SAN MARCOS — The San Marcos Creek Project reached a major milestone with the completion of the Via Vera Cruz bridge, which it plans to reopen by the end of the week, restoring the cross-creek connection from San Marcos Boulevard to Discovery Street for the first time since summer 2021.
The new Pia Harris-Ebert Bridge, named in honor of the city’s first female councilwoman, is one of the final components of the $114 million project, adding new infrastructure to reduce flooding, improving traffic flow, and revitalizing and preserving the creek habitat.
The 214-acre project area has been under various phases of construction since early 2020, following three decades of planning and design. The bridge’s reopening is expected to bring relief to motorists, many of whom were forced to take alternate routes across the creek for the past two years.
Construction of the bridge was originally planned to wrap up in the summer but faced major delays due to decreased labor availability, heavy rains last winter, and the need for utility undergrounding work by San Diego Gas and Electric, the city said.
Officials thanked residents for their patience during a dedication ceremony for the bridge on Dec. 15, ahead of its reopening.
“It is mind-boggling how it happened and how it all came together today,” said Mayor Rebecca Jones. “Each one of you has had tremendous patience, and that is something we want to celebrate today. We know it’s been a long journey getting through the short-term pain of construction.”
This is the second and final bridge to be completed in the creek project, following the opening of the new Bent Avenue bridge last summer. It was named for the city’s first mayor, Lionel “Doc” Burton.
Compared to the old bridge built in 1942, the Pia Harris-Ebert Bridge is around eight feet higher and features four lanes instead of the previous two, bike lanes, sidewalks and safety railings to improve accessibility for bikes and pedestrians.
Harris-Ebert was elected to the City Council in 1982 and would hold a spot on the dais for 24 years until she stepped down in 2006. The longtime civil servant said on Dec. 15 that she was “overwhelmed and so blessed” to be the bridge’s namesake.
“I am very, very honored and am just so happy. For it to finally come to fruition is amazing. The bridge is going to give a lot,” the 84-year-old said.
Jones, the first woman to serve as mayor of San Marcos, called Harris-Ebert a personal inspiration.
“She led the way for women to lead in the city,” Jones said. “She set a great example of listening to and responding to residents. Thank you so much for setting the stage for all of us.”
Paving on Via Vera Cruz and Discovery Street was completed in late November and early December, City Manager Michelle Bender said at the city council’s Dec. 12 meeting. The striping of both roads and the installation of bridge expansion joints were expected to take place last week.
“These expansion joints are the last components on the driving surface on Via Vera Cruz that need to be installed,” Bender told the council. “The expansion joints are there to help the bridge expand and contract and keep it structurally safe.”
The final steps in the creek project include the completion of Paseo del Arroyo Park, expected to open in 2024. The park will be accessible on the east end of the Via Vera Cruz bridge and lead down to a 1.2-mile loop trail, providing recreational opportunities and views of the creek.