Old Town Temecula’s Main Street Bridge opened for traffic for the first time during a ceremony on Thursday, May 8, and city officials touted the completion of the year-long project as a grand accomplishment for the city.
The facilitation of the 155-foot steel truss structure began more than one year ago in April of 2013, when officials associated with the project first started to tear down the seven panel concrete bridge that was there since 1945.
The project – which was funded through a federal grant – allowed city officials to re-imagine the bridge and come up with a design that fit better with the current character Old Town.
Approximately $7 million went to equipping the bridge with rustic steel trusses, planters, ornate lighting and pillars. The funding also allowed for the extension of walking paths on the side of the bridge.
In addition to the nuts and bolts of the bridge there were many embellishments, and these included ornate grape and leaf panels decorating the pedestrian handrails as well as French stamping on the bridge’s concrete areas.
However, the bridge project did have its difficulties. While the completion date was originally scheduled for March, the actual completion date and opening of the bridge came much later.
Project Manager John Salazar said construction went smoothly for the most part but that there were some challenges.
The biggest challenge, he said, was replacing underground concrete pilings with steel ones.
Amer Attar, lead engineer with the City of Temecula, said that part of the reason the pilings had to be replaced was the soil located under the bridge.
“There were two problems going on,” Attar said. “One was that the pile driving operation conflicted with some of the wires, so we had to replace those wires. But also, I think the type of soil in that area necessitated a different kind of piling.”
Attar said another difficulty was that there were some bad weather days that made the area too wet to work as well as conflicts with regard to some of the utilities.
But in spite of those difficulties, the project was completed and Salazar said he was happy with the end result.
“Once that was solved, everything above ground went smoothly,” Salazar said. “Granite Construction is a great contractor; this was a very positive experience.”
City officials were in attendance at the ceremony and were the very first individuals to drive their cars on the bridge. Mayor Maryann Edwards, Mayor Pro-tem Jeff Comerchero and Councilman Mike Naggar lined up their cars and took the first ceremonial drive across the bridge to a cheering crowd.
During a ribbon cutting portion of the ceremony, Mayor Edwards shared some of Temecula’s history. She spoke of rains in 1993 and 2005, the former of which washed out parts of Old Town.
The heavy rains were motivation for city officials to get moving on the facilitation of a new bridge, which Edwards said looked great.
“This is a beautiful gateway from the west into Old Town,” she said. “A terrific statement on this 25th anniversary of the City of Temecula.”
But it wasn’t just area residents and city officials that were excited about the new bridge. Local businesses were excited, too.
One example was Pennypickle’s Workshop. The popular childrens’ hands-on science workshop is the first business on the left coming off the bridge into Old Town.
“We’re very excited for this opening,” said Debbie Nelson, a manager at Pennypickle’s. “We have been watching it under construction for the past year. It will bring lots of traffic into Old Town.”