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Albion Bridge Future Uncertain Following CalTrans Permit Approval

Jim Heid
The historic Albion River Bridge. The area in the foreground and the eucalyptus-covered bluff in the distance are two sites where Caltrans plans grading and drilling operations.

The California Coastal Commission held three days of hearings at Fort Bragg town hall last week to review several pending coastal projects. Most controversial was the Commission's approval of the Cal Trans permit application for a geotechnical survey at the historic Albion River Bridge, the last wooden trestle bridge on the California coast.  According to Cal Trans, the survey is necessary in order to determine if the aging bridge should be rehabilited or replaced. In 2015 CalTrans agreed to provide the commission with up to 6.6 million dollars over five years in exchange for enhanced services and expedited attention to transportation projects. This interagency agreement raises questions for some coastal residents about the necessity of the project.
the survey requires the removal of ninety trees, grading of the bluffs, and drilling up to nine bore holes. Residents are concerned this will damage senstive habitat. They also oppose the use of helicopters to place the drills, Which will cause bridge closures and disrupt local businesses and residences for up to eight weeks. CalTrans maintains the drilling is necessary to determine the stability of the geology beneath the bridge More than 100 people packed Town Hall and two dozen residents spoke urgently against the removal of their beloved bridge. 
During public comment the crowd was unruly and at times commission chair Dayna Bochco became frustrated with the speakers. In the end, the commission voted to approve the CalTrans permit application. The survey work could  begin as early as next week. 
This doesn’t mean the end of the Albion River Bridge, the Albion Bridge Stewards, a local group which advocates for the protection of the bridge, have filed a lawsuit against CalTrans and the California Coastal Commission. Following the drilling, its possible that CalTrans will determine that the bridge needs repair rather than removal,  KZYX will continue to cover this story as it develops.

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