Locals and tourists heading to Santa Monica’s most iconic landmark will soon have a new path to tread, as the City weighs three options to replace The Pier’s 1939 seismically unsafe bridge from Ocean Avenue.  A recent report found the bridge would likely incur significant damage during a major earthquake.

Beyond poor disaster odds, the current bridge cannot safely manage the sheer amount of car and foot traffic it sees on a busy day.  On a hot summer Saturday or Sunday, daily traffic totals can reach 3,667 cars.  Even with k-rail separating the sidewalk from cars, a shoulder-to-shoulder mob of pedestrians often spills out into the vehicle right of way.

“During times of high use, the bridge is not wide enough to accommodate the volume of pedestrians, bicycles, and vehicles that use the facility,” said to the draft environmental impact report for the project.  The current bridge is too steep to be ADA compliant.  All three options on the table require demolishing the current bridge and replacing it with a wider span.

City staff members are leaning toward the only option that replaces the 34-foot wide bridge with two separate bridges: one for cars and one for everyone else.  If that option is chosen, a new 40-foot bridge would connect walkers and cyclists to the Pier from Colorado Avenue.  Emergency vehicles and delivery trucks may use the span during off-peak hours.  All options under consideration will either construct an elevator for handicap visitors or a separate ADA walkway cantilevered from the side of the bridge.

A second bridge would be constructed at Moss Avenues for cars heading to pier deck parking.  The bridge would be span 150 feet over Ocean Front Walk with two vehicle lanes with barriers.  The construction would be staged to provide continuous access to The Pier, eliminating the need for a temporary bridge while the new ones are built.

Two other alternative options replace the current bridge with a new one more than twice as wide at 64-feet across.  All that extra space will allow an ADA- compliant route, two designated bike lanes and a wider sidewalk to meet the volume of pedestrian traffic descending from the Colorado Esplanade.

One plan calls for a temporary car bridge on Moss Avenue connecting Appian Way to the pier deck parking during construction.  The second alternative calls for a temporary car ramp from Parking Lot 1 North.

Construction of the new bridge(s) will create “significant and unavoidable” traffic increases in the area because of detours and construction crews and equipment.  However, a separate vehicle bridge would eliminate the existing conflict between traffic and pedestrians on The Pier, where cars must turn in front congregating pedestrians in order to access parking.

All three plans impact 1,4000 square feet of exhibit and office space used by Heal the Bay’s aquarium during construction.  Plans may include an elevator, stairs and escalator structures into the aquarium that would take over about 850 square feet of space.

The public will have a chance to give input at a meeting next Wednesday, Jan. 10 at 6:30 p.m. at Ken Edwards Center, 1527 4th St.  The public can learn more at www.smgov.net/pierbridge and can also submit comments on the 2,500-page Environmental Impact Report for the next month by emailing pierbridge@smgov.net.


Kate Cagle

Senior reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press