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Funds an issue for California bridge repairs

August 06, 2007|Catherine Saillant and Sharon Bernstein

Here are some of the issues being discussed on the Bottleneck Blog, The Times' website devoted to all things traffic.

The bridge collapse in Minneapolis is a reminder that 600 bridges in California have been identified as being in need of repairs to better withstand earthquakes.

Officials said the large state bond measures approved by voters last year will help fund some of these projects -- but probably not all of them. And they said it could take a decade -- and probably more -- to begin making real progress.

In Los Angeles, several major spans need work, including the 6th Street bridge near downtown and the Hyperion bridge in Silver Lake. A creek bridge on Jamboree Road in Orange County also needs upgrades.

But it's a problem throughout the state.

Seismic retrofitting remains a major challenge in San Diego County, where none of 160 bridges in need of work have yet been upgraded, said Bill Polick, a county public works spokesman.

Money is tight and bridge repairs must compete for funding with more popular projects, such as road repairs or mass transit lines, he said.

In Northern California, rainy Humboldt County has gotten a jump on reinforcing its weakest expanses. The state identified 16 bridges out of 167 that needed major seismic retrofits and the county has completed all but one of them, said Tom Mattson, the county's public works chief.

Other counties are at work trying to raise the money to fix bridges deemed structurally deficient.

In Riverside County, it took 10 years to pull together permits and $50 million in funding to replace a bridge at River Road west of Norco. It is listed as structurally deficient, and is one of three major bridges in the fast-growing county that need upgrades, said Juan Perez, deputy director of public works.

The 50-year-old span needs to be lengthened, widened and built higher to withstand rising water from the Santa Ana River below, Perez said. In recent years, the county has closed the bridge when heavy rains overtopped its deck, he said. Reconstruction also will gird it against earthquakes, he said.

Two other spans, one on Van Buren Boulevard and the other on Mission Boulevard, are slated for upgrades in coming years at a combined cost of $60 million, Perez said.

In Ventura County, two rural bridges that sustained heavy damage from winter storms in 2005 are still not completely repaired, said Butch Britt, the county's transportation director.

A two-lane span on Grimes Canyon Road near Moorpark was so badly eroded by heavy rains that it has been closed for two years, Britt said.

Another two-lane bridge on South Mountain Road near Santa Paula is open, but can only take vehicles that weigh less than 10 tons. What it really needs, Britt said, is $4.3 million in repairs, money that the county must try to get from state and federal sources.

"My total budget is $12 million, so one project at $4 million is not something I can just save for each month like a Christmas Club," he said.

In the meantime, Britt said, his crews are monitoring the bridge on South Mountain Road for any signs of weakness. They look for such things as erosion around bridge supports, buckling or any obvious movement.

"We don't have concern of catastrophic failure, but it is something we are looking at," Britt said.

-- Catherine Saillant

and Sharon Bernstein

* Gold Line extension work

As anyone who lives or drives through Boyle Heights knows, work is moving at a fast pace on the Gold Line extension from downtown to East Los Angeles.

Of course, signs of progress can cause traffic delays. First Street in the Little Tokyo area will face backups today and Tuesday, as well as Aug. 13 and 14, so rail tracks can be laid down.

Here are some interesting facts from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority about the extension:

* Six miles long, between Union Station and Atlantic Boulevard

* Two tunnels under parts of Boyle Heights

* Cost: Nearly $900 million

* Opening: late 2009

* Time to ride entire line: 17 minutes

Construction has made getting around East L.A. and Boyle Heights difficult because of lane closures and torn up streets. But the extension reached a milestone in December when work was completed on the 1.7-mile subway portion of the route.

For more, go to

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