By Linda Harmon
There is a little confusion over just when the bridge over San Antonio Creek will be finished. The completion date for the $8.4 million project, reconstructing the East End bridge on one of Ojai’s main traffic arteries in and out of the valley, varies depending on who you talk to, and the project isn’t listed as one of 10 current projects on Caltrans District Seven map.
Alfred Ira, Caltrans resident engineer on the project, was out of the office and unavailable for comment, but workers on the site Monday were happy with the progress they’ve made.
“The project is going very well,” said Bryan Featherstone, the C.A. Rasmussen construction foreman in charge of the project. Featherstone, who lives in Yucaipa near Redlands, says he hopes to be going home after winding up the construction sometime mid- to late October.
“It’s been pretty textbook,” said Dave Dubois, Rasmussen’s representative out of Valencia. “Everything has worked out OK. People are pretty nice up there.”
Dubois expects to be finished “optimistically by November.”
By contrast, a Caltrans press release obtained from their web site and dated July 27, notifying residents of temporary delays expected July 28 to July 31, stated a completion date of spring 2011 for the bridge.
Despite early controversy over its effects on area wildlife and conflicts with residents on how to reroute traffic, Featherstone said the project hasn’t generated any unexpected problems.
“As far as wildlife goes,” said Featherstone, “we see a lot of it out here and traffic control hasn’t been a problem.”
As for the controversial detour and the resulting massive temporary bridge construction, Dubois added, “Don’t even get me started” calling it a “political hot potato.”
The temporary bridge structure was built to carry highway traffic during construction avoiding river bed and wildlife impacts and the rerouting of highway traffic onto Gridley Road, opposed by local residents.
Depending which date is accurate and whether the expected “El Niño” occurs, it could be a long winter with limited access to the East End of Ojai for residents, tourists and businesses alike.
Residents contacted seemed pleased with the overall progress.
“I’m really appreciative,” said Deborah Brooks, a Gridley Road resident. “I’m so glad they didn’t route the traffic onto our street.”
Murphy and other residents had been concerned when Caltrans had proposed to reroute highway traffic to a residential tree-lined street with no shoulder and poor visibility for entering the roadway.
“I don’t care how long it takes,” added Murphy, “as long as nobody gets killed.”