A new life for Modesto’s Lion Bridge?

10/11/2013 7:08 PM

10/12/2013 12:06 AM

The Seventh Street Bridge has been a vital link between Modesto and the county’s West Side for decades, with about 15,000 cars a day driving the span across the Tuolumne River.

The nearly century-old, concrete-and-steel structure remains one of Stanislaus County’s busier bridges, but it is showing its age.

The roughly 1,100-foot-long bridge is two lanes with no shoulders and narrow sidewalks. Officials say the bridge is safe but add that it ranks at the bottom of the California Department of Transportation’s sufficiency ratings – a 2 on a scale of 0 to 100 – among all bridges in Caltrans District 10, which encompasses the Northern San Joaquin Valley and central Sierra.

“It’s done really well for as long as it’s been there,” Stanislaus County senior civil engineer David Leamon said. “People crossed that bridge on horse and buggy when it opened.”

The county and the city are partners on a project that will modernize or replace the Seventh Street Bridge, which Leamon said was constructed in the Beaux Arts architectural style in 1916. The bridge features elegant arches and is commonly known as the Lion Bridge because of the pair of concrete lions that stand guard on each side.

Officials will hold their first public meeting on the project Monday at the King-Kennedy Memorial Center, 601 S. Martin Luther King Drive, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Officials will describe the bridge’s problems, answer questions and take input from the public.

“We understand the significance of the bridge and how it represents a moment in time,” Leamon said.

Officials will meet with the public in January or February to discuss potential solutions. Leamon said no decisions have been made, but options include:

• Refurbishing and widening the bridge.
• Refurbishing the bridge, building another one parallel to it and using both of them, with traffic traveling in one direction on each bridge.
• Razing and replacing the bridge with a new one.

Leamon said the new structure would be more than double the width of the 36-foot-wide Seventh Street Bridge, with four lanes, shoulders and wide sidewalks.

He estimates the project would cost $32 million to $40 million, depending on which option is chosen. He said local officials expect 88percent of the funding to come from the federal government’s highway bridge program; Modesto and Stanislaus County each would pay 6percent of the project’s cost.

Eighty-five percent of the bridge is in the city’s jurisdiction, with 15 percent in the county’s.

The county is the lead agency on the project, and Leamon is project manager. He said environmental studies for the project should be completed in 2015.

Leamon estimates it would take two years to buy the property for the project, with construction starting in 2017 or 2018. Construction should take about two more years.

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