By Jeff Mitchell
There’s good news and bad news regarding the federal grant that the San Diego County Department of Public Works will receive to construct a bridge over the Santa Maria creek bed on 13th Street. The good news is that the unpaved portion of 13th Street that heads north from the library to connect with Walnut Street will also be paved as part of the project. The bad news is that this is money from the Federal Highway Administration through its bridge program, and that’s where the trouble begins. Federal money usually comes with a lot of strings attached. The fact that this is a six-year project, that should take about 3 months (back in the late ‘90s a similar size bridge was washed away in Carmel, Calif., and was totally reconstructed in less than 3 months) indicates the number of jumps and hoops the county will have to do.
The Santa Maria creek bed has long been a campsite for the homeless along with various other unlegal activities that has done who knows what kind of damage to the vegetation and the creek bed. But now with federal money involved, this overgrowth area will be under the microscope of environmental agencies that will discover endangered species (and I’m not referring to the homeless). And depending on the time of the year, the many potholes in the road that fill up with water, will more than likely be home for our beloved fairy shrimp. One wonders if $10 million will actually be enough to pay for the multiple environmental reports, not to mention any mitigation that will need to take place. Which further explains why a construction contract will not take place until mid-2015 with a construction timeline of two years. The 13th Street bridge over what is sure to be troubled waters is yet another example of a lot of wasted time and money when the government gets involved.