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Replacing Mt. Vernon Bridge a top priority: Eloise Gómez Reyes

Source: The Sun

Replacement of the Mt. Vernon Bridge in San Bernardino is a top priority, and a significant reason why I voted for Senate Bill 1, The Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017.

The passage of SB1 provides the revenue necessary to get this vital project completed. SB1 was designed to repair our crumbling infrastructure and replacement of the Mt. Vernon Bridge follows that intent. In furthering this effort I have worked closely with the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority and California Transportation Commission to secure the funding necessary to repair this essential infrastructure.

The Mt. Vernon Bridge in San Bernardino serves as the main artery between the city and the west side. This connection ensures that working families and communities are not cut off from the rest of the city.

Like any artery, age has a way of taking something that was once beautiful and efficient and beating it down until it is either replaced or ceases to function. Luckily, this artery is slated for replacement and the $135 million dollar project to replace the 1,106-foot-long bridge that spans over 20 train tracks only needs $13 million dollars to be fully funded.

The need is there. Built in 1934, the bridge has seen better days. Over and over again, this automobile viaduct has been declared “structurally deficient and functionally obsolete” by Caltrans; it received a score of 50 out of 100 in 1997, two full decades ago. The bridge has been closed off twice to traffic since 2004, when inspectors found cracks in its steel columns that support the bridge deck and needed to shore them up, which they did in four locations. In 2008, Caltrans again found additional cracks and shored them up in three additional locations.

Subsequent to the discovery of the cracks, San Bernardino amended its Municipal Code (section 10.24.190(a)) to prohibit all commercial vehicles on the bridge, citing its effort to slow the deterioration of the bridge and how unsafe it was for larger vehicles to traverse over the span. The city still allows non-commercial vehicles to use the bridge and about 60,000 motorists make the trip daily, but this number is expected to rise dramatically in the coming years with daily traffic slated to increase about 150 percent by 2040.

It is not as if there is an easy alternative around the bridge, either. The Mt. Vernon Bridge crosses over the BNSF container yard, splitting it in two, and routes around the rail yard are lengthy and add to the already bad congestion in the area. The commercial limitations and longer alternative routes continue to negatively impact small businesses in our area as well, and we see this in increased costs for our small business owners and lack of development along the roads leading up to and after the bridge.

Caltrans has had environmental clearance to replace the bridge since 2011, but did not have full funding. The longer the state waits to start this project, the greater the risk to public safety and costs to the taxpayers.

In the coming weeks and months in Sacramento, I will continue my efforts while working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that the Mt. Vernon bridge receives the funding needed to ensure that we keep San Bernardino connected to the rest the communities.

Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes, D-San Bernardino, represents Assembly District 47 which includes the cities of Fontana, Rialto, Colton, Grand Terrace, San Bernardino and the unincorporated areas of Muscoy and Bloomington.