DEL MAR — Using a Sharpie and tractor key rather than traditional hard hats and shovels, Del Mar City Council members held a groundbreaking ceremony Nov. 9 to retrofit and rehabilitate the North Torrey Pines Bridge.
Mayor Richard Earnest called the 77-year-old structure “an iconic entryway” into the city. “It is, indeed, a local treasure,” he said.
The 49-foot-wide bridge, which is nearly six stories tall and the length of about two football fields, was completed in 1933. During its construction, Earnest said, legendary racing horse Seabiscuit was born, the Hoover Dam was completed, construction began on the Golden Gate Bridge and Balboa Park was designated.
“Clearly, at that time, things were built to last,” Earnest said.
In the 1980s, the bridge was deemed one of the worst in the state as far as its ability to withstand an earthquake.
“This bridge has been neglected for so long,” Councilwoman Crystal Crawford said. “But it stands here today sturdy as ever.”
Crawford said there were many skeptics who thought the bridge should be torn down.
“This is going to look better than ever when it’s done,” she said. “We should all be proud of the effort that went into this.”
Built in 1933, the bridge connects Camino del Mar with North Torrey Pines Road and borders the city of San Diego, which sold the structure to Del Mar for $1 in 2000 when the two cities couldn’t agree on whether to replace or restore it.
“We are preserving a piece of history,” Councilman Mark Filanc said. “Many bridges had to be crossed to get here.”
Filanc said those bridges included understanding, communication, negotiation, solutions, trust and respect.
“It’s been a long and challenging road to get where we are today,” he said.
The retrofit will strengthen the existing structure, enhancing its ability to survive major seismic activity, and extend its life by about 50 years.
Construction should begin within the next month or two and take about three years to complete.
The bridge will be open to motorists and bicyclists but closed to pedestrians. Although most work can be done during the day, construction over the railroad tracks and on the road must be done at night. The jogging path under the bridge will remain open.
About 50 people were on hand for the event, including Dave Druker and Jan McMillan, who were serving on the City Council when discussions to retrofit the bridge began.
Logistics precluded the traditional “first dig of the dirt,” so council members autographed a sign that announced the project is getting under way and Earnest started up a tractor.