Pier Bridge Replacement Progresses With Council Approval

June 19, 2023 ·

SANTA MONICA—The Santa Monica City Council’s approved an environmental impact report at a regular meeting on June 13 that will allow the Pier Bridge replacement project to continue.

According to Omeed Pour, a civil engineer and project manager for the city of Santa Monica, the Pier Bridge is an “important asset” for pedestrians to access the Santa Monica Pier. 

“The bridge attracts something around 10 million people every year to our pier, and 95% of them, so 9.5 million people, use the Pier Bridge to get down to the Pier,” said Pour.

In an environmental report, Pour detailed the viable design options to replace the 84-year-old Pier Bridge, which shows signs of wear.

The bridge’s structure is inspected annually by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works to ensure safety. In a recent inspection conducted on March 14, 2022, the bridge was rated at 8.2 out of 100 in terms of seismic sufficiency. The deck and the superstructure have also been rated poorly. 

Images in the environmental report showed visible cracking cement under the bridge. According to Pour, all viable design options for the bridge’s replacement will have a “75-year design life” which will be structurally sound and ensure safe access for people visiting the pier. 

Restoring the bridge has been a decades-long effort. Santa Monica began trying to replace the bridge in the 1990s, but the project failed when federal funding fell through. The project was picked back up in 2006 as a rehabilitation project, but Caltrans decided that completely replacing the bridge would be a more appropriate way to use funding due to the bridge’s aged condition. 

The official replacement project began in 2010, and eight possible alternatives have been researched since.

In August 2010, the cost of building a new Pier Bridge was an estimated $8 million. By 2021, the cost escalated to $27,225,000.

The challenges for the project continue. A total of $27 million comes from Federal Highway Bridge Program funding. This means every part of the project must be approved by Caltrans.

The bridge is also surrounded by historic and cultural resources as well as scenic corridors including the Palisades Park, the pier sign, the Hippodrome building, Carousel Park, and the Pier deck. Preserving these areas limits design options.

Some of the original eight alternatives would’ve included an elevator, but it was found that it may have adverse effects on the Hippodrome located adjacent to the Pier. Due to environmental impacts, the number of possible alternatives for the bridge has dwindled down to two.

Both alternatives feature a design similar to the current bridge with a wider sidewalk to increase efficiency. In Alternative #1, the bridge would feature a 15-foot sidewalk on the North side, as opposed to the current 9.5-foot sidewalk. 

The preferred Alternative #2 would feature a 15-foot sidewalk on the South side to give more visibility to businesses and reduce the “conflict of pedestrians and vehicles.” It would also include shifting the Pier’s sign 10 feet to the North and raising it 3 feet to reduce the risk of cars hitting the sign.  

The Santa Monica City Council motioned to unanimously approve the Environmental Quality Act report.

June will mark the beginning of the finalized bridge design. The bridge is predicted to begin construction in 2025 and be completed by 2027 in time for the 2028 Olympics.  

By Paige Strickland

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