“Notwithstanding any other provisions of this Chapter, the Main Street Bridge’s historic, visual and physical integrity, (including appearance and character) shall be preserved intact, and its demolition or physical expansion prohibited …”

So says the Main Street Bridge Preservation Act, which many of you will remember was approved by 73 percent of our voting-age community in 2014. This despite a competing ballot measure placed by the (then) City Council and a five-figure campaign run by the city and individual council members to fight the measure.

The next year, in 2015, the city hired a world-renowned engineering firm named Atkinson-Noland to fully evaluate the bridge’s structural state, and further, to make recommendations regarding a rehabilitation process and budget.

Two council members driving that decision were Debbie Ruddock and Deborah Penrose, our current mayor and vice mayor of Half Moon Bay. The results of the testing, presented in late 2015, showed conclusively that the bridge is completely sound, with its foundations and arch showing no signs of structural compromise whatsoever. In actual fact, and despite years of council-driven safety hysteria, the bridge is in such good shape that when they drove a 48,000-pound dump truck across the span, the total deflection of the arch was just .007 of an inch, or in terms normal humans would understand, less than the thickness of a human hair.

Atkinson-Noland also prepared and presented a detailed project scope and budget in 2015, but before we get to that part of the story it is worth continuing the narrative to see where we’re at today.

At the time (early 2016), the city didn’t want to be on the hook for the original $900,000 spent on the preliminary engineering for the now dead replacement project, so it convinced Caltrans and the federal government to roll those already sunk costs over into a “new” project, one that would somehow comply with the act and also paradoxically meet all federal and state requirements for funding the new project. (Spoiler alert: That wasn’t going to be possible.)

This ill-advised effort means that, since 2015, we’ve sunk an additional $600,000 into even more “preliminary engineering” for this “new” project/boondoggle. To add insult to injury, nearly all of those funds have gone to the same cast of characters and consultants who ran the project the first time around.

Which brings us full circle back to Atkinson-Noland’s proposed scope and budget from 2015 to rehab the bridge from start to finish. Its proposed project, one based on its own scientific evaluation of the bridge, would cost us a grand total of $406,500. (Plus an additional $85,000 or so for environmental clearances and project management.) Dial those numbers up for our world today by doubling them and you are still done and dusted for less than $1 million.

Also worth noting is that Atkinson-Noland felt that the entire rehab could be completed comfortably in a single summer season, unlike the current project, which will close at least one lane of the bridge for two years!

While the Atkinson-Noland project proposal is the essence of simplicity and efficiency, the new project, has, ahem, a bit more to it.

The following is just a partial list of the proposed work, which will:

1. Drill eight enormous 8-foot diameter piles through the current completely sound foundations, unnecessarily destroying them in the process. (Goodbye physical and historic integrity.)

2. Remove the entirety of the top of the 26-foot-wide bridge, including both sidewalks. (Perhaps one of our hired contractors can explain how “remove and destroy” is somehow synonymous with “preserve intact”?)

3. Replace all of that removed stuff with a new 44-foot-wide, 170-foot-long concrete slab that will weigh more than 3.5 million pounds and will completely entomb what little remains of the bridge after the demolition.

On the off chance that your blood is already boiling you might want to sit down before reading further.

In 2014, the original bridge project was forecast to be $8.2 million for a complete replacement, and as already described, the proposed Atkinson-Noland project cost less than $500,000. Which brings us to today’s project, the one staff and the consultants have been working on to the tune of $65,000 per month on average.

It’s a project that is budgeted to cost $14 million.

This is absolute insanity, at least if insanity is the act of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Yet it is not too late for the council to end the insanity. It can do this by putting this item on the next possible agenda so that spending on the current project ($60,000/month) can be immediately halted. Once done, the council can easily direct staff to prepare and issue a request for proposals that exactly matches the Atkinson-Noland project scope and budget.

Trying to spend $14 million to destroy and then replace a protected historic artifact with a clone of Mac Dutra Plaza is plumb crazy. Hopefully, on this topic at least, we can return to a place of fiscal and moral responsibility, one that honors the bridge’s importance to our community, as well as our pocketbooks.

David Eblovi is a Half Moon Bay resident.

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(3) comments

Steve Hyman

David has hit on a lot of good points but there are a few details he omitted. In full disclosure, I have been on the Citizens Advisory Bridge Committee from the beginning.

We are before even putting a shovel in the ground looking at a 60% increase in the cost of repairing our bridge to $14 million. By the time this is completed, especially with rising inflation, my guess is the total cost will be approaching $20 million.

Most of this money are from other sources than us residents, however, the City is on the hook for 12% of the cost. At our last meeting I asked is this percent fixed regardless of the rising costs or is it based on original cost of $8.8 million. City Planners didn't have an answer to that, That could be a potential cost to the City of millions of dollars as the costs keep rising. But even if these other agengies pay the inflation creep, our 12% contribution goes up in dollars.

Another thing David touched on is the idea of closing Main Street to northbound traffic for the 2 year construction period forcing ALL trafic to Kelly Ave to get to Hwy 1 and 92. That is going to be a traffic nightmare for the entire period of construction. It could hurt local businesses as people avoid downtown.

For less than the cost of the City's rising 12% cdontribution, do the recommended patch originally proposed by the engineering firm that did the stress test. This patch will last 25-30 years. And then do another patch.

Let's stop spending years talking about it spending millions and just fix it now.

Tyler Durden

City staff and the City Council have been captured by the "construction industrial complex." Sounds like they want to "preserve" the old bridge by building new bridge right over the footprint of the old one.

John Charles Ullom

"City staff and the City Council have been captured by the "construction industrial complex.""

Yep. Gotta keep those Federal dollars rolling in, as if the Government pays for anything for anything. That is why our very well connected local contractors contribute money towards efforts meant to convince us to spend money on projects they can bid on.

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