Bridges get facelift, roads resurfaced
THE O’DONNELL LANE BRIDGE is scheduled to be restored to its original brick look.
Craig Philpott/Special to the Index-Tribune
The sky may not be falling, but the roads are surely crumbling. After decades of neglect, lack of funding and poor planning, it’s no secret that Sonoma County has been left with one of the poorest infrastructures in the Bay Area. Just this week, the county’s Board of Supervisors approved a one-time general fund allocation of $8 million to put a dent in some of the work that needs urgently to be done around the county, though even members of the board concede the amount will barely even do that.
“This influx of money that the board approved will certainly help. But it doesn’t solve the problem. It just helps us move along,” said Tom O’Kane, deputy director of Transportation and Public Works for Sonoma County, who is tasked with keeping those projects moving along. O’Kane also works to make the most of the funds he does have to use.
“One way we’ve cut some costs is with a machine that grinds up the asphalt and whatever the base is underneath,” often little more than dirt, explained O’Kane of the effort to make use of whatever materials are already on hand. Once the asphalt eater does its work, the ground-up mixture is combined with cement or lime and an enzyme treatment to create a stable base for the new road. Then, if it’s a low volume road, a chip seal is applied over the top; if it’s a higher volume road, it may be paved. This treatment tends to hold up much better than just laying asphalt over broken roads, said O’Kane. “When people come in and say, ‘ahh, well you need to pave this road.’ Just paving it doesn’t correct the problem.”
Some of the significant bridge and road work across the Valley that will be starting in the coming months includes a restoration of the O’Donnell Lane Bridge behind the post office in Glen Ellen, repairs on the steel truss bridge road surface on Arnold Drive near the Sonoma Developmental Center, and the concrete bridge on Boyes Boulevard that spans Sonoma Creek. Also on the construction agenda is the long-planned roundabout at Arnold and Agua Caliente Road and paving or chip seal projects on Arnold Drive, Adobe Canyon Road and London Ranch Road.
“Bridge projects, on average, in California take 15 years from when we start talking about it to the time they’re complete,” O’Kane said with a pained laugh, and then referenced the three local projects, “We’re maybe about eight or 10 years into it, but I’m hoping to compress the time a little bit.”
The extensive restoration of the historic brick bridge on O’Donnell Lane in Glen Ellen is expected to enter the design phase in early 2013 and will be funded by a federal program through Caltrans. The century-old, single lane bridge is among the oldest in the county, though it has seen better days. The brick parapets, at some point, were covered in concrete after they’d become damaged, though the original brick can be seen in the arch. The concrete first needs to be stripped off.
“We’ll probably have to do some structural work,” said O’Kane, “but that will not change the character or design of the bridge.” Then the parapets will be restored with a brick that matches the original. Once the work is completed on the bridge, drivers will be treated to a much prettier sight, and smoother ride, than they currently have.
The steel truss bridge on Arnold Drive and the concrete bridge that crosses Sonoma Creek in Glen Ellen are both scheduled for major maintenance projects this spring or early summer.
The asphalt paving on the decks of both bridges will be stripped off and the surfaces repaired and treated with sealer. O’Kane conceded that while the work is not an emergency, both bridges are “pretty bumpy,” and said, “Now is the time to do it before there’s more deterioration of the surface.”
Despite the protestations of some, work will begin this spring on the roundabout at Arnold Drive and Aqua Caliente Road, currently a four-way stop. “The design is complete, utilities are being relocated and we hope to go to bid in January,” said O’Kane. The circle would be one of the first roundabouts in the county. O’Kane defended the roundabout as a way to improve traffic flow and touted the environmental benefits. “With a roundabout, at least traffic keeps moving. You’re moving at a slower speed but at least you’re still moving,” he said. And, as opposed to a stoplight or stop signs, “It reduces emissions, because you don’t have idling vehicles.”
Also on Arnold Drive, about three quarters of a mile of road is scheduled to be repaved between Craig Avenue and Country Club Drive at the Sonoma Golf Club. The paving project, which will be federally funded through Caltrans, is currently out for bid, and O’Kane expects work to begin right after the first of the year.
On London Ranch Road leading to Jack London State Park, just over a mile of road will be redone with chip seal this spring.
And Adobe Canyon Road up to Hood Mountain and Sugarloaf Ridge State Park will also be resurfaced with chip seal in the spring. In response to feedback from cyclists, a smaller chip size will be used to facilitate a smoother ride.