To make it possible for people to walk over the California Incline, city officials had to walk back the timeline for the iconic piece of Santa Monica infrastructure.
The construction of a pedestrian bridge over the famous roadway has pushed back the expected opening date from Memorial Day weekend to late this summer, city officials said. A specific day will be announced by the end of July.
A new pedestrian overcrossing was not part of the original project to upgrade the incline, which connects Ocean Avenue to Pacific Coast Highway, but it was expedited so officials wouldn’t have to disrupt traffic on the incline a second time.
MCM Construction Inc. is in charge of building the $2.3-million pedestrian overcrossing, which City Council approved in November — more than six months after the closure of the incline for seismic improvements and other renovations.
Construction of the so-called Idaho Trail is a city-funded project, whereas federal money is covering 88.5 percent of the incline upgrades.
“It was in our best interest to get both projects done so we wouldn’t have to close the incline again,” city engineer Lee Swain said. “We saved a lot of money that would’ve been replicated on two separate projects. By extending the entire period by a couple months, we could get two projects done and hopefully open it up and not have to close it again.”
The pedestrian trail over the incline was “in a state of deterioration,” Swain said, and there were also issues regarding erosion and drainage. That path is one of five ways to access the beach from the top of the local bluffs, joining the Santa Monica Pier bridge as well as pedestrian overpasses at Broadway and Arizona and Montana avenues.
“Completing the Overcrossing before reopening the CA Incline ensures both the safety of the traveling public and construction crews,” city spokeswoman Constance Farrell said in a news release. “Building the two bridges concurrently is also ultimately the most expeditious and cost effective way to manage the project because it leverages the existing traffic closure and detours.”
The new pedestrian crossing will have a clearance of 19-plus feet over the incline, but transportation officials in the city planning department have not yet determined what kinds of trucks, if any, will be allowed on the road. The incline can withstand heavier loads than it could previously, Swain said.
Crews last week put down a polymer coating to shield the incline from weather-related deterioration, Swain said. The coating is about three-quarters of an inch thick and provides the proper texture for tire traction.
Officials received a few complaints about the smell of the coating, but Swain said the odor will dissipate and added that the polymer is not considered hazardous.
During the closure of the incline, motorists have been advised to use Ocean Avenue via Moomat Ahiko Way and Lincoln Boulevard as alternate routes.
The incline was first constructed in the 1890s as a pedestrian bridge called the Sunset Trail, according to “Hometown Santa Monica: The Bay Cities Book.” The iconic thoroughfare became a route for cars decades later and has remained so for more than half a century.