WatchSonoma Watch

Healdsburg may provide shuttle service while Memorial Bridge is closed


Healdsburg City Council members are leaning toward offering a shuttle service to ferry pedestrians and cyclists around the historic Healdsburg Memorial Bridge while it is closed for planned renovations.

The council voted 4-1 on Monday to explore the possible cost and scope of such a project, which would help preserve the steady flow of Wine Country tourists who use the bridge to get into town. Vice Mayor Jim Wood was the only dissenting voice.

Healdsburg Memorial Bridge. (PD File)

Healdsburg Memorial Bridge. (PD File)

Mayor Susan Jones said council members would prefer to keep the bridge partially open during construction, offering access through some kind of covered lane, similar to the way crews cover sidewalks during building construction in urban areas. That would cost as much as $300,000, however, and there is no guarantee it would qualify for state or federal grants to offset the costs.

“We’re still looking at a $485,000 deficit in the general fund,” the budget that funds most city services, she said. “We realized that we can’t choose that option on the possibility that we might get funding.”

The shuttle likely would carry people into town using Highway 101, which is closed to cyclists and pedestrians.

Public Works Director Mike Kirn told the council that the shuttle might cost something closer to $100,000, though he plans to request proposals from private transportation companies to get a better sense whether it really is a more cost-effective alternative, Jones said.

Even if the city can’t find grants to offset the cost of a shuttle, she said, “We thought we could manage that expense.”

Wood said he voted against the shuttle because he is worried that it will not work as well as intended.

“If we’re going to get people across the river in a reasonable way, it ought to be something when they have access all the time, not just when the shuttle is there,” he said.

Council member Tom Chambers, an avid cyclist, said the shuttle option is far from ideal, but the matter has been under discussion for so many years that it was time to make some kind of decision in order to complete an environmental impact report on the bridge reconstruction. The renovation project is being funded mostly by Caltrans, and the city cannot afford to risk losing that money by delaying the start of construction and antagonizing Caltrans.

“Caltrans didn’t want us to rehab the bridge; they wanted a new bridge,” he said. “It took a great deal of effort to get what the citizens of Healdsburg want.”

Chambers said he hopes the shuttle could be supplemented by existing services in the city and county transit services.

“We want to be creative and inconvenience as few people as possible,” he said.

The one possibility that is probably off the table is doing nothing. The century-old bridge is set to close sometime this year for at least 18 months of renovation. Without some alternative way of getting into town, cyclists would be forced on a 10-mile detour to cross the Russian River at a bridge north of Forestville.

Downtown businesses worry the bridge closure will cut off the lucrative flow of recreational cyclists who come through town, in addition to inconveniencing local recreational and commuter cyclists. The closure would also complicate pedestrian access to Healdsburg Memorial Beach.

City officials had hoped to divert foot and bike traffic onto the nearby railroad bridge, but the North Coast Railroad Authority vetoed the idea, saying it hopes to resume freight rail traffic in the near future, Jones said.

She said the council will need to make the final decision sometime in the next several meetings to avoid delaying the renovation.

You can reach Staff Writer Sean Scully at 521-5313 or sean.scully@pressdemocrat.com.

5 Responses to “Healdsburg may provide shuttle service while Memorial Bridge is closed”

  1. Steveguy says:

    Typical Government- One Agency interfering with another. All for a ‘hope’ to run a few freight trains.

    It seems that Healdsburg is afraid of the NCRA and are rolling over for some strange ‘turf war’ or something that will lead to higher taxpayer costs. Ohh, taxpayers don’t matter anymore. Government money is free to those in charge of it.

    Can we get some common sense ? really

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  2. Phil Maher says:

    …And you know, if SMART (hahahaha!)can run bike paths along the tracks with only a cyclone fence to protect riders and pedestrians from trains that will theoretically run on 30-minute intervals, I’m sure that all the great minds that will ponder this can make it work with a train that won’t ever be on that bridge for more than 10 or 15 minutes A WEEK!!! And I’m also sure that people will somehow figure it out themselves…also like we’ve somehow managed to do for….oh I don’t know…all of recorded Human History. This can certainly be made to work for less than what will likely be under a year of train operation(if even) and with far less money.

    @The Answer- and pizza delivery…

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  3. Phil Maher says:

    That’s perhaps the stupidest solution to the problem I’ve heard yet. It won’t work.

    Take the bridge from NCRA and lay down some 3/4″ plywood. When they start running trains, and need to make that big crossing for all of 3 minutes, they can use someone from their train crew to clear the way…just like it’s been done, when necessary for safety, since railroading began. This is a TEMPORARY need! If the NCRA can’t work with the community and the businesses that make up a big part of it, I say they need to keep their ridiculous, sad excuse for a freight train, smoke belching little switcher out of our town. Use eminent domain, lease it from them, or use some sort of emergency power if need be, but City Council, please stop reinventing the wheel and believing for a second that this and all that money are even remotely good ideas….For God’s sake, it’s another perfectly viable and largely intact second bridge that’s only 100″ upstream! JESUS!!!!

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  4. Fed Up Taxpayer says:

    Spending money when you do not have it is the way politicians work nowdays! Sure this will be a inconvenience but spending money you do not have to pander to a few is NOT wise.

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  5. The Answer says:

    With that little $485,000 city budget deficit, but the council willing to spend tax money on a bicycle shuttle, I wonder if they can start a free shuttle to get all of us around town from our homes to Safeway, the resturants and shopping?

    It should be available 24/7 for connviance with hourly shuttles to and from Santa Rosa non-stop for those who want to attend an environmental meeting or political rally for free transportation.

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