Raising Foresthill Bridge railing to cause traffic delays

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Expect some construction-caused delays traveling over the Foresthill Bridge starting late this month, Placer County officials are advising motorists. Starting near the end of February, traffic on the two-lane span will be reduced to one lane for short periods. Vehicle and pedestrian traffic on the bridge will be switched from one side to the other as work on a raised pedestrian railing takes place. The bridge railing along both the north and south sides of the half-mile-long deck is one of the first stages in what will amount to a three-year, $74.7 million project. The bulk of the work involves a seismic retrofit and repainting. The county is also warning that no parking will be permitted on the side of Foresthill Road where railing replacement is taking place. The “no parking” rule is intended to prevent motorists from parking on one side of the road and then crossing traffic on foot to get to the other, open side of the bridge. Golden State Bridge, the Bay Area contractor with the $57 million construction contract on the project, has already installed fencing at staging areas on both sides of the bridge. As a result, motorists will be required to park in pullout areas farther from the bridge. The cost of the project and height of the railing have both sparked controversy. Gerda Percival, a Foresthill resident, said she’d keep the railing the same height. Others have suggested the railing needs to be even higher to prevent more suicides and keep people from throwing things off the span. “It doesn’t need to be fenced up,” Percival said. “And I believe in maintenance and retrofitting but I think the price tag is outrageous. This is unreal in this economy.” While the funds for the bridge are dedicated for retrofits only and would go to another project if Placer doesn’t use them, local leaders mused in a Sunday Auburn Journal editorial page survey on how far $70 million or so would go with them. Auburn Union Elementary School District Board President Daniel Berlant, for instance, said that even a small portion could restore programs and reduce class sizes. Auburn Mayor Bill Kirby theorized a $70 million windfall could pave every street in the city that is overdue for resurfacing. And Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery, while noting that the federal money is locked in to bridge funding, said that if it weren’t, top priorities would include increasing public safety, health and human services and schools funding. While the project will not result in new bike lanes, the middle section will be filled in to create 8-foot shoulders on the bridge, in addition to 5-foot sidewalks. Other work passersby are expected to see in coming weeks includes strengthening bridge abutments at both ends and installing work platforms on the underside of the bridge.