ELP bridge opens this morning - maybe

By Todd DeFeo

The first portion of the new Eagle's Landing Parkway bridge over Interstate 75 is expected to be in use starting with this morning's rush hour, about a month ahead of its original projected opening.

Officials anticipated shifting traffic from the old two-lane bridge over the interstate onto half of the new bridge early this morning, baring any weather, equipment or material setbacks.

"It's just one of those deals where so many unexpected things have come up," Georgia Department of Transportation spokesman Bert Brantley said. "...We were hoping that we would have it done by the end of the year," Brantley said. "That is what we said from the beginning."

On Monday, contractors hit a snag with "their asphalt plant" and were unable to produce enough asphalt needed before the bridge could be opened. Late Tuesday night, rain washed away any hopes of opening the bridge for Wednesday morning.

But with a forecast calling for clear skies for the rest of the week and less than one night's work remaining, officials on Wednesday were optimistic the new portion of the bridge will be opened by this morning.

"We're definitely still excited about getting it open," Brantley said.

The new bridge is being built in two phases.

At first, motorists will use the erected portion of the new bridge, which will have three lanes - one lane in each direction and a left turn lane for accessing I-75, according to the Georgia Department of Transportation. The parkway's former two-lane bridge will be demolished possibly starting tonight if the bridge opens this morning.

Once demolition starts, crews for about two or three weeks will be closing a single southbound lane of I-75 starting at 9 p.m. each night and a second lane at midnight. The lanes will be reopened by the next morning's rush hour.

After demolition, the second half of the bridge will be built.

The entire project is slated to be completed by June 30, 2006. "That's when you really have a firm completion date," Brantley said.

When finished, the new bridge will have 11 lanes over I-75 and additional lanes on the I-75 exit ramps will allow space for more motorists to exit the thoroughfare. Lanes are also being added to Eagle's Landing Parkway and Hudson Bridge Road on both sides of the interstate, totaling just under 1.5 miles of road widening.

The Georgia Department of Transportation awarded the $24.1 million project to Marietta-based C.W. Matthews Contracting, Co. in January. The company was the main contractor on the 17th Street bridge in Atlanta over the Downtown Connector.