Bridge

Julie Thurston, who lives near the Jessen Bridge, threads the red ribbon that was cut during the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the bridge into the safety rail as a decoration. (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer / November 26, 2012)

After eight months of detours, La Cañadans living near the Jessen Drive bridge came out Monday to celebrate the ribbon-cutting on a new span.

The 41-foot, two-lane, reinforced concrete bridge is larger than its predecessor, including two shoulders and a sidewalk on its western side.

Resident Candace Dougherty said she has fond memories of the small trestle bridge that was demolished this spring, but she realized it had to be replaced.

The old bridge was rated a 47.8 on the Caltrans sufficiency scale for safety and reliability, and state law requires that any bridge rated below 50 must be replaced.

“We walked to school on that bridge. It was our little bridge,” Dougherty said. “Given how limited funds are, the city did a nice job.”

Jessen is the main route to Palm Crest Elementary School for parents and students who live west of Palm Drive.

Friends Olivia Brown and Starr Frazier said that, as they live just on opposite sides of the bridge, having it open again is a big relief.

“It makes it wider and sturdier,” Brown said. “I think the city did a great job.”

The $1.6-million project originally was scheduled for completion in September, but was delayed due to weather and unforeseen problems coordinating construction work with the affected utilities, City Engineer Ying Kwan said last month.

City Manager Mark Alexander said 90% of the project's cost was funded through grants from the federal Department of Transportation's Highway Bridge Program.

This is the last project of this magnitude the city will be doing for some time, Alexander said. The city will tap some federal grant money for park projects in around 2015, he said, and is looking to make improvements to Foothill Boulevard in the western part of the city.

Palm Crest parents who have altered their morning commutes will not see an immediate change in the school's drop-off routine, according to Mike Leininger, assistant superintendent of facilities and operations for the La Cañada Unified School District.

Leininger said a survey of parents showed they like the current pattern, in which drivers can only enter the school lot by heading north on Palm Drive and making a left from a designated left-turn lane.

Leininger said a discussion about drop-off options would take place at a Public Works Commission meeting on Dec. 5.

“We'll continue with the current pattern that we've had since the bridge was closed until the decision is made one way or the other,” he said.

No matter what the traffic pattern is, Crescenta Valley Sheriff's Capt. David Silversparre said deputies would pay close attention to the area now that the bridge is open again.

“Deputies are aware it's opening and will be watching for residents to drive safely,” he said.

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