Healdsburg officials are continuing to struggle with a way to get bicyclists and pedestrians across the Russian River when the Healdsburg Memorial Bridge is closed for a lengthy renovation next year.
Healdsburg Public Works Director Mike Kirn told the City Council on Monday he is "not holding out a lot of hope" that an adjacent railroad bridge can be used as an alternate crossing for cyclists and people on foot.
The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit agency, which owns the bridge, would probably allow it, Kirn said. Passenger trains aren't expected to be running across the bridge for several more years.
But the North Coast Railroad Authority, which plans to run freight trains on the tracks next year, is resistant, according to Kirn.
He said state Public Utilities Commission officials, who would weigh in on the issue too, also indicated they would not be supportive because "it would send mixed messages to the general public."
"On the one hand, they tell people not to walk the tracks," Kirn said. But that message would be contradicted if the railroad bridge is converted for use by pedestrians.
City officials are planning to close the Healdsburg Memorial Bridge to all traffic — including cars, bikes and pedestrians — for a major rehabilitation of the 91-year-old bridge late next year.
Kirn estimates the bridge would be closed for about one year while it is retrofitted with a new foundation and deck, along with other work.
Motorized vehicles will be able to use the Highway 101 bridge just downstream as an alternate.
But for cyclists and pedestrians, the closing of the Healdsburg Memorial Bridge poses a major dilemma.