Officials from San Bernardino County, the City of Barstow, and the California Department of Transportation held a groundbreaking ceremony Jan. 26 for an $80 million bridge replacement project: a new First Avenue Bridge.
Dawn Rowe, the third district supervisor for San Bernardino County, led the speaking session after the national anthem. Art Bishop, the president of the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority, Paul Courtney, the mayor of Barstow, and Jim Rogers, the deputy district director of maintenance for Caltrans District 8, all made remarks at the ceremony, according to a local news report.
The two-lane steel and wood North First Avenue Bridge, which was built in 1930 and modified in 1943, carries cars and trucks over BNSF Railway Co. property. Barstow’s preparation for the eventual construction of BNSF’s $1.5 billion master-planned rail hub known as the Barstow International Gateway depends on replacing the bridge, a press release said.
The 4,500-acre site on the west side of the city will house a rail yard, an intermodal hub, and warehouses for transloading cargo from domestic and foreign containers.
The county’s most recent project schedule indicates that the current First Avenue Bridge has less than two years left as a standing structure, a local news report said. The construction is expected to cost $85 million and be completed by the fall of 2024. Funding will come from both federal and local sources.
The rail complex will make it possible for trains traveling through the Alameda Corridor and along BNSF’s mainline to Barstow to directly transfer containers from ships at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
The containers will be processed, staged, and built into trains traveling east on BNSF’s network once they arrive at the new Barstow gateway. According to Barstow and BNSF officials, westbound freight will be processed at the hub before being transported by trains to the ports and other California terminals.
“This [BNSF] project will transform our city,” said Barstow City Manager Willie Hopkins.
The replacement of the North First Avenue Bridge will be the first of many infrastructure projects required to prepare the new rail facility and an expected population influx, according to a press release.
While Hopkins noted that the bridge is a major thoroughfare for city residents, the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority said the bridge has deficiencies in its superstructure, substructure, and overall structural evaluation. Because of the bridge’s geometry and inadequate vertical clearance, it is considered functionally obsolete as-is.
The new structure will be made of concrete and will be approximately 1,179 feet long with a width of 50 feet that will expand to over 62 feet to accommodate a left turn lane leading to the new bridge. To accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists, a wider sidewalk with 8-foot shoulders will also be built.
The new North First Avenue Bridge will be the first of three bridge projects, as well as one of several infrastructure changes that will take place as Barstow prepares for the BNSF project, officials said. The other bridge structures, one over the Mojave River and one over the river’s overflow area, are expected to be built within two to three years.