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Report on the Caltrans Open House on Replacing Albion and Salmon Creek Bridges

May 7, 2007. There were many attendees at the Open House held by Caltrans on proposed replacement of the Albion River and Salmon Creek Bridges. I estimate that soon after the doors opened there were fifty or more people in the relatively small room at the east end of the Mendocino Community Recreation Center.


The workshop was poorly designed for communication between Caltrans and such a large number of people. There were no chairs and no scheduled presentations. There were easels with photos, engineering drawings, and sketches scattered around the room. Caltrans personnel were at each easel. Because of the size of the crowd, it was difficult to even see the material on the easels and more difficult to converse with the Caltrans personnel. There was no way for people effectively to communicate their ideas and concerns, other than writing them on provided “response cards.”

Fortunately, Charlie Fielder, Director of District 1, which includes Mendocino, arrived about 15 minutes after the workshop started. He apparently realized the failings of the planned informal meeting. He stood at the front of the room, got people’s attention and explained the situation with the bridges, how Caltrans would go about developing plans, and a rough timeline. He then opened the floor to questions and comments. He got quite a few.

His main points were:

·         Both the Albion and Salmon Creek Bridges have safety and functionality scores that make them candidates for replacement. There are no immediate safety concerns, but substantial ongoing maintenance is required.

·      The specific safety issues with the Salmon Creek Bridge were not specified.

·      The Albion Bridge has a steel truss across the center section that is sufficiently corroded that replacement in the not-too-distant future is required. The truss section was salvaged from an existing bridge (apparently in Oregon) because of the scarcity of steel during WW II when the bridge was built.

·      The wooden timbers in the Albion Bridge are in good condition.

·      The existing bridges are “functionally obsolete.” When asked what this meant, Mr. Fielder explained that they do not meet current standards in terms of shoulder width and railing design. He also mentioned that they would like to have a pedestrian walkway to accommodate the Coastal Trail.

·      Among the proposed alternatives presented for both the Albion and Salmon Creek bridges was a concrete arch bridge very similar in design to the original concrete arch bridges built in many places along Hwy 1, including Russian Gulch.

·      Caltrans is in the early stages of a complex and long process. It will be many years, perhaps 6 to 10 years, before construction begins. However, the planning process is under way. Personnel are assigned and working now on preparing initial studies and plans and environmental reports.  [It would be a grave error to relax and not worry because the final outcome is five or more years away. The nature of what is to be done is going to be determined within the next year or so. If you are concerned, you need to stay involved. Vince]

Mr. Fielder opened the floor for comments and questions. His answers to some of the questions are in the points above.

The major expressed sentiment of the gathering was that the Albion is unique, historical, and desirable.

·         People’s first choice would be to repair the present bridge and add a pedestrian crossing.

o      According to one person in the crowd, a road closure of about two weeks would be required to accomplish replacing the steel center section.

o     It was suggested that a temporary bridge could be built down on the flats (where an earlier bridge existed) to use in this period. Large vehicles might need to go around via Hwy 20 for this period.

o     Mr. Fielder said that repair was appealing to him because it would cost much less. He suggested that perhaps it might be possible to replace the steel section and the road surface and add a pedestrian crossing. He made on commitments about this, and it unclear whether repair is among the alternatives formally being considered.

·      If the bridge cannot be repaired:

o        some people wanted to see the existing bridge retained as bicycle and pedestrian crossing

o         Albion residents clearly favored building a new bridge to the west of the existing bridge.

Albion residents also expressed concern about the 50 mph sign at the south of the bridge, which encourages people unfamiliar with the terrain to speed up on the bridge – only to meet a 90 degree turn at the far end, a turn which all too often is not successfully made. Mr. Fielder promised that his staff would look into it and either remove it or replace it with more cautionary signage.


Caltrans is serious in wanting to listen and respond to the concerns of the affected coastal residents. It has learned from past experience that the Coastal Commission, which needs to approve all construction permits in the coastal zone, is very responsive to local desires to protect coastal resources. The Albion community can have a large influence on the development of plans for the bridge projects. To do this successfully, it must continue to stay in close contact with the Caltrans project managers and other staff. It must respond to materials and proposals made by Caltrans in a timely manner.

 Vince Taylor

Informational panels and handouts from the open house are reproduced at a Caltrans Website