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Obsolete’ O’Byrnes Ferry May Be Replaced

By Vanessa Turner

The O´Byrnes Ferry Bridge that connects Calaveras and Tuolumne counties near Copperopolis will get some much needed improvement and maybe complete replacement thanks to a $7.5 million federal grant.

Public Works Director Rob Houghton applied for the money through the Highway Bridge Rehabilitation and Replacement Program and found out a couple weeks ago the county was awarded the grant.

“Right now the bridge is functionally obsolete primarily because of lane widths,” Houghton said.

The bridge, built in 1957 across Tulloch Reservoir, is 22 feet wide with no shoulder. Standard is 12 foot lanes with shoulders, Houghton said. The project would create 12-foot lanes with shoulders of up to 8 feet.

“Because of the lane width, it´s not able to carry traffic that´s currently on it,” he said. “Certainly anticipating growth in the Copperopolis area only exacerbates the current conditions.”

Anticipated development in the area includes Oak Canyon Ranch, a golf resort with 3,475 housing units; Copper Mill Square, a retail shopping center with shops, restaurants and lofts; Tuscany Hills, a proposed 335-home development; and 2,110 more home proposed by Castle and Cooke Calaveras.

An initial study is underway and will take about three months to determine the projects´ feasibility and to make the decision on whether to rehabilitate or replace the bridge.

“We anticipate it will be more cost effective to replace it,” Houghton said. “We´ll look at the cost of rehabilitating the existing sub structure,” he said. “We need to widen that from its existing 22 feet out to 40 feet. We´ll probably find out the cost of rehabilitation will be close to reconstruction.”

A decision is expected by July.

Then Houghton would make a request for authorization to proceed with design work construction plans and initiate the environmental review.

Part of the grant requires the county to come up with 20 percent of the project cost, which works out to $1.5 million.

When asked where that money would come from Houghton said, “I don´t know. We are currently looking at funding sources for that local match.”

Since the bridge is shared between Calaveras and Tuolumne counties, it will be a shared local match, he said.

Houghton has been talking with the Director of Tuolumne County´s Public Works Department and said the recent $3.4 million settlement Tuolumne received from Oak Canyon Ranch came up in the discussion as a possibility for funding the match.

Tuolumne sued Calaveras and the Oak Canyon Ranch developer last February saying the project´s impact to O´Byrnes Ferry Road was overlooked.

An Environmental Impact Report for Tuscany Hills, which is yet to be approved, identified similar impacts to the road but called for no mitigation. The EIR was withdrawn last year after being circulated for public review to further study its impacts on the community.

Houghton said construction on the bridge is four to five years away. There´s right of way work to do, possible acquisitions and environmental work, he said.

He estimates it will take a full year for construction and noted that a crossing of some sort will be maintained throughout construction so traffic could still flow between the two counties at that point.

Contact Vanessa Turner at vturner@calaverasenterprise.com.

The Calaveras Enterprise