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The current bridge, which spans the opening of the San Dieguito River, is 86 years old. A 2012 study determined the bridge is in deteriorated condition. Photo by Lexy Brodt
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Community weighs in on bridge replacement

DEL MAR — With several years of planning and approvals coming down the pike, Del Mar residents got a first look at the city’s Camino Del Mar bridge replacement project at a Jan. 10 “open house” workshop.

The bridge, which crosses the mouth of the San Dieguito River and overlooks North Beach, is about 86 years old. A study conducted in 2012 determined that parts of the bridge are corroded, and it is ill-prepared for a seismic event or flooding.

Faced with an option to retrofit or replace the 600-foot-long structure, the city opted for a total replacement due to the insufficient service life of a potentially retrofitted bridge.

City staff requested public input on a Camino Del Mar bridge replacement project at a Jan. 10 workshop. Photo by Lexy Brodt

The new bridge would rest on six piers instead of 10, which city staff said would reduce impediments to river flow.

In an email to The Coast News, City Engineer Tim Thiele said project designers are looking at a “narrower, slimmer bridge profile, as well as a potential raising of the bridge deck a couple of feet to be able to pass future flood events.”

The project is anticipated to cost $25 million to $28 million dollars, with just under 90 percent of funding secured through a grant from the Federal Highway Bridge Program. The city will provide the remaining funds, although the exact source is currently undetermined. Thiele said funding options include TransNet or Senate Bill 1 funds.

Residents had varied comments on the bridge replacement, some calling it “overkill” due to the relatively recent alterations made to the bridge, such as buffered bike lanes and a resurfaced road deck.

Asked about her most pressing concerns about the project, beach colony resident Kristy Hahn pointed to traffic impacts, as well as ease of travel along the roadway.

“But if we have to have it, we have to have it,” she said.

Staff are anticipating construction will begin in 2023, although the project was initially anticipated to break ground in 2020. The project is currently in the planning stage, which involves completing environmental documentation and obtaining approval of several technical studies from the California Department of Transportation.

Staff expect that City Council and California Coastal Commission review of the project will be complete by the summer of 2020.

City staff and consultants on the project asked residents to weigh in on a few criteria, including potential construction scenarios and architectural designs. The design concepts include Beach Bungalow, Historical Origins and Modern Day themes, all of which include a beach outlook area.

Staff posed two construction options. The staged construction scenario would involve keeping one side of the roadway open throughout construction by destroying and rebuilding one half of the bridge first, switching the flow of the traffic to the new bridge half, and destroying and rebuilding the other half. The alternative would involve closing the strip entirely and rerouting traffic to Jimmy Durante Boulevard and Via De La Valle.

Both options would result in the temporary loss of about 120 parking spaces from the site, for the duration of construction.

Attendee Debbie Church supported the staged option, saying it would help maintain beach access and a conduit between Del Mar and Solana Beach.

“To me it’s a no-brainer, it should be a (staged) closure,” she said.

The staged construction scenario would take about 24 to 27 months, while the full closure would take 13 to 15 months.

Don Mosier, a former mayor of Del Mar, raised concerns about the effects of sea-level rise. He cited ever-increasing estimates of what the water level could look like 75 to 100 years from now — which is about how long the new bridge is expected to last.

“I think it’s folly to only raise that bridge two to three feet,” Mosier said. “That’s not going to get the job done.”

City staff responded that the bridge’s design is consistent with the city’s Sea-Level Rise Adaptation Plan, and would also provide a stronger barrier for flood waters.

Mayor Dave Druker, who attended the event, said “we need to flesh out more of the details,” including the traffic scenarios.

“We have to make sure what happened last summer doesn’t happen again” he said, referring to gridlock in the area due to traffic generated from the annual San Diego County Fair in Del Mar.

 “We don’t have any choice, we have to replace the bridge,” Druker said.