The California Incline, a critical bridge for commuters, has one of the worst ratings for structural integrity in the nation. (File photo)

OCEAN AVENUE — Residents will get a taste of what traffic will feel like around the California Incline next year when northbound lanes from Ocean Avenue to Pacific Coast Highway close next week to repair potholes.

The California Incline, a critical bridge for commuters, has one of the worst ratings for structural integrity in the nation. Just look at all those potholes. (Jonathan Wilson/Google Images)

Although construction to completely replace the incline won’t begin until the latter part of next year and in 2016 for the Santa Monica Pier Bridge, which also needs replacing, city officials say they are trying to keep construction headaches and congestion to a minimum.

Both bridges don’t meet the current structural standards required for bridges and fall in the 30 range out of 100 in the rating formula used to evaluate structural strength of bridges, city officials said.

“Anything under 50 is in need of replacement,” Martin Pastucha, director of public works, said.

Lee Swain, city engineer, said the rating formula involves looking at the structural adequacy and safety, service ability and functional usefulness of the bridges.

The estimated cost of the incline will be $14 million, with the majority being federally funded by Caltrans, Pastucha said.

Swain said the incline is “one of the lower ratings in the country.” He said the bridge is going to be rebuilt in its current location.

He said there are a series of five separate bridges on the incline, which will be made into one, continuous bridge and widened about 5 1/2 feet to allow bicyclists and pedestrians.

The incline reconstruction is moving forward into the design, construction and drawing phase, Pastucha said. The bridge, which was built in the 1930s, has concrete that is over 80 years old and has been breaking down over time, he said.

Residents will use Moomat Ahiko Way as a primary detour route when construction begins, city officials said.

City Hall has also been working with surrounding areas like city of Los Angeles, Malibu and Caltrans because some of the impact will spill outside of Santa Monica.

“We are encouraging everybody to use that going northbound and improvements will be made to the intersection of Ocean [Avenue] and Moomat Ahiko Way,” Swain said.

City Manager Rod Gould said residents and businesses can take comfort that City Hall is taking care of its infrastructure.

He said there would be two shifts working on the replacement of the incline, which will cut construction work by six months.

“Instead of a year and half, it will be a year of inconvenience,” Gould said.

For the pier bridge, city officials said they are in the first of three design phases and expect construction to begin in 2016. The plan is in the project scoping and public outreach phase, Swain said.

“We are still analyzing. We need to get an environmental document approved and certified by the (City) Council before we can start final designs,” Swain said.

City Hall is working with the Santa Monica Pier Corporation Board and the Landmarks Commission to get their input on the pier bridge.

They estimated the cost of the project to be in the $10 million-plus range.

He said the pier didn’t meet current structural standards.

“We just ripped off some of the very narrow sidewalks that were there. They were very high,” Swain said. “We had a lot of pedestrians spill into the street when the pier was heavily used. If we built the bridge today, we wouldn’t build it the way it is now.”

He said City Hall was pursuing replacement of these two bridges as quickly as possible.

Laurel Rosen, president and CEO of the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber is supportive of anything City Hall has to do to protect not only residents but visiting tourists. She said everyone knows the incline is unsafe.

“When you have a kind of safety rating the incline has, there is no choice, you have to put safety of the people first,” Rosen said.

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