The Santa Fe bridge sits in the shadow of a Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad trestle south of Highway 132 near Empire. It's a narrow, two-lane bridge spanning the Tuolumne River along Santa Fe Avenue.
Built in 1947, the bridge is seeing increasing traffic and needs to be brought up to seismic standards and widened to five lanes.
The Tim Bell Road bridge dates to 1915 and crosses Dry Creek in a bucolic farm setting north of Waterford. Supported by wooden beams, the bridge's asphalt surface covers a corrugated metal roadbed. It doesn't see much traffic, but it is expensive to maintain, and county officials believe it needs to be replaced.
Both bridges are on a list of ten that would benefit from the half-cent sales tax increase on the November ballot.
The ballot measure would raise $700 million over 20 years for transportation projects for the cities and the county. Half that money would go to three major east-west corridors, and the rest would be divided among the cities and the county.
The county's share would be about $78 million over the 20 years, or about $3.9 million a year. Using the money as matching funds for state and federal grants could garner the county $213.2 million for road maintenance, bridge work and traffic congestion relief projects, according to a county staff report.
The Board of Supervisors recently approved a list of new traffic signal sites, roads that need widening and bridges to be worked on with the sales tax proceeds.
The list is very specific in an effort to win over voters. The ballot measure needs a two-thirds majority to pass, and a similar measure failed on the November 2006 ballot.
The list of projects that need to be done is far longer than the sales tax list, county public works director Matt Machado said.
The county has about 30 bridges that need work, Machado said, but just 10 are on the sales tax list.
"We just had to stop where the money stopped," he said.
The projects were chosen based on priorities, Machado said. The signal locations, for instance, are chosen based on traffic counts, accidents and delays at intersections around the county. Road widening projects are based on where the worst congestion appears, and bridges are chosen based on which are in the worst condition.
The sales tax revenue would allow the county to resurface an additional 47.5 miles of road a year. That's in addition to the regular resurfacing program, which resurfaced 106 miles last year and is projected to resurface 125 miles this year.
While the amount of money raised might seem large, road work is expensive. Putting in a traffic signal, with road widening and turn lanes, costs $1.7 million, Machado said. Widening a road with additional lanes, shoulders and drainage work costs $1 million a mile, and resurfacing costs $100,000 a mile, he said.
The work would be done over the 20-year life of the sales tax, so that Santa Fe bridge, for instance, is scheduled for 2014, while the Tim Bell Road bridge isn't contemplated until 2024.
All the work on the list and more will eventually get done with or without the sales tax, Machado said, but it will take a lot longer without the additional revenue.
Bee staff writer Tim Moran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2349.