Diggin’ it: Officials, community gather to celebrate groundbreaking of Winters bridge project

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You have to build a lot of bridges to make a project happen, and in this case, it’s an actual bridge.

Over and over again, officials gathered Thursday at the official groundbreaking ceremony for the new car bridge over Putah Creek near downtown Winters offered praise for the many government and private bodies that worked together to create the bridge project and to finance it.

It wasn’t 12 years of “kumbaya” that made it happen, however, noted Winters City Manager John Donlevy.

“It hasn’t been all love getting to this point. It was difficult,” he said. “Sometimes it’s not pretty how we get across a finish line, but we get there.”

Although Donlevy said that at one point last year, the entire projected was “almost dead,” he said “tenacious effort” paid off.

“Our success has always been our ability to leverage the assets of our friends,” he said, and noted in particular the “Solano County team,” city staff and the Sacramento Area Council of Governments.

With all the ripples behind them and expected smooth sailing ahead, Donlevy declared the occasion “an absolutely awesome day for us.”

Donlevy said a temporary bridge will be constructed in 2014, followed by demolition of the old one. Completion of the new bridge is expected in 2015, at a cost of $15.3 million. The bulk of the funding comes from the federal highway bridge program, with $200,000 coming from Solano County and Winters.

The old bridge was built in 1907-08 at a cost of $50,000. 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 is necessary because the footings of its foundation in Putah Creek are degrading.

The old bridge has three spans, and is 445 feet long and 24 feet wide. The new one will have five spans, and will be 475 feet long and 40.5 feet wide. The new bridge also will have a pedestrian sidewalk, two “belvederes” or landings for standing and viewing the creek, and pedestrian lighting.

Linda Seifert, who chairs the Solano County Board of Supervisors, pointed out that when the car bridge was built a century ago, it opened up the Winters area as a center of commerce. She added that the new bridge will reflect the style of the old one.

“It will be very similar, in a much more modern and contemporary way,” Seifert said.

Winters Mayor Cecilia Aguiar-Curry recalled fond memories of the bridge as she grew up, and how it has served as a welcome mat to Winters and Solano County. In fact, she said, when she arrived in Winters as a child, the bridge was her own welcome mat.

“But just like any welcome mat, there comes a day when you need to replace it,” said Aguiar-Curry, describing the bridge as “a beautiful form of history that has offered fabulous memories for our community.” From memories to anticipation, she said, as now the community can look forward to the ribbon-cutting on the finished project in 2015.

Solano County Supervisor John Vasquez was among the officials taking a turn to offer their thoughts, and emphasized the importance of the railroad trestle bridge and car bridge in opening up lines of commerce between Yolo County and the Bay Area. He emphasized the importance of Yolo and Solano counties working together on this project, and said the bridge will be “a man-made symbol that links the common land, the resources and our counties.”

Like Donlevy, state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, noted there were some hairy moments when it appeared that funding secured by Rep. Mike Thompson, who formerly represented the Winters area, was in danger of falling through. Ultimately, however, Thompson prevented that from happening, and Wolk commended him for that.

 

“It was a good week for the state,” noted Wolk, referring to that other bridge that was celebrated in the Bay Area on Sept. 2. She noted that preparation for the bridge construction in Winters was “a lot faster and a lot cheaper.”

She reiterated Vasquez’s comments on the bridge as a symbol of connections between farmland and the economy and sang the praises of changes that have taken place in Winters over the past few years, and complimented the efforts of Winters city staff.

“Look what’s happened to this entire area around here,” she said. “City of Winters — you were the engine for this. You should be so very proud of what you’ve put together.”

Added Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, “It really takes cooperation amongst many different bodies of government and community partnerships to make a project like this happen.” She added Caltrans and the state and federal fish and wildlife agencies to the list that had a hand in making the project happen.

 

 

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