Work Starts to Replace Toro Creek Bridge

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

May 20, 2022

Work has finally begun on a project to replace the Hwy 1 northbound Toro Creek Bridge, with northbound traffic being squeezed onto the southbound side of the roadway.

The $5.7 million bridge replacement project is being funded by Senate Bill 1 (SB1), the “Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017,” reads a news release form Caltrans.

Work began Monday, May 9 with the erecting of barricades to protect workers, Caltrans said. 

“Travelers headed northbound on Highway 1 [from Morro Bay towards Cayucos] will be diverted onto current southbound lanes, with two-way traffic divided by a center median. This traffic control measure will allow for the demolition of the bridge on northbound Highway 1. A bicycle detour will also be established with signage near the project area.”

Souza Engineering Contracting of San Luis Obispo is the contractor for the project, which, weather permitting, should be completed by Spring 2023, according to Caltrans.

“This important infrastructure project,” Caltrans Dist. 5 Director Tim Gubbins said, “is another illustration of how SB 1 funding is making a big, positive difference by advancing infrastructure improvements not only here on the Central Coast, but throughout the state.”

The northbound Toro Creek Bridge was built in the 1930s and dates back to the earliest iteration of Hwy 1. The bridge deck is two lanes of traffic but has almost no room for bicycles. Hwy 1 is well-used by cyclists through the area.

The old bridge also doesn’t meet modern earthquake standards.

The southbound bridge is newer and still meets modern standards and isn’t being worked on at this time.

Caltrans also plans to work on the Hwy 1 bridge spanning Old Creek near the 24th Street Beach entrance. So travelers between Morro Bay and Cayucos will soon have two construction zones to be careful of.

SB 1, or the “Gas Tax” as it is known, was approved by the Legislature in 2017. It immediately raised gasoline fuel taxes 12-cents a gallon, with increases of 5.6¢ per gallon in 2019 and 3.2¢ in 2020. It is due for another 1.1% increase for inflation. 

It also tagged on extra fees on vehicle registrations, including a minimum $100 fee on vehicles built in 2020 and later, to make up for the lack of gas taxes paid by hybrid and electric vehicle owners.

The tax hike was to provide $54 billion over 10 years, spending 10%, or $5 billion per year, and is implicitly to be used to fix roads and split evenly between State projects (like Toro Creek Bridge) and local transportation projects.

Readers are advised to drive slowly and carefully through the construction zone, which is hard to avoid considering Hwy 1 is the only north-south route on the North Coast.

With this ready source of money available, the theory is that transportation projects will get done quicker if they don’t have to wait around for funding. For more information about other transportation projects funded by SB 1, see: RebuildingCA.ca.gov.

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