputy Transportation Director Alan Chapman said about $1.4 million in special purpose local option sales tax dollars is budgeted for the land. The state DOT will fund and manage the engineering and construction, he said, adding that the engineering is already underway.

Construction is expected to begin early- to mid-2015, which is about the time when the Collins Hill and Ga. 20 interchange project on Ga. 316 is expected to wrap up. Chapman said the Walther work will take about 18 months and is expected to cost about $3.3 million.