Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Caltrans postpones bridge building, again

San Antonio Creek spanned by detour while bridge rebuilding effort expected to be complete in one year

By Nao Braverman

Caltrans has delayed the reconstruction of the San Antonio Creek Bridge, once again. But fortunately for East End commuters, a solid sizable but temporary detour, taking residents through the creek bottom, is now complete.
The reconstruction project, which began in October, was expected to take about six months, said Public Works Director Mike Culver. Now Caltrans spokesperson Maria Raptis says construction of the rebuilt bridge should be complete by December 2009.
Caltrans had obtained a permit to construct the new bridge during the rainy season to expedite the process, but called off winter construction plans when the Department of Fish and Game only offered them a permit that would have to be renewed every 15 days, said Culver.
“They decided it would be too much of a hassle to start up construction if they might have to take it down again” he said. Now demolition of the existing 91-year-old bridge will begin in April.
But if constructing through the raining season was expected to be inconvenient, taking down the detour may be just as cumbersome. Ojai city staff have questioned the efficiency, size, cost, and engineering of what is supposed to be a temporary detour.
“I have previously noted that I felt the detour was dramatically oversized and was misaligned so that downstream bank erosion was very likely in the event of any significant storm,” wrote city engineer Glen Hawks to the Caltrans project manager, Steve Novotny.
Culver said that the detour alone was estimated by city staff to have cost in excess of $1 million.
The full two-lane 28-foot wide detour has concrete culverts in the river and concrete retaining walls.
“If they are just going to be torn down, it’s wasteful in our opinion,” said Culver.
“The retaining walls, besides being costly to construct will be equally costly to remove,” wrote Hawks in his letter to Caltrans. He noted that the city was not given an opportunity to comment on the detour design, and would have been able to save Caltrans some of the cost.
Since it did look sturdy, however, some local residents suggested putting the detour to use and saving the agency the cost of demolition. If it stayed in the river bottom, the detour could be used for bicycle and pedestrian crossing once the bridge is reconstructed, suggested Suza Francina, a member of the Ojai Valley Green Coalition Transportation Board.
But when public works staff wrote to Caltrans asking to keep the detour for bicycles and pedestrians, they were denied. The temporary crossing does not meet 100-year flood standards required for the creek, according to Caltrans, and it would not be allowed remain in place beyond the scope of the project. Raptis added that the detour was constructed on private property and that Caltrans was given a temporary easement by the property owner for construction of the detour.
The new bridge design does look promising for Ojai bicyclists, at least more so than the one that’s being demolished this Spring.
While the existing bridge is 24-feet-wide curb to curb. The new bridge will be 40 feet wide, curb to curb with 12 foot traffic lanes and an eight foot shoulder on either side, plenty room for bicycles. While many bicycle enthusiasts agree, it would have been nice to have a separate lane, the cost of an additional structure would be in excess of $1 million which the city itself would have to pay for, said Culver. It would be an additional expense for which there are no funds available, he said.
The new bridge, which should be constructed by January will not be officially complete until the landscaping has been fully established a year later, said Raptis.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

California is about to go bankrupt Perhaps they should scrap the whole idea