Healdsburg City Hall apparently has convinced state and federal officials to spend millions of dollars to fix up a historic bridge over the Russian River.
Despite the initial qualms of Caltrans and federal highway engineers, Healdsburg officials obtained tentative approval for an approximate $12 million to $13 million upgrade of Healdsburg Memorial Bridge.
"It's big, excellent news. We walked away from the meeting feeling we really accomplished something," Vice Mayor Gary Plass said Wednesday of a recent meeting with the engineers.
Representatives from the Federal Highway Administration were willing to authorize the repairs to the 90-year-old bridge based on several conditions, one of which obligates the city to pay to maintain it in the future, said Plass and Public Works Director Mike Kirn, both of whom attended the meeting.
The cost of maintenance is estimated at $170,000 to $200,000 annually, Kirn said.
That is a significant enough sum that City Council members at their Jan. 3 meeting want to discuss how to pay for it and give the public a chance to weigh in.
"I think we want to commit," Plass said. "We need to make sure the community knows what it will take .<TH>.<TH>. it's tying our kids and our grandkids to maintain that bridge."
In a series of meetings and workshops last year to determine the bridge's future, residents overwhelmingly were in favor of keeping the 1920 steel-truss structure, as opposed to building a new, wider crossing, estimated to cost $25 million.
The City Council, bowing to preservationists and prevailing public opinion, made rehabilitation the "preferred alternative" for an ongoing environmental study of the bridge.
The rehab includes sandblasting and painting, repairing damaged structural members, installing a surface deck and making railing safety improvements. The city also wants to bolster the bridge to withstand flooding and erosion.