Getting cheaper to fix, replace Healdsburg bridge

  • 3/18/2008: B1: Cyclists cross Healdsburg's Memorial Bridge on Monday. Plans to fix the bridge range in cost from $13 million to $40 million.

    PC: Cyclists pedal across Healdsburg's Memorial Bridge Monday March 17:dthe bridge is in need of work.

    Mark Aronoff

The costs for saving Healdsburg's historic Russian River bridge have gone down, but so have the costs of replacing it with a modern, concrete box girder.

Consultants on Thursday said the latest estimates to rehabilitate and retrofit the 1921, steel-truss span are about $10 million, which buoyed the hopes of those wanting to save the structure.

Cost of building a wider, modern bridge is now estimated at $16.6 million.

"Obviously rehabilitation looks like a very good option, and not just for preserving history," said Holly Hoods, a representative of the Healdsburg Museum. She said saving the bridge also makes sense from a cost perspective and in meeting community needs.

Several years ago a study had estimated the cost of rehabilitating the bridge at $13 million. And it placed the cost of a new concrete bridge — so abhorrent to preservationists — at $23 million.

Public Works Director Mike Kirn said the recession and the drop in construction costs is probably the reason estimates for both options have gone down.

In the end, the fate of the 1921 span could hinge not only on cost, but whether rehabilitating the bridge is eligible for federal funding.

Even if the rusting bridge is spruced up, made earthquake-safe and bolstered to withstand high flows in the Russian River, it still would be too narrow to meet modern standards. That means it may not meet the requirements for the 88 percent federal funding that which city officials want.

Once carried the sole highway span over the Russian River, it has become redundant since the freeway was built to the west along with a wider modern bridge. But it is cherished for its appearance and slower pace it affords for sightseeing and bicycling.

At a public meeting Thursday evening, some residents objected to even more expensive options being studied, ranging from $34 million to $49 million, that include keeping the old bridge and building a new one.

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