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'Deficient' Pier Bridge to be Replaced  

By Jonathan Friedman
Lookout Staff

August 16, 2010 -- Fifteen years ago, the City began the process to rehabilitate the pier bridge that the California Department of Transportation has called “structurally deficient” and “functionally obsolete.” The City Council last week approved a measure to finally get the project done, although this time the call is for replacing the structure.

Built in 1939, the bridge in a recent survey received a 30.6 sufficiency rating on a 100-point scale. Caltrans says it has inadequate seismic strength, crumbling concrete and cracks in the deck. Also, the sidewalks are too narrow and it has steep curbs and substandard lane widths.

The City went through a lengthy process, including an environmental review, to find the best plan to rehabilitate the bridge. But Caltrans said rehabilitation would not be cost-effective and could not receive federal funding. So the City has turned to the replacement option, which is eligible for nearly 90 percent federal funding.

The City must apply for federal funding to cover $7 million of the estimated $8 million project. A staff report states it is “highly unlikely” that the funding would not be approved.

The project will have to be reviewed by various agencies, including Caltrans. Another environmental review also must be done. Susan Cline, acting director of Public Works, said the project should be finished by 2014, and that visually it will look similar to the current one.

“We had great visions for how the pier bridge was going to solve all sorts of traffic problems, all sorts of transportation and flow problems and all sorts of access problems,” said Ben Franz-Knight, executive director of the Pier Restoration Corporation. “The reality is this is a critical basic infrastructure project that we need to move forward with … to ensure that we maintain adequate and safe access to the pier.”

Some council members said the project should include better access points from the adjacent parking lot and other points. Andy Agle, director of Housing and Economic Development, said a variety of options are possible. Also, Council member Bob Holbrook said the feasibility of a moving sidewalk should be analyzed.

“Not me, but some people of our similar age have a tough time going uphill,” Holbrook said.

The bridge is a City landmark. Council member Kevin McKeown said members of the Landmarks Commission want to be involved in the project.

Council member Terry O’Day said when planning for the project, staff should keep in mind that walking is the predominant form of transportation on the bridge.

“As such the replacement project ought to prioritize pedestrian improvements and have the car as a very secondary aspect for that work,” O’Day said.


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