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Hwy 120 James E Roberts Bridge Reopens Ahead Of Holidays

Sonora, CA — Today is the day Caltrans District 10 officials are giving back to Mother Lode motorists full use of a major bridge that has been under renovation for more than a year.

The Highway 120 James E Roberts Bridge by Lake Don Pedro, which has been the focus of a much-needed multi-million dollar makeover, has been under 24/7 one-way traffic control with auto-lights set up on both sides of its span for several months now. It is part of a key local and tourist route, also being a gateway to Yosemite National Park.

According to Caltrans District 10 spokesperson Warren Alford, beginning today, travelers can look forward to no more ten-minute delays under those auto controls because they are being carted away. He adds, “Our contractors and everybody’s aware that [the bridge] is such an important economic link for Tuolumne County that we wanted to get it done by Christmas.”

As reported here, issues with weather — and then with special equipment needed to roll out the final polyester surface coat — delayed crews from being able to wind up final work in time for the Thanksgiving holiday. Alford confides, now that the top coat is in place and cured, final striping still needs to be laid down. This will be done under a moving closure, possibly sometime next week but the work is not expected to noticeably affect traffic.

Alford says his agency considers the project a real achievement, especially with numerous variables in play, which included bouts of extreme winter weather and July’s Detwiler Fire that required local road closures.

Too, he points out, the bridge design itself presents many technical challenges. Half chuckling he describes why: “It is curved, it is slanted — it is higher on one side than the other.” Overall, he states, “We were essentially able to rebuild it while mostly keeping traffic on it except for a few closures that we had during key periods.”

The span, originally erected in 1971 and known as the Tuolumne River Bridge, was one of many designed under the auspices of its eventual namesake, civil engineer James E Roberts, a former Caltrans chief engineer, in whose memory it was renamed back in 2007 through a resolution passed by the state legislature.


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