Repairs to 1908 Bridge Street bridge in Arroyo Grande are still years away

Close to a year after the city of Arroyo Grande tentatively set out two options for fixing the failing Bridge Street bridge — rehabilitate or replace it — plans for the structure built in 1908 are slowly moving along, with major developments not expected until next year.

In the meantime, the city hopes to keep the momentum going and offer opportunities for the public to comment on the highly scrutinized plans.

“Attendance has been waning at these community meetings because we are not so frightened of not having a rehabilitation alternative available to us,” said Teresa McClish, the city’s community development director, during a public workshop that focused on the bridge last week. “I still want to give hope and invite community members to stay involved in the project. Because there will still be decisions to be made as we continue to move forward.”

When the project went before the City Council last year, droves of residents turned out to urge the council to consider the more expensive option of rehabilitating the structure, rather than replacing it, in order to preserve its historical nature.

The bridge is functionally obsolete by Caltrans standards, is too narrow and has the lowest load limit allowed on bridges before they must be closed: 3 tons, or roughly the weight of a Hummer H2 with no passengers or cargo.

The bridge was last updated in 1989, when a supplemental truss was added below the structure to help strengthen it. That truss has not held up to modern use and is one of the major failings of the current bridge. If the bridge were to be rehabilitated, the truss would need to be replaced with a stronger version.

By and large, the council echoed the sentiments expressed by residents and voted to send the preferred option of rehabilitating the bridge through to the design phase. Because additional funding had also been secured, the city was able to send through another option — replacing the bridge with a concrete box girder, and using the historical green truss as a decorative element — to the design phase as well.

Now the city is slowly working through preparations for getting state approval on the project, and securing a much-desired historical resource label.

Officials are considering questions such as what kind of vehicle railing to install and how to update some of the bridge’s other features to conform with state safety regulations, while still preserving the bridge’s historical nature.

The project will likely not come back before the City Council until after the environmental impact reports have been circulated, which is expected in summer 2017. After that, the city expects to begin construction sometime in spring 2019, with a completion date that fall.

“To me it has been great,” project consultant Jill McPeek said at the workshop. “We’ve had a lot of years, but I think it’s getting us to the place we want.

“If this next bridge lasts 100 years like this one did, we want to make sure that we get what the community needs in the way of a resource, safety, circulation: all of those components.”

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