Healdsburg's historic Russian River bridge is going to be saved, but there is no need for a modern bridge to replace it or be built right next to it.
That was the upshot Tuesday night of a unanimous City Council decision to make rehabilitation of the Healdsburg Avenue Bridge the top priority, or the "preferred alternative" for an environmental study examining the fate of the 1921 span.
"That bridge is part of who we are," said City Councilwoman Lisa Wittke Schaffner, reflecting the passion of those who advocated that the bridge be preserved. "Financially, I believe we cannot afford a new bridge," she said.
It was a view shared by many others.
"I'd love to see it restored, refurbished, not an additional bridge built," said Mary Curran, a Healdsburg resident told the council. "You know you're home with that nice peaceful drive across the bridge."
The fate of the 89-year-old crossing, also referred to as the Healdsburg Memorial Bridge, has been debated off and on since 1979 when a Caltrans gave it a failing grade, with the worst "sufficiency" rating in the county.
But the bridge got a new lease on life three years ago when the rating was found to be based on erroneous calculations. Engineers then acknowledged the bridge can carry all legal loads, including semi-trucks.
The narrowness of the bridge and questions about its earthquake and flood safety still made it a pressing issue for the City Council.
Earlier this year, the city hired consultants Omni-Means Ltd. of Roseville to analyze alternatives for fixing or replacing it. Since March, there have been a half-dozen workshops and meetings to consider the issue. The overwhelming sentiment expressed by the public has been to save the historic span.
Last month, consultants came up with their top recommendation for environmental study — preserve the old bridge as a bicycle and pedestrian crossing, but build a new 48-foot bridge immediately upstream for motor vehicles.