Two historic Sierra Nevada bridges no longer slated for demolition | SierraSun.com

Two historic Sierra Nevada bridges no longer slated for demolition

Margaret Moran
mmoran@sierrasun.com

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Based on public feedback, the proposed demolition of two dilapidated bridges east of Truckee has been scrapped for an alternative that would retain the overpasses.

The deteriorating Hirschdale Road bridges — one that spans the Truckee River and the other over Union Pacific Railroad — are planned to be retrofitted to address their seismic and structural deficiencies.

"We think it's a good solution, because they'll be better than they are today in terms of functionality, it will add years of life to the bridges, and it also keeps the cost reasonable," said David A. Garcia Jr., transportation planner for Nevada County Department of Public Works.

As early as last year, the county planned to remove the bridges and build an alternate road for public access to the east side of the river.

Yet, during that project's environmental review period, an "overwhelming" number of individuals opposed the idea, Garcia Jr. said.

"Currently, the bridge(s) provide easy pedestrian access to fishing, swimming and hiking areas," wrote Kin Gouveia, whose family owns a cabin in Hirschdale. " … These land areas are not readily accessible without bridge access. … Removing the bridge(s) would be a detriment to the community and a hardship for the residents of Hirschdale."

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Fellow commenter Mary Rivara, a Hirschdale resident, brought up another common concern — public safety.

"The 'alternative route' would take more time for all emergency responders to access the area in case of any emergency," she wrote. "One of my biggest concerns is that without the bridges, response time for fire trucks and fire crews to this stretch of river and land would be impeded. Minutes count (in) fighting a fire."

These were among roughly 70 other comments received on the environmental document.

The new proposal

The county is now proposing to replace the bridge deck and side railings of the Truckee River bridge and retrofit the existing piers, deck and side railings of the railroad bridge.

"They're going to essentially function like brand new structures," Garcia Jr. said.

Both bridges are proposed to become single-lane structures with shoulders on each side, for a width of approximately 14 feet, he said.

While both bridges were built as two-lane structures in 1926, they have since been coned off to one lane due to their poor condition.

That, along with the bridges' low traffic volume — on average less than 100 motor vehicles a day — is why the single-lane proposal is anticipated to work well, Garcia Jr. said.

"It'll fit the character for what those bridges are used for," he added, which is mainly recreation.

Next steps

The project is still in its early stages, Garcia Jr. said, with Caltrans having to formally approve this alternative, which is anticipated to occur early next year.

Upon approval, preliminary design for the bridges and an environmental review process can begin, complete with a new public comment period and a Nevada County Board of Supervisors vote, he said.

Caltrans approval will also secure funding for this latest version of the project.

It's estimated to cost about $4.3 million, with funding coming from the Federal Highway Bridge Program, Garcia Jr. said.

This is less than the bridge removal option, which was estimated at $5.9 million, and the original plan to completely replace the bridges at a cost of $9.9 million.

"The project, in essence, maximizes public benefits while minimizing public expenditures — a good outcome," said Richard Anderson, supervisor for District 5, which includes Hirschdale.

Construction is expected to get under way in 2018, but that could change, Garcia Jr. said.

More online

Visit mynevadacounty.com/nc/cda/pw/Pages/HirschdaleBridge.aspx to learn more about the Hirschdale bridges project.