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FHWA Announces $300M Investment in Bridge Projects Across the United States, $24M to Fund the Palm Avenue Bridge Project in California

by: Jessica Hoover
The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently revealed plans to allocate nearly $300 million for nine small- and medium-sized bridge projects in both urban and rural areas. The grants, awarded in eight states and the District of Columbia, are part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law's Bridge Investment Program. This program aims to rebuild, repair, and replace bridges of all sizes, with a total investment of $12.5 billion over five years.

The Bridge Investment Program has already made significant strides in the past fiscal year, with $2.4 billion being invested in 2022. This program is a crucial component of the government's efforts to revamp the nation's bridges and represents the largest dedicated investment in bridge infrastructure since the construction of the Interstate Highway System.

One of the projects set to benefit from this funding is the rehabilitation and preservation of the 50-year-old Palm Avenue overcrossing bridge in San Diego, California. The City of San Diego will receive $24 million from the Bridge Investment Program for this project. The grant was announced during a visit to San Diego by the Federal Highway Administration's Deputy Administrator, Andrew Rogers.

The Palm Avenue Bridge is a critical link for the Otay Mesa-Nestor community and is situated just a few miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. On a daily basis, approximately 38,160 vehicles traverse this bridge. Due to extensive development in the project area, traffic volume has exceeded capacity, resulting in congestion and delays, excessive queuing during peak travel times, and weaving maneuvers between traffic entering and exiting the I-805 mainline lanes to and from Palm Avenue. According to project sponsors, the rehabilitation project is expected to yield benefits exceeding $30 million through reduced congestion and traffic delays.

The project aims to address these challenges by seismically retrofitting and widening the bridge to incorporate left turn pockets, which will enhance safety and improve overall operations. Additionally, the project will introduce multimodal benefits, including bus stop landings for future transit service, as well as bicycle and pedestrian improvements that will provide improved access to local amenities and enhance regional connectivity for job growth. The pedestrian improvements will include 6-foot sidewalks, ADA-compliant curb ramps, high-visibility sidewalks, and improved signalization.

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“The Biden-Harris Administration is investing in this bridge rehabilitation project because it will facilitate commerce and improve mobility in the San Diego area, including for pedestrians and cyclists,” said Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt. “Over the next five years, the Bridge Investment Program will work to repair, replace, and rehabilitate structures that allow businesses to move their goods to market while helping people get to jobs, schools, doctors, and other vital destinations. This project is an investment in both the United States’ economic growth and in the safety and long-term resilience of the communities that make this country great.”

The Palm Avenue Bridge project will improve the structural safety of the bridge; enhance safety and traffic operations on the interchange through the project design year of 2040; alleviate traffic congestion, traffic delays, and traffic queues; provide safe mobility for all users of the interchange; increase the bridge's seismic resiliency; increase freight movement; and reduce long-term maintenance costs for the City of San Diego.

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) District 11 will work in partnership with the City of San Diego to oversee the construction and delivery of the project. Currently, the project is in the design phase, and construction is slated to commence in spring 2024.

“Our mission at Caltrans is to ensure that we are serving and meeting the community’s transportation needs via a safe and multimodal state system,” said Caltrans District 11 Director Gustavo Dallarda. “Once complete, this bridge project will give people and goods more options to get where they need to go and how they want to get there. The grant ensures that a bridge from the past continues to serve the users of today and future generations and maintains the integrity of our infrastructure needs.”

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