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Razing of 'Dirty Harry' Train Trestle Has Some Not Feeling Lucky

August 11, 2003|Donna Horowitz | Special to The Times

LARKSPUR, Calif. — The old train trestle where Clint Eastwood gazed menacingly at the bad guy in "Dirty Harry" is no more.

It was torn down last week after a crane on a truck struck it in June. About a dozen protesters, including bicyclists and rail enthusiasts, opposed to the dismantling stood vigil last Monday night at the start of demolition.

"This is part of Marin's heritage," said David Schonbrunn, a protester and president of the Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund in Mill Valley. "This represents an earlier time in Marin before freeways and traffic jams."

Schonbrunn said it could have been used as a bicycle pathway or preserved in case rail service resumed in Marin County. An engineer hired by Schonbrunn concluded that the trestle was stable.

Some believe Eastwood's role as hard-charging San Francisco cop Harry Callahan in the 1971 movie added a certain cachet to the trestle, Schonbrunn said. A sculpture of Eastwood would have captured the public's imagination, he added.

But Larkspur officials believe the trestle is not structurally sound for bicycle or pedestrian use because the 8-foot-wide deck had no railings and was "just rotting wood" held together by steel bolts, said City Manager Jean Bonander.

After the accident, city officials worried that it could pose "an imminent danger" if another vehicle struck it.

And although Bonander knows the trestle has nostalgic value, the part spanning the roadway had been rebuilt in 1972 and 1992 and "didn't meet any qualifications as a historic structure."

Built in 1923, the trestle stretched across Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, which carries 40,000 vehicles a day and is the second-busiest road in the county behind U.S. 101.

The road leads to homes, a shopping center, ferry terminal and San Quentin Prison. The nearby quarry, where Dirty Harry has a gunfight and asks the gunman if he feels lucky, no longer exists, and the trestle has not been used for years.

After the June accident, the city spent $20,000 to $25,000 for emergency repairs to shore it up, Bonander said. City officials had been planning to remove the trestle for 15 years to make way for an additional lane to a five-lane roadway, she said.

In 2001, the city received permission from the Golden Gate Bridge District and the county to remove the trestle. Because the city owns the land underneath, an environmental review was requested. The study was nearly complete when the accident occurred, Bonander said.

Schonbrunn said he believes the city did not give adequate notice of the dismantling, adding that he learned about it only a few days before it happened. He said residents opposed the project in 1990. And then two years ago, he said, "we stopped them.''

The city did nothing underhanded, Bonander said.

Although some bicyclists were unhappy with the trestle's demolition, the Marin County Bicycle Coalition did not oppose its removal.

"We have been working in cooperation with the city on what we felt was a better alternative to the crossing of the Corte Madera Creek and East Sir Francis Drake Boulevard," said Nancy Weninger, a board member of the bicycle coalition.

Another bicyclist, Josh Hart, opposed the project because he doesn't believe adding new lanes reduces traffic congestion.

"I'm just opposed to taking down this trestle to widen this road," Hart said. "It's a good example of why our strategies to reduce congestion are really misguided.... Larkspur is just backward in terms of thinking of transportation in such a car-oriented, car-centric way."

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