May 2010 home page


Bridging the Pass
Dave Druker | 11th Street

North Torrey Pines Bridge.  Courtesy City of Del Mar.



The final chapter of the retrofit of the North Torrey Pines Bridge is about to begin. Construction is expected to start in September 2010 and will last about 18 months. The council recently approved a contract with Simon Wong Engineering for Construction Engineering Support Services and T.Y.LIN International for Construction Management and Inspection Services. Finally, CalTrans has approved funding at $23,773,000 to complete the retrofit.

With this approval of the funding, the City of Del Mar will embark on the largest public works project in its history and will not pay for any portion of the construction out of city funds. Once the bridge is fully retrofitted, the North Torrey Pines Bridge will lose its distinction as the bridge with the highest probability of failing in a major earthquake. Del Mar did need to pay 20% of the design costs.

In 1996, Del Mar designated the Torrey Pines Bridge “ Historic”, thwarting the efforts of the City of San Diego to create a much larger modernistic bridge. By 2000, the City of San Diego had agred to sell its portion of the bridge to Del Mar for the sum of one dollar. Of course some people still wonder why the old bridge was not just torn down and replaced with a new bridge, citing cost and longevity. The retrofitted bridge will last at least 75 more years and withstand any major earthquake. A replacement bridge might not have been environmentally feasible because moving the bridge eastward would have encroached into sensitive wetlands, while moving the bridge westward would have encroached into the beach and might not have provided sufficient span height for the trains using the railroad tracks. Finally, a new bridge would have cost just as much as the retrofit.

The City of Del Mar has gone through a long process to get to this final chapter. A citizen’s advisory panel was set up to guide the design of the retrofit. Much of the length of this process has been due to changing rules by CalTrans and changing state and federal funding requirements. Ultimately, the city will have a beautiful bridge that is earthquake safe without having to spend its own funds that are needed for many other capital projects.



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