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Bridge retrofit set to start

DEL MAR — Were it not for Councilwoman Crystal Crawford’s excitement about the surprisingly low bid to seismically retrofit and rehabilitate the North Torrey Pines Bridge, the fact that the construction cost was nearly cut in half may have gone unnoticed.
City Council unanimously awarded the $13 million contract to Flatiron West Inc. as part of its consent calendar at the Oct. 18 meeting. Items on the consent calendar are adopted in a single action with no discussion.
“I just had to comment on this … because it is such a significant savings,” Crawford said after the vote. “There were estimates that it might cost in excess of $30 million.”
When bids were open Oct. 7, the construction contract estimate was $23.7 million. Bids were received from seven companies. At $13,380,283, the lowest came from Flatiron West, which has worked on two other bridges in the area. The project will be funded by Caltrans.
The entire bridge deck will be removed and portions will be replaced and then restored with minor changes to retain the historic design features. 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.
Built in 1933, the 77-year-old bridge was deemed one of the worst in the state as far as its ability to withstand an earthquake. The retrofit will strengthen the existing structure, enhancing its ability to survive major seismic activity, and extend its life by about 50 years.
The bridge connects Camino del Mar with North Torrey Pines Road and borders the city of San Diego. It was recognized as being seismically unsafe in the late 1980s. Options to address the problem have been discussed for more than a decade.
San Diego sold the entire structure to Del Mar for $1 in 2000 when the two cities couldn’t agree on whether to replace or restore it.
“Frankly when I heard the results, that the low bid was $13 million, I thought there must be some mistake,” Crawford said.
“We fought hard to get the approvals from both the federal agencies and Caltrans to save this bridge, this historic structure,” she said. “And lo and behold, we have saved enough money that there’s actually money there to build another bridge.”
Discussions are ongoing to keep the remaining funds budgeted for the project in the county, Crawford said.