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Residents view Torrey Pines bridge plans

DEL MAR — Slightly more than a dozen residents attended a Sept. 10 open house at the City Hall Annex to view plans for the seismic retrofit of the North Torrey Pines Road Bridge. Staff members including Public Works Director David Scherer and interim Planning Director Brian Mooney were on hand to answer questions and informally discuss the $37 million project.
Built in 1933, the structure has been deemed one of the worst bridges in the state as far as its ability to withstand an earthquake. Several years ago, there was a debate over whether to replace or retrofit the 553-foot historic bridge.
Scherer said replacement would have required daytime closures and moving the structure seven feet closer to the beach. One resident said she didn’t think either scenario would have been popular. Current plans include 10 to 12 nighttime closures but none during the day throughout the entire project, which is expected to take about two-and-a-half years once construction begins.
The top of the bridge will be completely replaced, while the bottom will be renovated and retrofitted, Scherer said. The rebuilt bridge won’t be an “exact match,” but the detailing and historic character of the structure will be maintained, he said. The railings will be slightly different but the width and lane configuration will remain the same.
Environmental reviews are complete. Scherer said he expects the project to go out to bid this spring, with construction to begin in fall 2010. Work will be completed in five stages. The engineering and environmental phase was 80 percent funded through the Federal Highway Bridge Program. The city paid the remaining 20 percent. Construction, which is estimated at approximately $33 million, will be fully covered by state and federal funds.
Lifelong resident Tensia Trejo, who was born in Del Mar six years before the bridge was built, said she has opposed the retrofit since discussions began primarily because she fears the city may eventually end up footing more of the bill.
She maintains a binder full of stories and articles about the bridge and said she knows something must be done to fix the deteriorating structure. But she said she still doesn’t fully support the retrofit.
“I’m in better shape than the bridge,” she said. “But I’ve lived long enough to know that people say one price and it ends up being higher, so I’m keeping my eye on it.
“Like anything else, if you don’t watch it, you’re stuck with the bill,” Trejo said.