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Creaky bridge replacements start this summer

Creaky bridge replacements start this summer
Source: Caltrans

By Jay Gamel

A pair of aging Highway 12 bridges will get long overdue attention starting this summer and stretching over the next two years, according to Caltrans. The state agency will replace Sonoma Creek Bridge in Kenwood and the Hooker Creek bridge near Madrone Road. Hooker Creek’s span was built in 1900; Sonoma Creek’s bridge was erected in 1922.

Both bridges will be completely replaced down to the footings, which have suffered extensive water damage over the century since they were built. “Decades of rapidly flowing water during rainy winters have eroded the foundations and compromised the bridges’ strength,” Jeff Weiss, a press officer for Caltrans, posted on the Caltrans website.

A specific date for starting construction has not been set, though Weiss expects the contract to be awarded by mid-July, followed by a required 55-day period while the parties work out details. Work could start earlier if agreeable to Caltrans and the selected contractor, Weiss added.

The work will be staggered to reduce traffic impacts where possible, starting with the Kenwood bridge and moving to Hooker Creek afterward. The original repair sequence was just the opposite when first reported in the April 1, 2021, edition of the Kenwood Press.

Situated just west of Adobe Canyon Road, the Sonoma Creek Bridge has been widened twice over the years, in 1950 and 1962. The entire 46-foot-wide structure will be replaced, one half at a time, with a 55-foot-wide precast/prestressed structure. The new bridge will be 69 feet long, same as the old one.

The first part of the Kenwood project is scheduled for 45 consecutive days, which will see flagged oneway traffic through the construction site. While some of the work will be done at night, some requires daylight. Weiss said there will be extended hours for all working days on the project.

The Hooker Creek Bridge replacement will start once the Kenwood bridge is done, under the current schedule. The replacement bridge will be 17.5 feet longer and eight feet wider than the original. This bridge is one of four vital underpasses along Highway 12 within the Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor, permitting safe passage of wild animals between the east and west side of the valley by allowing them to avoid crossing the road.

Kenwood’s bridge gains nine feet in width; Hooker Creek will widen by eight feet, providing more pedestrian and bicycle room, but still not enough for a designated bike lane over either structure.

Emergency controls

“We’ve had a couple of meetings with Supervisor Gorin’s office,” Weiss said. Susan Gorin is the Valley’s county supervisor. “She was concerned about emergency services and access to the roads in case of wildfire. We are also in contact with county Office of Emergency Services and will continue to consult with them.”

Highway 12 is the principal route through Sonoma Valley and has been problematical during two major wildfire evacuations since 2017. Increased building and at least two major building proposals for homes and senior residences, as well as expanding tourist attractions, have alarmed some people about the potential for massive traffic jams if an evacuation due to wildfire is declared. Alternative evacuation choices are few and difficult to navigate even on good days.