Joint Caltrans Barstow Project To Replace 83-Year-Old First Street Bridge

(March 15)  BARSTOW—Deemed barely adequate by current standards following a California Department of Transportation inspection, the 83-year-old First Avenue Bridge will be entirely replaced within the next six years.
Federal funding for the replacement, which is being administered through the state, has now been made available, city officials announced last week. The replacement project will begin by 2017 at the latest. The decision to make a wholesale replacement of the wooden-braced cement and steel truss bridge comes after a series of stopgap repairs on the structure were made between September and November last year.
Problems with the bridge, precipitated by an earthquake or trucks bearing excessive loads, were first recognized in 2003, triggering a directive from Caltrans that refurbishing and shoring up of the bridge be immediately undertaken. The bridge, built in 1930, is a key route of ingress  and egress at Barstow’s rail yard, the largest in the world.  Despite the Caltrans directive, no repairs were made and in 2010, the city of Barstow and Caltrans instituted weight limits on vehicles using the bridge, with the maximum load for a four-axle vehicle being 15 tons, well under the normal 40 ton legal  limit for most bridges.
In essence, traffic across the bridge was restricted to non-commercial vehicles such as cars, pickups, and SUVs, and small load commercial vehicles such as four-wheel stakebeds and the like. Larger vehicles such as 18-wheel tractor-trailers could not use the bridge. Moreover, large public transportation vehicles including busses and public safety vehicles like fire engines had to be routed around the bridge. In the case of fire emergencies in north Barstow, this represented a potential safety hazard, as fire battalions were delayed in their responses.
The work done on the bridge last year, which included repairs to a structural column and support bracing, has theoretically returned it to the 40-ton carrying capacity. The clearance for it to be redesignated to allow passage of 18-wheelers, busses, fire engines and the like is anticipated later this month. Nevertheless, in a Caltrans inspection completed after the repairs were made, the bridge was given a sufficiency rating of 3 out of 100.
Caltrans has put a priority on replacing the bridge, which will entail an overall project cost of  $44.5 million. Caltrans said it would make $39,382,500, or 88.5 percent of the cost of the project available, utilizing Caltrans Highway Bridge Program funds, most of which originate with U.S. Department of Transportation. Barstow will be counted upon to provide the remaining 11.5 percent, or $5,177,500.
The city last week selected Simon Wong Engineering to do the bridge design.

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