The City of Santa Monica and Caltrans released a recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Report / Environmental Assessment for the Santa Monica Pier Bridge Replacement Project, signaling the next step in long-awaited (long, long) plans for rebuild the ruined bridge.
If and when it’s finally complete, the new bridge connecting the Santa Monica Pier to Ocean Avenue will be designed to last 75 years, improve bicycle and pedestrian access, preserve the historic character of the pier, provide vehicular access and emergency personnel and protect visual Resources.
It will also be considered seismically sound, which the current 83-year-old bridge, built by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration, certainly is not.
“The deficiencies make it very difficult for the existing bridge to withstand a major earthquake without sustaining significant damage to the columns and potentially threatening the overall integrity of the bridge,” according to the RIE project. “In addition, the bridge has cracked, delaminated, and broken concrete in many places along the bridge, exposing the reinforcing steel to both salt water and air and accelerating corrosion. The bridge existing is seismically deficient and its condition is physically deteriorated.”
On a seismic adequacy scale of one to 100, bridges rated below 50 are eligible for federal funding. In July 2018, already more than four years ago, the Pier bridge had a rating of 17, “well below the threshold for financial support of the RAP”.
Current plans have been in the works since 2017, according to this version of the draft from RIE, but Daily Press reports over the past two decades show City Hall has worked intermittently to replace the Pier Bridge for nearly 30 years; this iteration is the closest the project has come to breaking new ground.
There are three options for how to proceed.
Alternative 1 would demolish the current structure and replace it with an “in-kind” bridge, retaining the bridge’s current length and slope, but widening it by about six feet to the south.
Alternative 2 is the same, but would see the north side of the bridge widened by 20 feet rather than the south side.
Alternative 3 is a “no-build alternative” leaving the seismically deficient structure in place, but, according to a report attached to the RIE draft, “the existing bridge would continue to fail current seismic standards and would not fit not adequately and safely users during peak periods Essentially not an option, but rather a “baseline against which the performance and potential environmental impacts of Alternatives 1 and 2 are measured “.
Agencies are under pressure to get the project off the ground as the pier plays a vital role in the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
“In the near future, the proposed Pier Bridge project is expected to be completed before the 2028 Summer Olympics, when the beach will be used for volleyball and surfing events,” according to the RIE project. “This would contribute to a large, albeit temporary, increase in visitation to historic resources within the [area].”
The Santa Monica Pier, which just turned 113, is currently home to Pacific Park amusement park, several restaurants and businesses, the historic Looff Racecourse, Heal the Bay Aquarium, fishing platforms and ample parking. The lot, which has been restricted to access since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been the target of some in the city who would like to see it permanently closed.
In response to questions about the prospect of permanently removing vehicle parking from the pier bridge, city staff pointed out that the move would require California Coastal Commission approval, which was not sought; Regardless, for safety reasons, the new Pier Bridge should provide vehicular access even if parking is permanently suspended.
“Due to the need for emergency and delivery vehicles to access businesses, the Pier Bridge will still support vehicular traffic, even if [it] were to be closed to the circulation of public vehicles”, according to the draft of RIE.
The bridge is eligible for full replacement with federal funding, due to its seismic deficiency. The draft EIR does not provide cost analysis or budget information, but Santa Monica officials estimated the cost at $8 million 12 years ago in August 2010. By 2021, that estimate had skyrocketed up to $27,225,000.
A 49-day public comment period began on Thursday, September 22 and will run until 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 10. Comments, which will be on the public record, may be directed to Santa Monica Civil Engineer Omeed Pour, PE, at 1685 Main Street, Mail Stop 15, Santa Monica, or [email protected]
A public hearing is scheduled for Thursday, October 13 at 6:30 p.m. in the Santa Monica Institute Training Room, 330 Olympic Drive, Santa Monica.