If you're one of the 10,000 motorists who cross the Bernal Avenue bridge over the Arroyo de la Laguna every day, brace yourself for some delays starting later this month when the bridge undergoes its first major repainting and repair work since it was built 75 years ago.
City Engineer Steve Kirkpatrick told the City Council that while the bridge is "functionally obsolete," doesn't meet current earthquake protection standards and is too old to be retrofitted, it's still safe. Its new coat of paint to be applied over the next seven months will involve removing the lead paint on the bridge now and should keep it shining for another 40 years. Along with much-needed repairs, the bridge will be as good as new -- or almost.
Kirkpatrick's remarks raised the concerns of the council, whose members approved the $1,523,795 project but then quickly agreed to make plans for a new second bridge dating back at least 25 years a new priority. For now, though, an approaching deadline for using a $1.5 million federal grant requires repairing the old bridge now. The proposed second bridge would be a two-lane concrete structure similar to the Bernal bridge over the Arroyo del Valle near Stanley Boulevard.
The initial phase of the Bernal bridge work will begin with the installation of bird netting over the structure in late January. A week later, contractor Murphy Industrial Coatings, will install scaffolding and a containment tent on the underside of the bridge, a seven-week project with a striking visual impact that is likely to slow down traffic even without any lane closures.
Then the bulk of the work will occur during the summer months while students at Foothill High School, heavy car and bicycle users of the bridge on the way to school and then back home again, are on summer break. That will involve curtailing traffic across the bridge to a single lane, with a traffic-sensitive and automated traffic signal allowing travel only one way in each direction on an intermittent basis. That will affect the 600 motorists who cross the bridge during the morning peak hour and the 1,000 who use it in the peak hour in the late afternoon.
During the summer construction work, the lanes of travel will be heavily netted, with motorists driving through a tunnel-like cover that will protect them from lead paint being scraped off the trestles. Construction work will continue seven days a week in the summer with one-lane restrictions in force 24 hours, seven days a week.
It will also be noisy work, reaching 86 decibels (about the noise a food blender makes) during the day and about 70 decibels (the noise level of a vacuum cleaner) at night as generators suck in the lead chips to be taken to a depository. If all goes well, the project should be completed in late August. Happy traveling.