One of the longest and busiest bridges at Thurmond Lake will be replaced in 2014, according to Georgia’s Department of Transportation.
The Price-Legg Bridge, which spans Little River on Georgia Highway 47, has provided an essential link between Columbia and Lincoln counties since its completion in 1952.
Today, however, the steel truss span flanked by a mile of rock-lined causeway is both “functionally obsolete and structurally deficient,” planners say.
“One of the things we’ve been asked to do is raise the height of the new bridge farther above full pool,” said Foster Grimes, leader of the DOT design team in charge of the project.
The bridge has barely 10 feet of clearance when Thurmond Lake is at full pool, which is 330 feet above sea level. The new span would clear that elevation by almost 30 feet and would allow larger boats to access the Little River arm of the reservoir that juts into McDuffie County.
The project, estimated to cost about $20 million, would involve building a new bridge and roadway on the Little River side of Ga. 47 and leaving the existing bridge open during construction, Grimes said. Once the new bridge is complete, the old one would be demolished.
The large construction area required for the 1.34-mile-long project could affect recreation activities such as bank fishing in the area, said Chris Spiller, the Army Corps of Engineers recreation manager at the lake.
“My understanding is, they are going to park equipment and use that bank fishing area as a staging area,” he said, adding that bank fishing areas would be improved with better parking and a retaining wall once the bridge is finished.
The popular Cherokee Recreation Area near the Lincoln County side of the bridge will not be affected during construction, however, and the higher clearance of a new span will offer opportunities for larger boats to use the nearby Little River Marina on the Columbia County side, he said.
The Price-Legg Bridge was built at about the same time as the reservoir, and much of the rock used in its causeway was quarried nearby.
Ken Boyd, the corps’ Thurmond Lake conservation biologist, said the men for whom the bridge is named were prominent figures in local history.
J.M. Price managed a grist mill in the Little River area adjacent to where the bridge was later built, he said, and Homer Legg was a well-known judge in Lincoln County.