The Los Alamos Road bridge over Interstate 15 will stay open during upcoming construction, the Murrieta City Council decided Tuesday.
Faced with the option of tearing the bridge down and replacing it, Council voted 3-0 to keep one lane operating in each direction during the $6.7-million project. Public safety was cited as a deciding factor.
The city's police and fire chiefs were on hand to answer questions Council members had. Councilwoman Kelly Bennett asked how closing the bridge would affect response times.
"As fire chief I would have some fairly grave concerns if we lost fire access across that bridge," said Murrieta fire Chief Matt Shobert. "...If we were to eliminate that bridge for a number of months, it would negatively impact our ability to provide service on either side of the freeway."
Firefighter/paramedic Dean Hale pointed out that three engines are located on the east side of Interstate 15, and two on the west.
The project—approved as part of the city's capital improvements plan—will widen the bridge, adding a lane in each direction. The bridge also has to be raised to meet new California Department of Transportation standards for clearance.
Replacing the bridge entirely would have saved the city approximately $260,000 and would have been completed one and a half months sooner, according to City Engineer and Public Works Director Pat Thomas.
Mayor Doug McAllister and Councilman Randon Lane abstained from the vote due to a conflict of interest; McAllister because he has worked for Verizon in the last 12 months, and Lane because he currently works for Southern California Gas Company.
Utility lines from both companies will need to be relocated for the bridge work. If the bridge were to be replaced, the gas line would need to be relocated to beneath the freeway. Verizon copper and FIOS lines would have to be moved to a temporary location.
While city staff recommended the phased project, Thomas said a study into whether closing the bridge would adversely affect traffic showed Murrieta Hot Springs and California Oaks road could handle the temporary extra flow. The study showed about half of the 10,700 daily travelers across the bridge would be almost evenly distributed among the two roadways. However, it would also increase traffic on Madison Avenue between the two major roads.
The project will not start until the work on the California Oaks Road/Interstate 15 interchange is complete, which Thomas has said is slated for fall. Thomas has said the Los Alamos bridge project could be completed within 15 months after it starts.
But funding could be a factor, as the project is among those planned under the Murrieta Redevelopment Agency. The City Council voted to dissolve the agency Tuesday after a recent California Supreme Court ruling that upheld Legislature bills targeting redevelopment agencies. The city instead will set up a Murrieta Housing Authority as the redevelopment successor agency.