May 7, 2007. There were many
attendees at the Open House held by Caltrans on proposed replacement of
the Albion River and Salmon Creek Bridges. I estimate that soon after the
doors opened there were fifty or more people in the relatively small room
at the east end of the Mendocino Community Recreation Center.
The workshop was poorly designed for
communication between Caltrans and such a large number of people. There
were no chairs and no scheduled presentations. There were easels with
photos, engineering drawings, and sketches scattered around the room.
Caltrans personnel were at each easel. Because of the size of the crowd,
it was difficult to even see the material on the easels and more difficult
to converse with the Caltrans personnel. There was no way for people
effectively to communicate their ideas and concerns, other than writing
them on provided “response cards.”
Fortunately, Charlie Fielder,
Director of District 1, which includes Mendocino, arrived about 15 minutes
after the workshop started. He apparently realized the failings of the
planned informal meeting. He stood at the front of the room, got people’s
attention and explained the situation with the bridges, how Caltrans would
go about developing plans, and a rough timeline. He then opened the floor
to questions and comments. He got quite a few.
His main points were:
Both the Albion and Salmon Creek
Bridges have safety and functionality scores that make them candidates for
replacement. There are no immediate safety concerns, but substantial
ongoing maintenance is required.
specific safety issues with the Salmon Creek Bridge were not specified.
Albion Bridge has a steel truss across the center section that is
sufficiently corroded that replacement in the not-too-distant future is
required. The truss section was salvaged from an existing bridge
(apparently in Oregon) because of the scarcity of steel during WW II when
the bridge was built.
wooden timbers in the Albion Bridge are in good condition.
existing bridges are “functionally obsolete.” When asked what this meant,
Mr. Fielder explained that they do not meet current standards in terms of
shoulder width and railing design. He also mentioned that they would like
to have a pedestrian walkway to accommodate the Coastal Trail.
proposed alternatives presented for both the Albion and Salmon Creek
bridges was a concrete arch bridge very similar in design to the
original concrete arch bridges built in many places along Hwy 1, including
is in the early stages of
a complex and long process. It will be many years, perhaps 6 to 10
years, before construction begins. However, the planning process is under
way. Personnel are assigned and working now on preparing initial studies
and plans and environmental reports.
would be a grave error to relax and not worry because the final outcome is
five or more years away. The nature of what is to be done is going to be
determined within the next year or so. If you are concerned, you need to
stay involved. Vince]
Mr. Fielder opened the floor for
comments and questions. His answers to some of the questions are in the
The major expressed sentiment of the
gathering was that the Albion is unique, historical, and desirable.
People’s first choice would be to
repair the present bridge and add a pedestrian crossing.
to one person in the crowd, a road closure of about two weeks would be
required to accomplish replacing the steel center section.
was suggested that a temporary bridge could be built down on the flats
(where an earlier bridge existed) to use in this period. Large vehicles
might need to go around via Hwy 20 for this period.
Fielder said that repair was appealing to him because it would cost much
less. He suggested that perhaps it might be possible to replace the steel
section and the road surface and add a pedestrian crossing. He made on
commitments about this, and it unclear whether repair is among the
alternatives formally being considered.
If the bridge cannot be repaired:
people wanted to see the existing bridge retained as bicycle and
residents clearly favored building a new bridge to the west of the
Albion residents also expressed
concern about the 50 mph sign at the south of the bridge, which encourages
people unfamiliar with the terrain to speed up on the bridge – only to
meet a 90 degree turn at the far end, a turn which all too often is not
successfully made. Mr. Fielder promised that his staff would look into it
and either remove it or replace it with more cautionary signage.
Caltrans is serious in wanting to
listen and respond to the concerns of the affected coastal residents. It
has learned from past experience that the Coastal Commission, which needs
to approve all construction permits in the coastal zone, is very
responsive to local desires to protect coastal resources. The Albion
community can have a large influence on the development of plans for the
bridge projects. To do this successfully, it must continue to stay in
close contact with the Caltrans project managers and other staff. It must
respond to materials and proposals made by Caltrans in a timely manner.
Informational panels and handouts
from the open house are reproduced at a