In spite of sweltering fall temperatures, the crew working to lay the new Ortega Street bridge over Mission Creek finished ahead of schedule yesterday, October 13. That was day one for construction of the bridge, which is the second in a series of six — Haley Street’s bridge being the first — that are being replaced in the lower Westside downtown neighborhood.
The Ortega Bridge was built in 1915 with a life expectancy of 100 years. As the bridge approached the 100-year mark, Caltrans deemed it structurally deficient, so the City of Santa Barbara — funded in part by the Federal Highway Bridge Replacement Program — spearheaded the $6.8 million project. The bridge project is set to run until next spring, but supervising civil engineer Adam Hendel said in a press release this week that it will probably be finished earlier than expected.
The Ortega bridge will be focused primarily on habitat: for the wild plants and animals who live beneath it and the humans who live adjacent to it. The creek bed has been cleaned and refilled with native soils and plants, and a fish pool has been added. Along with colored concrete walls, improvements for pedestrians include updated sidewalks, curbs, gutters, street trees, and a new bridge barrier railing. The creek bed has been widened to reduce flooding for the houses nearby, which, according to Kristin Ayars of the Public Works Department, was the number one request from residents when initially contacted about the project.
On Friday and into the weekend, residents can expect the block of Ortega Street between Bath and Castillo to be open to local traffic only, and Bath Street will be closed to through traffic during the day between Cota and Ortega streets; a detour will be in place. There will also be temporary no-parking areas on Bath and Ortega.