Executive Director's Column
Bridging the Gap
By Dick Bobertz, Executive Director
San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority
The Lake Hodges Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge has been in the planning and permitting phases for over five years. That is not unusual for a major project such as the almost quarter mile-long bridge across Lake Hodges. But what is unusual are the changing conditions we have had to try to respond to over the last few years.
Two years ago we were looking forward to starting construction upon receiving our permits from the City of San Diego. Confident that we had a wonderful project for the community which combined a beautiful design with a much needed access improvement for pedestrians and bicyclists, we also were relieved we had been able to patch together three different grant awards to meet the $5 million project estimate.
Enter the unpredictable times two. You may recall that two years ago the Lake Hodges basin was dry as far as you can see from I-15, the result of years of drought conditions. Since long-term climate forecasts predicted continuing drought conditions we were not concerned that the lake level would rise before we could build the bridge. As history shows, we were wrong and the lake filled to overflowing as a result of one of the wettest rainy seasons the area has ever experienced. Add $1 million to the cost of construction because now it is necessary to construct coffer dams in the lake to build the two piers necessary for the bridge. As we struggled to find another $1 million, a second phenomenon appeared; dramatically rising costs for steel and concrete resulting from world-wide material shortages. Two to three percent increase per month soon added another $1 million cost to the project. We were sure things could not get worse until we were notified that $3 million of our collection of grants would expire and be withdrawn unless we were able to award a contract for construction by June of 2006.
That is how things stood in November of 2005. We had less than six months to find another $2 million, bid the project and get it started. What were our alternatives? We follow grant programs closely and were not aware of any that we could apply to that had a funding cycle that could meet our constrained timeline. It is understood that governing boards of organizations prefer to have their staff bring them solutions, not problems. But with our backs to the wall and not having any solutions to pull out of the hat, we went with that hat in our hands (to show it was empty) and asked our Board members for help.
Our San Dieguito River Park Board members rose to the occasion and, individually, sent letters and spoke with officials of transportation funding agencies. The results are in. On March 17, 2006 the Transportation Committee of the San Diego Association of Governments made a recommendation to the SANDAG Board of Directors to program $2 million in Transportation Enhancement funds for the Lake Hodges Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge.
Thanks to our Board members and to SANDAG for saving a project of regional significance. We will be very happy when we cut the ribbon for this one.
To read more about the Lake Hodges Bicycle/Pedestrian Bridge, Click here.
Click here to see a list of River Park accomplishments by year.
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