After the manic downtown traffic and criss-crossing lanes Spaghetti Junction, a straightaway on I-85 leads to Gwinnett County. Trees begin to flank the expressway, softening the drive. Then, if the bridge design unveiled today is resurrected, tall steel trusses dramatically jut out over the Jimmy Carter Bridge, tapering down to the roadway in a gentle slope.
At this morning’s Gwinnett Village CID board meeting, a proposed design for the Jimmy Carter Boulevard Bridge over I-85 was unveiled. The structure is bold and modern. And—forget about the water tower--local leaders hope it can be a new icon of Gwinnett.
“It is essential to have something noteworthy, something stellar to point to,” said the architect Peter Drey during his presentation. “This is an opportunity for the Gwinnett Village to make a real, noticeable architectural improvement,” he added, potentially defining it as the gateway for Gwinnett County itself.
The 20 stakeholders from the Norcross, Peachtree Corners, the CID and the City of Norcross brainstormed about the concept in a charette. They decided that the bridge should reflect the area’s multiculturalism, that it should be bold and contemporary. They also wanted it to be a positive experience for the driver and pedestrian that would set the standard for future development in the area.
CID Board Member and State Senator Curt Thompson (D-Tucker) said he personally likes the design--and thinks it achieves the goal of setting a standard for future development. If the OFS site is developed, it will likely have a modern architectural look, he reasons, so the bridge will work well.
The steel trusses in the center of the bridge have a connecting beam that reaches over traffic. A stainless steel screen slopes down from each beam, recalling the shape of a drawbridge but with modern materials. Perhaps the most dramatic element of the bridge is that it lights up at night, creating a ghostly effect.
The bridge itself is on the Eastern Continental Divide, says Drey, the architect who also created the design for the 14th Street Bridge.
One thing that Chuck Warbington, Executive Director of the Gwinnett Village CID, wanted to be sure of is that the project not be slowed by the snafu at the 17th Street Bridge. He said that the CID did meet with GDOT after a piece of that bridge railing fell on the highway. “I was afraid they were going to throw the baby out with the bathwater,” said Warbington. Ultimately, thought, he expects more eyes looking at the design attachments but said he does not expect any delay in plans.
The bridge design is connected to two other CID projects: The entire Jimmy Carter-85 interchange is slated to become a “diverging diamond” interchange, which allows traffic to flow to the left-hand side of the road temporarily, eliminating hard lefts and—hopefully—congestion. That project is locally funded with 2009 SPLOST dollars. The Gwinnett Village has agreed to kick in $1 million for the bridge design as part of the project.
Also, an ARC-funded signage project has dovetailed nicely with the bridge redesign, allowing the CID to give both the same design treatment. “We feel very fortunate that these two paths have merged together,” said Warbington.
Mike Rushing, engineer for Kimley-Horn and Associates, which is managing the diverging diamond project, said that he expects things to move quickly, with preliminary plans in place by Jan. and right-of-way acquisition currently underway and moving ahead of schedule.