Ken Williams | Editor
No, it’s not your imagination. The Georgia Street Bridge project on University Avenue in North Park is running way behind schedule.
The historical bridge is undergoing a $14 million face-lift to restore the aging landmark to its original glory, and the rehabilitation project was originally envisioned to be finished by now.
But motorists, pedestrians, bus riders and nearby neighbors continue to be inconvenienced by the construction, which has reduced traffic to one lane in each direction and caused noise and dust to plague that part of Uptown. The No. 7 bus traveling north on Park Boulevard cannot turn right onto University Avenue due to the construction and is being rerouted, making commutes longer for bus riders.
Recently, Hillcrest resident Primo Vannicelli started a post on nextdoor.com asking about the status of construction on the Georgia Street Bridge. San Diego Uptown News decided it was time to update our article posted after the project kickoff ceremony on July 19, 2016.
Alec Phillipp, a public information officer with the city, confirmed that the project is running behind schedule.
“The project is currently eight months behind the initial estimate. Time extensions for additional work and inclement weather contributed to that but potential changes in condition in the soil backfill and difficult drilling have extended the time considerably,” Phillipp said. “Also, we have limited our use of night work to minimize noise disturbance, which contributed to the delay.”
The new target date for completion of the project is spring 2018.
What is the current status of the project?
“We are currently pouring concrete retaining wall sections at the southeast, then northwest walls, abutment walls, and stressing abutment ground anchors,” Phillipp said.
So far, construction crews have already lowered the roadway on University Avenue below the bridge, and new soil nails and ground anchors have been installed in the retaining walls. But lots more needs to be done.
Phillipp added: “Continue the retaining wall pours, rebuild the arches and bridge structure, form and pour the barrier walls, and install lighting.”
For the foreseeable future, “the traffic alignment will remain the same,” Phillipp said.
In 1914, the Georgia Street Bridge — a reinforced concrete structure designed by J.R. Comly to replace a 1907 all-redwood trussed bridge — was dedicated in a new city neighborhood named North Park. Charles F. O’Neall was the mayor of San Diego, a city of about 40,000 people experiencing growing pains.
Comly designed the bridge to complement the theme of the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition at nearby Balboa Park.
The new bridge was an instant classic with its elegant Roman arches, a theme echoed on the massive retaining walls on both sides of University Avenue, below the bridge.
Now, more than 100 years later, the bridge is getting some love.
“This is more a gateway than a bridge,” Vicki Granowitz, then the chair of the North Park Planning Committee, said at the July 19 ceremony. “It is an entrance to historical North Park.”
It took years of advocating by community activists and local politicians to save the bridge from demolition, which was recommended by Caltrans after engineers declared it “structurally deficient.” They worked tirelessly to get the bridge declared historic and then mustered up the money needed to complete the restoration.
That restoration effort, however, is going to take a little longer than planned. Phillipp had one last message for readers:
“We want to thank the community for their patience and cooperation throughout the duration of this project.”
You can follow the project at bit.ly/2SdZM1.