BY GENEVIEVE BOOKWALTER
A new bridge that opened near West Point Wednesday will subtract one hour of driving time for fire engines and delivery trucks that need access to the Blue Creek subdivision.
The original culvert over Blue Creek on Forest Road 7N28, about 13 miles east of West Point, washed out during heavy floods in January 1997.
A temporary bridge was erected that year, said Mike Bradshaw, operations engineer for Stanislaus National Forest, but in April 2001 a structural engineer determined the bridge could not support any vehicle weighing more than six tons. The new bridge will carry six times that, or 120,000 pounds.
"That's a little bigger than a pickup," Bradshaw said. Fire agencies and construction jobs typically use water tenders that can carry 1,500 to 3,000 gallons of water.
The detour around the bridge after the April inspection added one hour of travel time each way for drivers of these larger vehicles, Bradshaw said. The new route also took drivers through higher elevations, making the drive even longer in the winter if snow covered the ground.
The new bridge will allow fire engines, logging trucks and utility and delivery services easy access to approximately 30 homes and the surrounding forest without the added commute.
Planning and construction of the 60-foot bridge cost approximately $170,000, Forest Service officials said.
That cost was shared between Sierra Pacific Industries, which covered 55 percent, and the U.S. Forest Service, which paid the rest. The two jointly manage the road.
The Forest Service provided engineering design and supervision of the project, which cost approximately $76,750. SPI contracted the construction job to Dan Bates Construction of Porterville for approximately $93,750.
Contact Genevieve Bookwalter at gbookwalter@