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Background on the Greenwood Bridge Project


September, 2005. Caltrans has requested the Coastal Commission to approve its plans to replace a Highway 1 bridge near the small village of Elk in Mendocino County.

The permit application will be heard by the Coastal Commission on Thursday, September 15, 2005 in Eureka: Coastal Commission Agenda items Th13c and 14a.

The proposed new Greenwood Bridge has two 8' shoulders, no sidewalk, and a new Caltrans railing that modifies the Noyo railing by adding three more horizontal rails to raise the height from 33" to 54".

The 8' shoulders will give the bridge the appearance of a high-speed expressway, rather than a scenic bridge on a rural road. The lack of a sidewalk will endanger local people and those using the California Coastal Trail. The proposed railing, while less visually opaque than the originally proposed concrete railing, lacks grace and character and ignores the 2001 Commission request to Caltrans to design a railing incorporating curved and arched elements.

Coastal values and scenic vistas would better be preserved by narrowing the shoulders, adding a sidewalk, using the Noyo railing on the inside of the sidewalk, and designing a new pedestrian rail incorporating arches in its design.

Caltrans also plans to build the new bridge inland from the existing bridge. The new route will require extensive cuts into hillsides bordering the road. To buttress the cut hillsides, Caltrans proposes to construct 650 feet of concrete retaining walls up to 26' in height. Building the new bridge over the old bridge in stages (Alternative 2) would eliminate the need for the concrete retaining walls. The community and commission staff support Alternative 2.

bulletTestimony on the Greenwood Bridge Project (HTML version, PDF version also available), Vince Taylor, September 6, 2005. Documents the reasons for narrower shoulders, a sidewalk protected from vehicles by an inner ST-10 rail, and a newly designed pedestrian rail. Includes pictures of pedestrian railings with arches.
bulletPowerPoint Presentation to the Commission, Vince Taylor, September 6, 2005.
bullet Report of the staff of the Coastal Commission (pdf) on the proposed Greenwood Bridge project, Melanie Faust, September 1, 2005.  Documents the failure of Caltrans to adequately evaluate less environmentally damaging alternatives, argues for narrower shoulders, and recommends the commission deny the project as proposed.
bulletPublic Response to the Greenwood Bridge Project
Spring, 2009. Caltrans earlier (in 2005) proposed a major replacement project for the existing bridge in the small coastal town of elk. Strong opposition from the community and the Coastal Commissions staff caused it to withdraw it plans in 2006.

It is now back with a revised plan that will replace the existing bridge one lane at a time, rather than building an entirely new bridge on a new alignment as originally proposed. The new bridge appears well suited to its setting and has been well received by the community. The railings to be used on the bridge are still being discussed. My hope is that a suitable version of the railings used on Ten Mile bridge will be used on the Greenwood Bridge

June, 2006. Caltrans has withdrawn its Coastal Commission application for the Greenwood Bridge until further notice. Caltrans intends to redesign the bridge and discuss it more with the community before coming back to the Coastal Commission.

September 15, 2005, Eureka. Caltrans' permit to replace the Greenwood Bridge on Highway 1 in Elk Village, Mendocino County, was set to be heard today by the California Coastal Commission. Because of overwhelming public and Commission staff sentiment for major changes in the bridge, the formal hearing on the project was delayed until December. Caltrans was directed to work with staff to make the changes that the public and the Elk community recommended. This was a major victory for preservation of scenic Highway 1.

The Commissioners listened to comments from the public, and at the end of the public presentation, five of the nine Commissioners spoke. All five supported the recommendations of the public, and two Commissioners specifically said they wanted to see arched elements in the pedestrian railings -- my  proposal for improving railing aesthetics.

As initially proposed by Caltrans, the new Greenwood Bridge would have two 8' shoulders, no sidewalk, and a new Caltrans railing that modifies the Noyo railing by adding three more horizontal rails to raise the height from 33" to 54". Additionally, Caltrans planned to build the new bridge inland from the existing bridge, requiring extensive cuts into hillsides bordering the road and over 500' of tall retaining walls.

 The favorable outcome at the Eureka meeting was significantly aided by the organized effort of local citizens in Elk and an informational campaign and alert mailing conducted on this website. Over 200 people responded to the alert mailing, letting the Commission know that the public strongly favored modifying the proposed design to protect coastal values.

Past experience teaches that Caltrans will not give up easily on its desire to build big, expressway style roads and bridges, but the sentiment of the Commission was overwhelmingly in favor of narrower shoulders, protected sidewalks, and aesthetically meritorious railings.

Getting the sentiments of the Commissioners clearly on the record at the Greenwood Bridge hearing was extremely important, because Caltrans has fast-tracked another even more crucial Mendocino County bridge for Commission's November 15 hearing. This bridge crosses the Ten Mile River north of Fort Bragg. The existing bridge has stunning views of the river and the coast. It is located in an extremely sensitive habitat area with rich biological diversity. The replacement project for this bridge needs to be done with great care and concern for the views and environment.


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