SUGAR HILL — If you’ve traveled through the North Gwinnett area, chances are you’ve driven over the bridge on State Route 20/Nelson Brogdon Boulevard just before Peachtree Industrial Boulevard in Sugar Hill.
On Saturday, August 31, the bridge was officially dedicated to Mr. Maron Sidney Buice who spearheaded the campaign to build the bridge over the railroad tracks on SR 20. The banquet room at Sugar Hill’s E Center was packed as people gathered to celebrate the dedication of the bridge and honor a local hero.
Mr. Buice, now 93, is indeed a local hero. After graduating from the Sugar Hill School in the 11th grade, he was drafted to fight in WWII and was one of the first soldiers on Okinawa Island where the fiercest fighting took place. After the war, Mr. Buice opened a furniture store (Sudderth & Buice Furniture) with influential Sugar Hill resident Mr. Glad Sudderth. The building was destroyed by fire in 1964 prompting the creation of the Sugar Hill Volunteer Fire Department.
Mr. Buice was elected as a Gwinnett County Commissioner in 1968 and would hold this position until 1984. During his tenure on the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners, he was influential in establishing Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful, constructing the Lake Lanier water plant, and the completion of 18 county fire stations.
His heart firmly planted in the North Gwinnett area, he fought hard for things to improve the lives of his constituents. Mr. Buice’s efforts resulted in the extension of Peachtree Industrial Boulevard through Sugar Hill and into Hall County, the construction of the county’s first park-and-ride lot at I-985 in Buford, the paving of many dirt roads in Sugar Hill, and the replacement of undersized water pipes in Sugar Hill allowing for fire hydrant installation.
Perhaps the most important accomplishment of his career was leading the campaign to have a bridge built over the railroad tracks on SR 20, known as Mangum’s Crossing. This crossing was one of the most dangerous in the area, and in November of 1970, five Forsyth county girls died when their 1966 Oldsmobile was struck by a train. The girls, aged 14 to 17, were all related. This tragedy gave Mr. Buice and other officials the “ammunition” to spur on the construction of the bridge.
The construction of the bridge was the largest project the county had undertaken at a time when the county was nearly bankrupt. Mr. Buice and his team pursued every avenue to find the funding for this project. His persistence finally paid off and the bridge opened to motorists on September 2, 1975. The cost of the project in the 1970s was $2,645,184 equivalent to $12,614,823 today.
There is no telling just how many lives the bridge has saved since its completion. What we do know is that it has greatly added to the improvement of the lives of area residents. To show appreciation for Mr. Maron Buice’s tenacity and hard work in getting the bridge built, state and local dignitaries, members of the Buice family, local residents, and others gathered to celebrate the dedication of the bridge in Mr. Buice’s honor.
State Senator Renee Unterman was instrumental in seeing that the bridge was named after Mr. Buice. The request passed in the Georgia Assembly and was ultimately approved by the Georgia Department of Transportation. Once Senator Unterman saw the resolution passed, she made sure that Mr. Buice and the bridge dedication were properly celebrated. Unterman along with Tom Moreland who was the Commissioner of the Georgia DOT in the 1970s, former Gwinnett County Commission Chair Wayne Hill, and others spoke of Mr. Buice and the importance of the bridge at the dedication. Mr. Buice was present to hear all these words of praise and even spoke about what it took for the bridge to be built.
The next time you drive across the bridge over the railroad tracks on Highway 20, look for the signs that officially mark the bridge as the “Maron Sidney Buice Bridge.” Be thankful for the leadership and vision of a truly remarkable man.
— By Alicia Couch Payne