New Cholame Creek Bridge on Hwy 46

Concrete started flowing for the new Cholame Creek Bridge June 3

SHANDON — Work is far from complete on the slow eastward march of lane widening along State Highway 46 to meet previously improved sections on the Bakersfield route, but key sections are getting close. Some of the California State Transportation Agency (Caltrans) District 5 engineers have been working on this phase of the widening project for years, and got to see a milestone last week: Concrete started flowing for the new Cholame Creek Bridge, west of the Shandon Roadside Rest Area, on June 3.  

Subsuming as part of the bridge’s new permanent structure the ‘lost deck,’ which had been visible to motorists until the weekend, the new form should be ready to be stressed by the end of June, structures engineer Nick Heisdorf explained, adding the new infrastructure is expected to last 70 years.

The “stressing” will come in the form of cables running through the structure pulled taught underneath, a design allowing for fewer ground supports.

“It will be an improvement for the creek as there were three supports before,” Heisdorf added, noting that this style of bridge has been the agency’s “bread and butter” since he started in 1999.

With materials chosen for durability under heavy truck traffic, the concrete slab roadway east leading up to the bridge is mostly ready for connection, but drivers on the stretch are still using the eventual westbound lanes to go both ways until that’s been done.

Like the famous meeting of the transcontinental railroad line, two Caltrans Districts have been working toward a meeting line. The overall idea with the District 5 (or Caltrans Central Coast) corridor project — ongoing out of Paso Robles since 2008 — is to give motorists in both directions two lanes all the way to the widening work already completed by District 6 (out of the Central Valley).

District 5 spokesman Jim Shivers pinpointed this particular segment as that from McMillan Canyon Road to Lucy Brown Road through Shandon.

Although what the public might consider a “phase” of construction and what the state agency and the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments (SLOCOG) would consider a milestone seem to vary, the last such event was the opening of the Estrella River Bridges in 2014. Operations for this stretch are still run out of a small former home and modular office complex on Whitley Garden Drive near that overpass.

The Highway 46 fact sheet for the project lists the first phase as costing the state $31 million and the second broken into two allocations, $47 million and $38 million.

Shivers noted in a press release that the, “contractor for this $47 million project is Brosamer & Wall of Walnut Creek. It is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2018.”

On a tour of the Cholame Creek Bridge site on May 30, he emphasized the majority of current funding was from the California Proposition 1B Bond.

“This bridge is just 200 feet out of four miles,” he said. “The bottom line is that we’ve been working on this highway for a decade to improve safety.”

Indeed the next stretch of the project will incorporate the James Dean Memorial Junction at the splitoff of Highways 41 and 46 east of Cholame as the widening project passes through that community.

© 2019-Paso Robles Press

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