Valley News -

By Tony Ault
Staff Writer 

Stetson Avenue Bridge near collapse in Hemet, brings partial street closure

 

Last updated 3/14/2019 at 11:21am

Tony Ault

Hemet City Council declared a 'flood emergency' closing the Stetson Bridge and Stetson Avenue from Cawston Road to Warren Road in Hemet Tuesday night.

After Hemet City Council declared a "flood emergency" closing the Stetson Bridge and Stetson Avenue from Cawston Road to Warren Road in Hemet Tuesday night, March 12 barriers have gone up on the road and a detour plan placed on the city website.

Hearing a delayed report from Stephen Loriso, a contract engineer for the city, that the bridge over a creek on Stetson Avenue, east leading to the Hemet-Ryan Airport and the Hemet Cal Fire Air Attack Base, was "unsafe" and in danger of collapsing during another major rainstorm, the council passed an urgency resolution closing the road .

"It is in the best interest of the community, " Hemet Mayor Bonnie Wright declared with a motion to pass the emergency ordinance.

Loriso and City Attorney Eric Vail told the council the report, recommending the bridge be completely replaced, instead of planned repairs, did not come forward to the Public Works Department until March 5 and since then the department engineers worked on a closure and detour plan for the public. The report, not on the night's agenda, was discussed first by the council and the action taken for its closure.

The preliminary detour plan had traffic rerouted on Warren Avenue to Walden Weaver Road to reach the airport. Traffic coming west toward Stetson from Sanderson Avenue could take Industrial Way to reach the airport. Traffic westbound from the Walmart shopping center on Stetson, found barriers up at Cawston Road directing them south to Mustang Way leading to Warren Road.

Loriso told the council the new bridge will take about six months to complete. The city will receive funding for the bridge through the federal Highway Bridge Replacement Fund provided to state agencies to replace failing bridge. He said the design for the new bridge is already complete and has been forwarded to Caltrans for their approval. Once approved, hopefully in the next two weeks, at which time the bids can be advertised. It will take another three to four weeks for the bids to come in and the award to take place. Once the bid is awarded, Loriso, estimated it would take about 60 days to construct the new bridge and traffic can resume as normal.

The city engineers with Caltrans about one year ago determined the bridge, decades old, was beginning to fall apart. The wooden and steel support beams were rotting and rusting away, the concrete walls holding the creek water in were deteriorating and beginning to wash away.

Instead of closing Stetson Avenue at the bridge, city prohibited heavy trucks and buses from crossing the bridge and stop signs were put up to slow regular traffic crossing the bridge. A reconstruction plan was in place, then the heavy winter rains hit in the city further deteriorating the bridge superstructure and widening the creek. It was feared another major storm could wash out the bridge entirely,

Hemet Public Works Director Kristen Jensen told the council the Hemet Unified School District has been informed of the Stetson Bridge and Stetson Avenue closures so their buses can take alternate routes and other agencies and businesses that could be affected.

After the wooden barriers closing the street are removed, K-rails will be in their place completely closing that section of the roadway. Electronic signs will give forewarning of the detours.

 

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