Replacing the Medio Creek Bridge, now closed on the Coastal Trail, needs to happen far sooner than the 16-month timetable announced by the San Mateo County Department of Public Works.
Usage of the trail is at an all-time high due to the COVID-19 crisis. With the pandemic approaching six months in duration and all indications it is getting worse and will be with us for some time to come, it is of great importance that this stress-relieving, calming infrastructure be restored as soon as possible. Every bicycle on the trail is one less car stuck in traffic.
Replacing the existing bridge has major drawbacks:
- The cliffs in the immediate area are collapsing. This is the biggest reason to not replace the bridge in its present location.
- The bridge is supported by a deteriorating concrete arch more than 100 years old. Replacing this arch will add great expense to the project as a whole.
- Located where it is, the bridge is within the jurisdiction of multiple entities each with its own criteria that must be met. These entities are mandated for public comment and review, greatly increasing the time it will take for all permits to be in place.
- Work cannot be done in winter due to ocean surge.
A far less costly and less time-consuming alternative is to relocate the trail two short blocks inland crossing Medio Creek by joining the south and north dead ends at The Alameda, which runs north-south parallel to the existing trail. The road presently leads up to within 10 feet of Medio Creek both on the north and south banks. The major advantages of locating the replacement bridge to link up to The Alameda’s existing roads are:
- All the expense of shoring up the crumbling cliffs in the present location would be saved. The unstable cliffs in and of themselves are a reason to not rebuild the bridge in its present location.
- The expense of demolishing the crumbling 100-year-old concrete arch structure is saved.
- Being two blocks inland, work could be done even in winter when the ocean surges make it impossible at the present location.
The access ways on Medio Avenue to the north and Mirada Road to the south are both quite short, with minimal traffic. Medio has good sidewalks on both sides of the street. Pedestrians and cyclists could also detour another couple of blocks traveling on The Alameda, and reach the Coastal Trail via Alcatraz Avenue, which is also a very quiet street with a low amount of traffic, and a very easy route.
The span to connect the north and south parts of The Alameda is very short, perhaps 25 feet, much shorter than the existing bridge as the gulch widens as Medio Creek approaches the ocean. So this would mean a smaller, cheaper bridge.
The new bridge would serve as a route in emergencies. All the Coastal Trail bridges can support a vehicle, and have posts in the middle of the lane on both ends of the bridge secured by a padlock. These posts can be removed by responding emergency personnel in a crisis.
A few years ago, while returning in my car to El Granada, a fatal car accident just north of the Frenchmans Creek light caused Highway 1 to be closed for about seven hours. I had to walk home. Many others had to go south to Highway 92, north on Interstate 280, west to Pacifica, and south to their destinations on the coast north of the accident scene. Many said the drive took four hours, due to the volume of traffic as the event took place on a weekday at the height of the commute.
With the expanding population on the Coastside, we very much need a second north-south route other than the two-lane Highway 1. Imagine the snarl during a major tsunami evacuation. One in 10 of the people who died in the Paradise, Calif., fire were in their cars, stuck in gridlock traffic. In a tsunami evacuation, the sheriff could control emergency exit traffic over the bridge.
San Mateo County needs to take a Manhattan Project sense of priority to replace this bridge. Please join the initiative to expedite this replacement. Urge San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley to adopt the plan to relocate the bridge to The Alameda. Rebuilding the bridge in its present location is fatally flawed due to the cliff erosion. Advocate for this quicker, cheaper, and longer lasting alternative.
Tom Andersen is a Coastside resident and businessman.