FORT BRAGG, 3/7/23 — For this article, Caltrans District 1 spokesperson Manny Machado answered questions about Mendocino Coast bridge repair and replacement projects. The answers came in after the first article by The Mendocino Voice on the Pudding Creek bridge had come out. The answers add considerable understanding to why the project is being done and how Caltrans prioritizes its projects. The article is presented in question and answer format. See Pudding Creek bridge-widening project underway for the most recent article on the Pudding Creek project where other answers were given and the project given a full profile. The following is a list of all the Caltrans projects.
The Mendocino Voice is still waiting on some bridge Inspection reports. The Albion River Bridge inspection report filed in 2021 is linked at the end of this Q&A.
Mendocino Voice: Why were the Pudding Creek and Jack Peters projects prioritized over others? (Four bridges were initially identified for crumbling concrete railings.)
Manny Machado: A project was initiated in 2002 to upgrade the bridge rail and widen Little River Bridge, Jack Peters Creek Bridge , Russian Gulch Bridge , and Pudding Creek Bridge . These bridges were identified in the Structures Replacement Improvement Needs Report as having deficient bridge rails and listed as eligible for rail upgrades. A Project Scope Summary Report (Bridge Rail Replacement and Upgrade) was approved in 2011 to fund technical studies for these four bridges. During these studies, it was determined that the Little River Bridge and Russian Gulch Bridge would need to be seismically retrofitted as part of the widening and rail upgrade work. The Little River Bridge and Russian Gulch Bridge were removed from the project, so they could be reprogrammed for the additional seismic retrofit work. Jack Peters Creek Bridge and Pudding Creek Bridge were seismically retrofitted in 1997 and 1998, respectively. These two bridges have a remaining life expectancy of approximately 70 years and are appropriate bridge candidates for widening and rail upgrades.
I recall reading in inspection reports from years ago that the Pudding Creek ridge could be threatened by collapse in the event of a super high-water event or the collapse of Pudding Creek dam. Has anything been done to deal with that possibility?
We have evaluated the potential risks to the Pudding Creek Bridge during severe flooding events and have confirmed that there are no issues. The bridge abutments including the superstructure are higher than the 200-year flood elevation. Expected flood elevations are documented on the bridge foundation plan sheet.
Is Pudding Creek Bridge a tsunami risk because of its low height and elevation compared to other coast bridges?
The Pudding Creek bridge is not considered at risk due to tsunamis. Maximum wave heights due to tsunami are expected to be lower than the bottom of the abutment footings and superstructure as described in our hydraulic reports.
At one time, Caltrans had the Albion and Salmon Creek as the two bridges needing action soonest. What has become of those?
The Albion River Bridge Project and Salmon Creek Bridge Project are currently both in the Project Approval/Environmental Document (PAED) phase. During this phase, each project undergoes analysis to create an environmental document. The present schedule shows project approval at the end of 2024 for the Albion River Bridge, and the end of 2027 for the Salmon Creek Bridge. Both projects are following Caltrans policies and procedures that involve a public comment period once a draft environmental document is released. (Project Manager Katie Everett is in charge of the two controversial Albion projects.)
What is the next of the bridges on the Mendocino coast (Elk to Westport) that need to be upgraded or replaced?
The following bridge projects are currently programmed for work. There are no other bridge projects from Elk to Westport that are currently programmed for funding.
- Elk Creek Bridge Replacement
- Salmon Creek Bridge Replacement
- Albion River Bridge Replacement
- Jack Peters Creek Bridge Widening and Rail Upgrade
- Hare Creek Bridge Rail Upgrade
- Pudding Creek Bridge Widening and Rail Upgrade
More about the Caltrans process and projects can be found here:Project Delivery | Caltrans
Albion River Bridge 2021 Inspection reportalbion-10-0136-bridge-inspection-reports-2020-2021-dor-1-scaled.jpg
What’s in the report?
The Albion River Bridge replacement project has been highly controversial in the community. Caltrans plans to hold public meetings before a 2024 hoped- for project approval. Key problems with the bridge are the endlessly rusting nuts and bolts. Locals have told Caltrans that they could use stainless steel nuts and save money in the long run. This report shows 5000 nut and bolt sets were replaced after the previous inspection. They have used galvanized nuts and bolts for decades .The 2022 and 2023 inspection report might indicate how this has been addressed and this question answered. Critics say the bridge used better nuts and bolts until recently.
“During the Climb inspection performed on 5/15/2012, it was discovered that, on average, approximately 50 to 70% of the nuts had failed due to corrosion from the marine environment. Due to the amount of labor and connections needing replacement, a maintenance contract was put out to bid to replace the majority of the corroded bolts and nuts. There were approximately 5,000 bolts with nuts that needed replacement, 2,500 to 3,500 of which had failed.” In 2016, Maintenance was completed which replaced approximately 80% of all of the bolts and nuts throughout the substructure. None of the bolted connections of the superstructure were addressed. In addition, rotted and decaying horizontal scabs located between the trestle columns were filled with an epoxy system which filled any rotted voids present in the members. Another project is planned for November 2021 to replace the remaining corroded substructure bolts in these spans.
The inspection report also showed chemical leaching and insect infestations in the timbers that may result in changes to load capacity. Newer inspection reports can help with this. (See report for details)