Planned demolition of historic Sierra bridges concerns residents
June 16, 2014
HIRSCHDALE, Calif. — Residents are expressing safety and public access concerns regarding the proposed demolition of two dilapidated bridges east of Truckee.
With cracking concrete and exposed metal, the Hirschdale Road bridges — one that spans the Truckee River and the other over Union Pacific Railroad — are a "maintenance" and "liability" issue, said David A. Garcia Jr., transportation planner for Nevada County Department of Public Works.
Originally, the county planned to replace the bridges — which were built in 1926 — but removing them nets a cost savings of roughly $3.5 million, Garcia said. The current project is estimated at $5.48 million, with funding secured.
"Now seems like the time to address this issue and eliminate the liability to the county," Garcia said.
But others aren't as optimistic.
"(Bridge removal) will eliminate access to this area of the Truckee River that has been a traditional source of public enjoyment for fishing, kayaking, river rafting, tubing, hiking, bicycling, dog walking and day camping along this section of river," said Martha McBride, a Hirschdale riverfront property owner. "… However, random public access will surely occur as recreational users migrate across unprotected railroad tracks from the Quarry Bypass Road to enjoy the benefits traditionally attributed to Truckee River access in this area."
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In 2008, the mining company Teichert, which formerly used the bridges to access its Boca Quarry, worked with the county to build an alternative access road to the site; that opened up the option for bridge removal, which the Nevada County Board of Supervisors approved in 2010.
Part of the project includes minor improvements to the alternative access route along West Hinton Road (Boca Quarry Road), Hinton Road and construction of a new "Quarry Bypass Road."
"The fact that they are intermixing Tiechert truck traffic with recreational users of the Truckee River to ultimately exit to the east side of the river directly in front of us is absurd," said Cheryl Andresen, a Hirschdale resident. "Who wants to ride a bike, hike, walk their dog alongside heavy diesel trucks?
"… The recreational users, and this includes all recreational users of this area of the river, should have easy access to enjoy this pristine area of the Truckee River as they have enjoyed since the early 1900s."
Janet Phillips, president of the nonprofit Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway, is concerned with impact on the group's 116-mile trail following the Truckee River from Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake, which is under construction.
The alternative would add 4 miles to the bikeway and involve a 500-foot climb on a route shared with vehicle traffic, a option she doesn't think will be popular among bikers.
"It can be done, but (it) isn't enjoyable," Phillips said.
Public safety is also a concern.
"With these bridges as they are currently, even though they are what they county considers dysfunctional and obsolete, they provide us at the current time with easy access for services … in the event of an issue and fire protection," Andresen said. "A fire truck having access to this area over the river in the event of a fire or medical emergency is of utmost concern. Without these bridges, this will be compromised."
Public comments on the project's environmental document will be accepted until 5 p.m., June 16. They can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to David A. Garcia Jr., Transportation Planner Nevada County Department of Public Works, 950 Maidu Avenue, Nevada City, CA 95959.
A hard copy is located at Truckee Town Hall, 10183 Truckee Airport Road in Truckee; and at Nevada County Department of Public Works, 950 Maidu Avenue in Nevada City.
Later this summer, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing to consider certifying the document, and perhaps vote on whether to move forward with the project as proposed. That date has not been determined.
"It's critical that the county fully understands all the ramifications of bridge removal before we decide to proceed with the project," said Richard Anderson, supervisor for District 5, which includes Hirschdale. "Few people were aware of the bridge removal proposal back when the county adopted it in 2010. That's now changing."