After 8 years, a new bridge will span Santa Rosa Creek

ktanner@thetribunenews.comMay 2, 2013 

Work should start in mid-summer on a project to replace an aging bridge across Santa Rosa Creek near the intersection of Main Street and Santa Rosa Creek Road. The county is accepting bids for the project through Thursday, May 16.

Construction likely would span parts of 2013 and 2014, according to Dave Flynn, deputy director of Public Works, and John Fajhar, ecological specialist on the project. The construction contract cost estimate is $3,410,936, with total project costs estimated at approximately $5,762,000, according to Cori Marsalek, of county Public Works.

To avoid lengthy detours, the bridge contractor would construct the new span before removing traffic from the narrow, circa 1929 bridge. Flynn estimated that schedule is designed to limit to only a few months the rerouting of traffic from Main near the grammar school, up Eton Road and Burton Drive and back to Main.

The county wants the contractor to work around such traffic-generating events as Pinedorado and the start of school. The high school is less than a mile up Santa Rosa Creek Road, and having that many students, teachers and staff members getting to school from the Highway 46 end of the long, twisting road could create real traffic jams and hazards. 

Also, work in the creek has to be done in certain seasons to avoid affecting protected species, such as the steelhead, an anadromous trout that returns to the creek to spawn after two to three years at sea.

The project was discussed during the Cambria Community Services District Board of Directors’ April 25 meeting, because the county needed an agreement to allow environmental mitigation planting on 1.032 acres of district property adjacent to the project site, near the dog park’s current location.

The county is required to plant and maintain the riparian habitat in the area where the district eventually wants to build a walking path. Mitigation planting would be designed around that future pathway, Flynn said.

District directors approved the agreement with the county on a 3-1 vote; Director Jim Bahringer abstained because he owns property too close to the project for him to legally participate in the discussion or vote.

Director Amanda Rice voted no, having said earlier that she felt ill informed to support the agreement, because some of the county’s documentation had only arrived earlier that day, and directors hadn’t been given enough time to study it properly.

She also said she was concerned about how the mitigation work would affect the dog park. “My concern is that we protect the property owned by the community.”

The bridge project has been in the works for eight years, Flynn said, and survived a challenge at the California Coastal Commission.

Lynn Harkens, an audience member who opposed the project in the past, and who filed the Coastal Commission appeal, raised again the issue of mercury contamination in the creek from long-dormant mine tailings, contamination that could be stirred up and reactivated by the construction. Mary Webb, speaking as a citizen, also expressed concerns about the mercury and other aspects of the project.

Flynn said the mercury issue had been addressed through proper channels at the state’s Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, which issued the project a permit. He said recent tests, which Harkens said showed elevated mercury levels, were “still well within drinking water and all practical standards,” but that the project would include sediment management, including having the contractor “stockpile excavation materials on site, tarp it, protect it, then test it to see if it needs to be trucked offsite,” wherein the contaminated soil and other elements could be taken to the Cold Canyon Landfill.

Bids to build the project must be submitted by 3 p.m. Thursday, May 16, at the Department of Public Works, Room 207, County Government Center, San Luis Obispo CA 93408.

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