Wednesday, April 23, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
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County eyes new bridges

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From page A1 | February 12, 2014 | 10 Comments

PAT_2401

THE BUCKS BAR bridge over the North Fork of the Cosumnes River is slated for replacement. Democrat file photo by Pat Dollins

The Feb. 4 Board of Supervisors afternoon agenda focused on the “bridges of El Dorado County” — specifically Mt. Murphy and Bucks Bar bridges. Both are elements of the county’s Capital Improvement Program, and both need a lot of improvement.

Matt Smeltzer, deputy director for engineering at the Department of Transportation, laid out the case for using federal funding to rehabilitate or replace both of the structures, and sooner rather than later. Mt. Murphy Road Bridge crosses the South Fork of the American River at Coloma, while Bucks Bar spans the Cosumnes River’s North Fork just west of Somerset. It is the main access road to the South County wineries and other tourist destinations.

Federal Highway Administration funds could provide 100 percent of the money to replace the Mt. Murphy bridge and 88.5 percent for the Bucks Bar project, Smeltzer said. The difference is based on the degree of “sufficiency” of each. The former is rated at “0″ out of 100 points, while the latter scores a “72″ on the same scale. The federal program is based almost exclusively on safety concerns that must be addressed in order to qualify for and receive the funding, he said.

Supervisors voted unanimously to accept the DOT recommendation to “dismiss” any further study of rehabilitating the Mt. Murphy bridge and to proceed on a contract with CH2MHill, an engineering consultant that has worked with the county several times. The vote, in effect, scraps any notions of trying to keep the bridge as a viable structure to provide the service for which it was intended. Built earlier but replaced in 1915 and renovated in 1931, the bridge’s ratings combine “structural deficiency and structural obsolescence,” which account for the sufficiency score of zero.

Smeltzer described a DOT analysis suggesting that 80-85 percent of the “bridge’s members would have to be replaced” and that the work would further require motorists to use a more-than-20-mile detour. He also calculated a price tag ranging from $6.5 million to $14.2 million, all of which would be borne by the county, because it would be impossible to upgrade the bridge to the federal program standards, he said. In addition to FHWA standards, he said the work would also have to meet approval by the California State Historical Preservation Office. Timelines for rehabilitation and replacement would be about the same, three to three and a half years before the project could be let out to bid. Smeltzer noted that design and environmental work along with acquisition of rights of way would take that long for either project.

The board’s vote initiates Phase 1B of the project, which involves a “full alternatives analysis and environmental documentation to replace Mt. Murphy Road Bridge,” according to board documents. Supervisor Brian Veerkamp added a caveat to his motion to accept the DOT recommendations. If financially and structurally feasible, the county would like to retain the old structure as a pedestrian/cycling bridge. The span connects visitors over the river to the Coloma Resort and to the Marshall Gold Discovery State Park but is not a part of either of those entities. Smeltzer noted that rehabbing the bridge for that purpose would cost the county about $1.7 million as federal funding would not cover that kind of work, but that project could retain the bridge within the state’s historical classification as the work would not be nearly as extensive as full rehabilitation.

Former DOT engineer and current president of the county’s Historical Society Kris Payne advised that “you have a problem with the weight limit” and suggested the county repost signage to lower the maximum weight allowed over the bridge. He also noted that building a new bridge on the exact location could pose significant problems in the state park by jeopardizing sensitive buildings which could not withstand the “vibrations” from heavy construction equipment. “We should be looking for a location for a new bridge,” he concluded.

Board Chairwoman Norma Santiago revisited an issue raised by Melody Lane, whose property adjoins the state park and is directly affected by the bridge and the road. Lane expressed grave concern for provision of an evacuation route that would allow residents to get out in case of fire or other emergency. She described an incident when a large recreational vehicle got stuck on the bridge temporarily preventing residents and emergency vehicles (had there been an emergency) from crossing the river. Santiago noted that an evacuation plan would have to be part of any analysis and future planning.

The one-lane bridge serves an average of 280 vehicles per day, according to a 2009 survey posted on the Website Bridgehunters.com. A 2010 actual traffic count described in a December presentation by the Measure Y Committee and Rural Communities United showed 302 trips. The deck is only 10.5 feet wide, at least five to eight feet less than modern standards for one lane, and Smeltzer noted that a pedestrian really has to “suck it in” when meeting a car on the bridge. Its height is 13.6 inches, about 15 to 18 inches less than a comparable bridge built today.

A decision on the Bucks Bar Road Bridge was not nearly as clearcut as that on the Mt. Murphy bridge. At 72 percent sufficiency, the bridge theoretically could stand for many more years, hence the lower percentage paid by the federal bridge program to improve its safety. One big difference between Bucks Bar and Mt. Murphy, however, is that Bucks Bar records an average of 4,200 vehicle trips a day. It is the primary route to and from the communities of Somerset, Mt. Aukum, Fair Play and Grizzly Flat. And as noted earlier, it is the advertised route for traffic from Highway 50 and State Route 49 to the several dozen wineries in the south county area.

DOT’s Smeltzer said the bridge has “lots of problems including hydraulic problems,” and flooding in 1997 “overtopped” the structure. Crossing the river at the bottom of a deep and steep canyon, Bucks Bar joins two sections of roadway noted for steep, twisty turns and slow speeds. And though Smeltzer said it’s officially considered a “major rural collector,” it is basically a typical country road.

The bridge deck is 19 feet wide and a sign at one end of the 70-foot span warns that “eastbound vehicles must yield to westbound vehicles.” It is therefore a one-lane bridge whose “existing road geometry roughly coincides with a 20 mph design speed,” according to DOT background information.

Recommending a full replacement and eventual demolition of the bridge, Smeltzer described a “40 mile-per-hour alignment” that would be 30 feet wide and 175 feet long (the old bridge is 135 feet in length). A new alignment would be slightly upstream from the existing bridge. And therein lies a problem the supervisors were unaware of.

Christopher Smith addressed the board during the public comment period Tuesday and announced that with the 40 mph alignment, “you’d be taking my house. (The bridge would go) through my house.”

He described the structure as his summer home whose construction “predates the 1940 bridge” and that “viability of private property” needs to be maintained. Smith further described himself as a resident in the Somerset-Mt. Aukum area, involved in nearby agribusiness and also a hydrologist. He said his concerns thus covered several areas. He also acknowledged that the bridge, “with 1.5 million cars a year, needs to be replaced.”

Next, Susan Jones and David Wright told supervisors that the recommended alignment would also take a portion of their property on the other side of the river from Smith’s. Jones called the 40-mph alignment like “lipstick on a pig,” while leaving the old bridge in place would eventually create an “attractive nuisance.” Wright told the board that he and Jones did not receive written notice about Tuesday’s meeting and urged supervisors to delay any decision on Bucks Bar until others from the neighborhood could participate in the discussion. He called for a “hard-nosed impartial analysis” and said he supported the 30 mph alternative.

Santiago later scolded Smeltzer for failing to bring the property owners’ information to the board’s attention much earlier.

Supervisor Ron Mikulaco, calculating 10 more years and 15 million vehicle trips on the bridge, said the recommended 40 mph alignment should “not be blocked by a little A-frame summer house. The county is for economic development and this is part of that. Do it right.” Mikulaco referred to the project as “a bridge too far,” (a World War II film about a gallant but failed Allied attempt to capture or destroy several bridges in the Netherlands). He continued with the same theme saying, “If we’re going to build a bridge, let’s do it right. We need to do it right,” while acknowledging that he is “sensitive to property rights.”

While no one urged “doing nothing,” speakers representing south county business interests cautioned against any project that would require closure of the bridge during construction. Randy Rossi of the Fair Play Winery Association said a detour through Pleasant Valley, while only adding a few minutes to the drive, would cause confusion to the public and a “significant impact to our businesses.”

Kris Payne questioned the seeming urgency of the issue and asked, “Is a decision today pertinent?” And “Is it necessary to the county? If so, do it. If not, don’t do it.” Payne also challenged some of the estimated expenses, noting that “construction easement costs” had not been included.

DOT documents show an estimate of $4.6 million (88.53 percent paid through the FWHA bridge program) and the balance made up from (federal) Regional Surface Transportation Program Exchange Funds.

A vote to send DOT staff back to continue studying alternatives passed 3-1. Mikulaco opposed. Supervisor Ray Nutting had voluntarily recused himself from both of the  bridge discussions, because they involve federal funding.

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Discussion | 10 comments

  • Melody LaneFebruary 12, 2014 - 8:12 am

    Below is the full transcript of the 2/11/14 BOS Open Forum submitted for the record by Melody Lane: * By now you are aware that one of the guiding principles of Compass2Truth is based on Ephesians 5:11 – “Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead expose them.” My purpose today is to address item #24 on last week’s agenda, the historic Mt. Murphy Bridge Project. Freedom is expressly guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution. This freedom is supposed to be used to expose government propaganda with truth and hold the government accountable. When the media largely just takes what the government says as fact and supports the point of view of Big Government, it causes government and politicians to be far less accountable and far more powerful. El Dorado County suffers from Mushroom Syndrome whereas government bureaucrats heap on the manure to keep citizens perpetually in the dark. Ethics and Brown Act violations by our civil servants are rampant. You may be familiar with the Marines motto: Mind over Matter. Week after week when it comes to responding to citizens the Board has demonstrated the attitude “We don’t mind and citizens don’t matter.” Yesterday I met with MGDP Superintendent Jeremy McReynolds. He loaned me a copy of the MGDSHP General Plan submitted to Gov. Gerry Brown in 1979. He also provided me a copy of the Mt. Murphy Road Bridge letter addressed to Sr. Planner Anne Novotny by CA State Parks District Superintendent Matt Green dated 4/4/13. This letter does not appear to be posted anywhere for the public to view…Mushroom Syndrome again? Last year when we met with Matt & Jeremy McReynolds they were given the DVD “Agenda: Grinding America Down”. That documentary addresses the issues of Mushroom Syndrome, useful idiots, and the Gestapo-style government tactics that are causing our nation to collapse from within. Some refer to it as BS--Bureaucratic Shenanigans--or bully tactics that are meant to intimidate the public into silent compliance and paving the highway to Socialism. Last week you’ll recall agenda Item #25 regarding Bucks Bar historic bridge when Chris Smith addressed his concerns about that bridge going through his home. Wanda Nagel also expressed similar concerns about the bridge project affecting her property. Now I ask you to recall my comments about CA State Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation used as a primary agency to grease the wheels of Agenda 21. We cannot permit citizen’s Constitutional rights to take second place to Eminent Domain & Big Government BS. These questions have remained unanswered for weeks, months and literally YEARS: 1. WHY is the Coloma Resort not held to the same government laws, codes, statutes & ordinances as anyone else? 2. WHY is the MGD Park & Chamber of Commerce given preferential treatment over the residents who are most adversely affected over the Mt. Murphy Bridge project? 3. WHAT is the emergency evacuation plan for residents landlocked by this CIP? 4. WHY has the county remained silent about easements “given away” as mentioned last year by Jack Sweeney? 5. WHY has Ron Mikulako’s name & photo been plastered on this bridge project? 6. WHY has Kim Kerr not responded yet to inquiries made over 2 years ago regarding this CIP? 7. WHY has the BOS allowed former county employee Kris Payne to exceed his limits and given his opinions greater consideration than the residents affected by the bridge projects? 8. WHEN will Mt. Murphy Road be properly maintained by DOT? 9. WHEN can residents commence DIALOG about this bridge project? 10. WHEN can we expect the 5/15/12 Agenda 21 Resolution to appear on the BOS agenda? 11. WHEN can we expect Supervisor Briggs to respond to District #4 constituents instead of giving preferential favors to his friends like Bill Center? Madam Chair, with all due respect, the Board has a fiduciary DUTY to address citizen concerns. To remain silent is to commit FRAUD in addition to violating your oath of office. So when DOES the public get the opportunity to address the BOS and WHEN exactly can we expect staff to respond to the aforementioned questions? Mr./Madam Clerk: I order you to enter these materials into the public record and post them to the Mt. Murphy Bridge Project: 1. This transcript (5 min. 5 sec.) 2. 2/4/14 transcript - Mt. Murphy Bridge 3. 4/3/13 Matt Green, CA State Parks letter 4. 5/15/12 Agenda 21 Resolution 5. CPRA – Employees covered under CSAC Bonding Ins.

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  • Melody LaneFebruary 12, 2014 - 8:15 am

    What follows is the full transcript of what was submitted into the public record on 2/4/14 regarding this CIP including photos: * As you can see by the attachments to this agenda item, there remain many unanswered questions about this Capital Improvement Project. Those of us on the north side of the river are particularly concerned about safety and egress in the event of another fire or major disaster. The Coloma Resort is located at the apex of Bayne and Mt. Murphy Roads where traffic jams are a common occurrence especially during tourist & fire season. Those roads also form the boundaries of my north and south property lines. As you know 5 arson fires have been ignited either directly on my property or within ¼ mile from my home. It is significant that the owners of the Coloma Resort do NOT live in Coloma and are frequently in violation of laws and ordinances within the jurisdiction of Code and Law Enforcement. Last August a neighbor distributed an email about another obstruction at the Mt. Murphy Bridge by Coloma Resort RVs which I’ll be entering into the public record. This raised concerns about an Emergency Evacuation Plan and the potential risk to residents on this frequently traveled bridge including foot traffic, traffic jams and transport of heavy equipment and modular units. This topic has been broached frequently during meetings with Sheriff D’Agostini, MGDP Superintendent Jeremy McReynolds and Development Services Director Roger Trout. This morning I submitted an Official Letter into the public record addressed to Sheriff D’Agostini which addresses the safety concerns of the river residents in our community. It represents just the tip of the public safety, transparency and accountability iceberg… Earlier today I distributed copies of American Jurisprudence* - Public Official Trustee Duties and Authorization. That document is significant to the Mt. Murphy Bridge Project causing traffic ‘indigestion’ in Coloma otherwise known as “the belly of the beast.” Elected officials have a fiduciary to respond to constituents in a timely manner as a matter of public trust. For starters: • WHAT is the emergency evacuation plan for residents landlocked by this CIP? • WHY has the county remained silent about easement inquiries mentioned by Jack Sweeney? • WHY has Kim Kerr not responded yet to inquiries made over 2 years ago regarding this CIP? • WHEN will Mt. Murphy Road be properly maintained by DOT? • WHEN can residents commence DIALOG about this project? • WHEN can we expect Supervisor Briggs to respond to his constituents instead of giving preferential favors to his friends? Do you have any questions or comments at this time? Mr./Madam Clerk: I order you to enter these materials into the public record: 1. This transcript 2. Bob Day 8/3/13 email 3. Mt. Murphy & Coloma Resort Modular obstructions photos

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  • Melody LaneFebruary 12, 2014 - 8:20 am

    For the full story, see this 2/4/14 BOS video link of items #24 & #25 regarding the Mt. Murphy & Bucks Bar bridges: http://eldorado.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=338

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  • Compass2TruthFebruary 13, 2014 - 8:24 am

    If you are concerned about citizen's private property rights and Agenda 21, view the 2/11/14 BOS Open Forum video to glean an accurate perspective of this important CIP issue: http://eldorado.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=341 * Melody Lane, Founder - Compass2Truth

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  • Melody LaneFebruary 13, 2014 - 9:13 am

    The BOS recognized the insidious threat of Sustainable Development aka Agenda 21 when they agendized the topic on 5/15/12. 14 citizens voiced their concerns. Ultimately with the encouragement of Jack Sweeney the item was indefinitely tabled in lieu of the $$$$$ grant monies available for the BOS to spend at their pleasure. View the BOS video, agenda Item #20 - http://eldorado.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=72

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  • Dave M.February 13, 2014 - 11:07 am

    How come Cookie's lengthy comments about Agenda 21 disappeared from this blog? MD censoring comments again?

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  • CevicheFebruary 13, 2014 - 11:25 am

    Dave, this topic has been Delphied just like the roundabout.

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  • Compass2TruthFebruary 13, 2014 - 1:56 pm

    Excerpt from 4/4/13 CA State Parks District Supervisor Matt Green submitted into the public record 2/11/14 re: Mt. Murphy Bridge: "“As noted by County staff, the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park General Plan, approved in 1979, does include goals and objectives for TRAFFIC CIRCULATION which may be relevant to the Mt. Murphy Road Bridge Replacement Project. The Plan recommends the re-routing of Highway 49 outside the Park and development of a “Coloma bypass road” to facilitate removing vehicle traffic from Main street within the Park and restore the historic appearance of the Street during the gold rush era. The Plan presented a conceptual vision for addressing traffic impacts within the park unit and recognized that State Parks did NOT have the jurisdiction to fully implement this vision and would need to work with the County, Caltrans and other agencies to achieve the Plan goals. State Parks acknowledges that the 1979 General Plan is quite dated at this time and that the vision for traffic circulation described in the Plan is very challenging to achieve. State Parks also recognizes that the purpose of the Bridge Project is only to repair or replace the existing bridge.”

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  • Compass2TruthFebruary 13, 2014 - 2:05 pm

    Additional excerpts from Matt Green's letter: “State Parks is currently engaged in finalizing the plans for the relocation and reconstruction of the Sutters Mill. The current Mill reconstruction, built in the 1960’s, is in disrepair and in need of replacement. The new reconstruction will relocate the Mill to the west (downstream) much closer to the original Mill location near the gold discovery site. Despite being a reconstruction, the Mill is the most popular and iconic feature of the park unit. State Parks is concerned about any proposal to replace the Mt. Murphy Bridge which might impact or adversely affect the Sutter Mill reconstruction.” *Placing the bridge anywhere else but its present location will adversely affect residents private property rights such as at Bucks Bar. Many other bridge projects are also under consideration - see attachments to 2/4/14 BOS agenda items #24 & #25 for details.

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  • Melody LaneFebruary 13, 2014 - 2:07 pm

    Related financial issues to CA State Parks/Gold Rush era are broached in today's Sac Bee: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/02/13/6153252/california-ditches-empire-mine.html

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