Daily Journal file photo
Prior to Measure F, Half Moon Bay could have been reimbursed for testing costs, however, it may now need to front the money.
A study of the Main Street Bridge’s structural integrity is moving forward after a June 3 vote restricted the Half Moon Bay City Council’s ability to replace it, which could force the forfeiture of federal funds.
City staff is preparing a scope of work agreement outlining what testing needs to be done to evaluate repair options, said Community Development Director Dante Hall. The council will review it as early as its June 17 meeting before initiating a request for proposals, Hall said.
“Testing is part of the [California Environmental Quality Act] process and the design option process,” Hall said. “This is part of just the process of getting to a feasible option for City Council to consider. And the election is another step in deciding what option we should choose, but to get to that point we need to do the testing to determine what’s feasible.”
The city was awarded a Federal Highway Administration reimbursement grant that would have funded most of the necessary repairs should the city bring the bridge up to national and current seismic standards, which officials have said necessitated widening it.
The council voted in September 2013 to replace the 103-year-old artery into downtown after Caltrans gave it a 24 out of 100 sufficiency rating. After community dissent, the council placed Measure F, the Main Street Bridge Preservation Act, and Measure E, the Main Street Bridge Safety and Accessibility Act, on the June ballot. Measure F, which requires voter approval for the demolition or widening of the bridge, passed with 1,977 votes, or 66 percent.
With the election results, Interim City Manager Stuart Schillinger said it will likely have to forfeit that grant. Prior to Measure F, the city could have been reimbursed for testing costs, however, it may now need to front the money, Schillinger said.
The bridge needs to be addressed and the city is discussing the parameters of its grant with Caltrans and other funding options, Schillinger said.
“Ultimately, the question is going to be what is the solution for a bridge that Caltrans says passes their safety ratings. And based on what that design is, depends on what grants may or may not be available,” Schillinger said. “We still need to figure out what the condition of the bridge is and then from there make sure we find out what the best solution is to make sure we provide a safe bridge to the public.”
The bridge was one of the first concrete infrastructures reinforced with steel so the city will seek an engineering firm with expertise. But it’s showing clear signs of wear, Hall said.
There is heavy cracking on the concrete arch and its sidewalls and wing walls, Hall said. Water appears to be leaching through the concrete, which indicates the cracks are very deep and may be eroding the steel. The brackets holding up the wooden sidewalks and a waterline also appears corroded, Hall said.
One of the major unknowns is the strength of the timber pilings installed more than 100 years ago that fasten the bridge to the ground, Hall said.
Other factors in rehabilitation design options include the thickness and compressive strength of its concrete elements, Hall said.
Even before the election, the Main Street Bridge project was headed toward the environmental review process and it’s during that time the city will devise preferred alternatives and chose a project with the least impacts, Schillinger said.
“The work that we’ve done so far has been geared toward the CEQA and [National Environmental Policy Act] process … so whatever work we’ve done for the most part will carry forward,” Schillinger said.
Currently, the city has spent about $300,000 for engineering consultants and costs associated with starting the project, Schillinger said.
Councilman Rick Kowalczyk said it was a wide misconception that the city spent a million dollars on the bridge prior to the election. With infrastructure projects being undertaken across the nation, federal grant funding is drying up, Kowalczyk said. Now that the city could forfeit it’s already awarded grant, Kowalczyk said he hopes to find an alternative that could qualify.
“I fully accept the policy of the city defined by Measure F and I’m going to represent that and do my best to look out for the interest of the city and of the community based on the outcome,” Kowalczyk said.
Yet some Measure F supporters say they weren’t satiated by the election and want the council to preemptively adopt a substantively similar measure citizens slated for the November ballot.
Main Street merchant Charles Nelson said if the council is truly interested in mending its ties with the community it should adopt the citizens’ ordinance.
“They’ve been talking about making a truce and bringing the community together again after this election. So for me, it would be logical for them to adopt it so we can put it all behind us and move forward,” Nelson said.
The city removed what it called the inflammatory language in the citizen’s original ballot measure when it created Measure F. City Attorney Toni Condotti said the substantive language is the same and, if it passes in November, nothing will change.
Former mayor Deborah Ruddock said bridge supporters want their original measure passed in November because a citizens’ initiative holds more weight in a court of law.
Kowalczyk said politics aside, Measure F passed and it’s time to move forward.
“The more important view is for us to complete structural testing … and find all the grants and funding opportunities that will support that,” Kowalczyk said. “I think the responsible thing to do is design it properly and get whatever financial support we can get.”
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