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The Buckhorn

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Winters Express
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New Bridge Dedicated


By DEBRA DeANGELO
Express editor
No package is finished without a pretty bow, and in the case of the new car bridge over Putah Creek, the bow came in the form of a long ceremonial red ribbon, cut by oversized scissors held by Senator Lois Wolk, flanked by local and regional officials who were involved in the project.
Erin Hannigan, chair of the Solano County Board of Supervisors served as emcee for the gathering, held behind the Community Center on Friday, May 6. Before any of the accolades and commentary began, Hannigan called for a moment of silence following the Pledge of Allegiance to remember the two Disney Construction workers killed while on the job at the bridge site in May 2014: Marcus Zane Powell, 25, of Redding, and Glenn Hodgson, 49, of Richmond.
Hannigan then acknowledged dignitaries in the audience, and noted that the bridge joins two counties and “took multiple agencies to bring to fruition,” calling the new bridge a “symbol of collaboration amongst government agencies.” In particular, she said that Solano County, the City of Winters and the California Department of Transportation were the main players in the $12.2 million project that broke ground in Sept. 2013, replacing the car bridge originally built in 1907 that had exceeded its lifespan.
Mayor Cecilia Aguiar-Curry came to the podium next, recalling that when her family moved here in 1957, “the old bridge was our welcome mat.”
“Now we have a new welcome mat,” she said, taking some time to outline the planning that went into the bridge before it broke ground, going back to 2000 when funding was sought for the project. She noted that the funding fell through three times before finally being secured.
“It’s a bridge of destiny,” she said, then invited Mayor Pro Tem Woody Fridae to comment further.
Fridae had praise for City Manager John Donlevy, who he said was “more than any other individual responsible for keeping the focus on the bridge.” He also commended city staff Nick Ponticello, Carol Scianna, Alan Mitchell for their work, as well as Solano County staff, and Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor and Senator Lois Wolk, both of whom made calls to the right people when funding for the bridge appeared to be falling through.
Fridae further noted that 10 city council members voted on some aspect of this project over the years, and also mentioned the support of former Yolo County Supervisor Duane Chamberlain.
Solano County Supervisor John Vasquez noted that the dedication ceremony was taking place “two years, eight months and one day” from breaking ground and said the bridge was symbolic.
“I don’t know what makes this spot so special between our counties, but it is,” said Vasquez, adding that this new bridge will serve many generations to come. He said 100 years from now, when people return to celebrate the bridge, that he hoped those people “will celebrate how important it was and still is for these two counties to remain closely connected.”
Wolk also offered words of remembrance for the workers killed, as well as their families, and reminded the audience that the men and women who work on these sort of construction projects “risk their safety in order to provide safety for us.” Like others before her, Wolk emphasized the collaboration that took place to make the bridge project happen, from the city to the federal level, and listed each one.
Amongst those agencies was CalTrans, and Jean Finney, department director for Caltrans District 4, which participated in the project even though Winters is technically in District 3, said, “It takes a team to build a bridge that connects our towns and counties, and it takes a team effort to get $17 million in funding to build the bridge. She extended appreciation to Caltrans, Solano County and City of Winters staff for their hard work and cooperation, and expressed satisfaction with the finished product.
“The Winters bridge is a project we should all be proud of,” said Finney. “Let’s continue to build bridges physically and metaphorically for our communities and our families.”
Saylor also had a turn at the microphone, expressing affection for “this beautiful little creek” over which the bridge spans, and of the cooperative effort required to build it, “It couldn’t happen anywhere but here.” He also predicted that the bridge will last much longer than the last one, with a much more sturdy foundation now, and noted that crossing the bridge will become a daily part of life for everyone from visitors to cyclists to farmers to children on school buses.
On behalf of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors, Saylor said, “We’re so happy to be able to represent our county and collaborate with the other agencies — we build bridges, not walls.”
With that, the officials and dignitaries gathered on the bridge for the official ribbon cutting, followed by a reception on the Community Center lawn coordinated by the City of Winters and catered by The Buckhorn.
When the project began, the projected cost was estimated to be between $12-15, the bulk of funding coming from the Federal Highway Bridge Program ($15.3 million), as well as $200,000 from Solano County and the City of Winters each. According to City Manager John Donlevy, the final cost of the bridge was close to $17, with actual construction costing approximately $12 million, and the remainder spent on environmental studies and engineering.
The old bridge that came down last year was built in 1907-08, and cost $50,000 to build and took six months to construct. It was the longest reinforced arch span bridge in California at that time, and served as a major economic link between Yolo County and the San Francisco Bay area in the early 20th Century. Replacement of the bridge was necessary because the footings of its foundation in Putah Creek were degrading.
The old bridge had three spans, and was 445 feet long and 24 feet wide. The new one has five spans, and is 475 feet long and 40.5 feet wide. It also has a pedestrian sidewalk, two “belvederes” or landings for standing and viewing the creek, and pedestrian lighting.