4 Years After Bridge Revamping, Hesperia To Spend $16 Million For Full Replacement

The Hesperia City Council this week voted to spend up to $16 million to replace the existing bridge over the California Aqueduct at Ranchero Road. That project will eradicate a $560,000 retrofit to that bridge that was carried out over an extended period of time four and five years ago.
The approval of the expenditure for the project has revived questions about the redundancy of public expense and inconvenience brought on by the failure of governmental entities to coordinate with one another.
Local officials suggested the waste of taxpayer money in this particular case is a manifestation of the disregard state officials sometimes show toward their governmental counterparts at the municipal and county levels.
In 2014, the California Department of Water Resources forced the City of Hesperia to put up $560,000 toward an earthquake retrofit project on the span over the aqueduct on Ranchero Road. City officials sought to beg off, explaining that Hesperia had plans to widen Ranchero Road in the near term, which would require the replacement of the bridge altogether. The Department of Water Resources nevertheless utilized its authority as part of an entity higher up the governmental evolutionary chain to consign the city into funding the upgrade.
The expense was not the only issue with regard to the seismic hardening, as the project inhibited traffic flow on Ranchero Road while the project was ongoing. Worse still, completion of the project was delayed, causing those traffic back-ups to last another three months, until March 2015.
When, before embarking on the project in 2014, city officials had asked local representatives of the Department of Water Resources whether their higher-ups in Sacramento were aware of the city’s plans to widen Ranchero Road, they encountered non-answers. Likewise, the state was unable to say at that time whether its own planners were aware of the incompatibility of the retrofit work with the city’s plans to widen a nearly five-mile length of Ranchero Road.
When the Hesperia City Council on November 19 voted 5-to-0 to adopt a mitigated negative declaration under the California Environmental Quality Act for the bridge replacement project, it was noted the existing bridge does not meet the Department of Water Resources current standards, entails a height inconsistency with the new road grade and cannot be widened. The existing bridge thus has to be demolished, obliterating in the process the retrofit work that had been undertaken in 2014 and 2015.
The Ranchero Corridor Widening Project is to expand Ranchero Road to six vehicle travel lanes and a shared pedestrian/bicycle pathway between the Ranchero Road railroad underpass and Interstate 15, which is to include the increased width over the California Aqueduct Bridge. The eventual advent of the Tapestry Project will increase the already substantial flow of vehicle traffic on Ranchero Road.
The bridge replacement will cost at least $14 million and perhaps as much as $16 million. While the cost of the Ranchero Road Widening Project is to be defrayed, in large measure, by the developer of the massive 15,663-unit master-planned community Tapestry project, the $560,000 the city spent on the retrofit could have been husbanded and put to use on other more necessary and longer-lasting public projects, local officials have acknowledged. State officials have been more reticent, avoiding comment on the matter altogether.

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