Supes to hold EIR hearing, vote on Watmaugh Bridge
The next step in the possible replacement of the Watmaugh Bridge will be taken Tuesday when the Board of Supervisors review documents and hold a public hearing on the project.
The Supervisors will review the draft environmental impact report, EIR, along with the comments and responses to the report; will hear testimony on the merits of the project and take a straw vote certifying the final EIR.
This will be the fourth time the project has come to the Supervisors. In July, the Supervisors approved a design engineering contract, in September, the board took original jurisdiction for the EIR and in October, the board held a public hearing on the draft EIR.
Only two persons testified at the October session.
But interested parties could also submit written comments, and the county received 15 letters – 11 of which were from opponents of the bridge replacement project.
Among the opponents of the project were Kenneth and Betsey Niles, Lorraine Wedekind, the law office of Rose M. Zoia, Gail Johnson for the Citizens for the Preservation of Sonoma Historic Bridges, Barbara Wimmer for the Sonoma League for Historic Preservation, Johanna Patri and Gail Johnson, seven members of the Preservation of Sonoma Historic Bridges, Nancy Simpson and Patricia Daffurn.
While most of the letters raised multiple questions, one proponent of replacing the bridge was blunt.
Greg Rose, in a handwritten letter said, “Please replace the Watmaugh Bridge ASAP. The alignment is awful, it’s too narrow, etc. How can that ugly little bridge have enough historical significance to warrant such lengthy discussion. Please build a new bridge.”
The bridge, which was built in 1929, has a sufficiency rating of 4 out of a possible 100. The bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis five years ago, as an example, had a sufficiency rating of 50.
The county and neighbors have been wrangling over the bridge for the past two-and-a-half years with the county proposing various options and the neighbors protesting every step of the way.
After first proposing a 40-foot-wide bridge, the county scaled it back, proposing a 32-foot-wide bridge that would have two 11-foot travel lanes and two five-foot-wide shoulders for pedestrian and bicycle traffic. The current bridge is 22-feet wide with no pedestrian or bicycle lanes.
The county would also incorporate the trusses from the existing bridge, but as ornamental not structural elements.
The county even proposed building a bridge just downstream and leaving the present bridge standing, but that proposal would have entailed more rights-of-way, probably through eminent domain, and was short-lived.
County staff is recommending that the Supervisors conduct a hearing on the merits of the proposed project, select a project and take a straw vote certifying the EIR and approving the project. If this happens, the project would return to the Supervisors at the Dec. 11 meeting for a final vote to certify the EIR and approving the project to replace the aging bridge.
The hearing is scheduled to start at 2:10 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4, in the Supervisors chambers, 575 Administration Drive in Santa Rosa.