Napa First Street Bridge yet further behind schedule
- Published Sunday, August 21, 2005, in the Napa Valley Register
Slow going on First Street bridge
Construction delays mean new span might not open until January 2006
By Kevin Courtney
With construction of the new First Street bridge falling behind
schedule, downtown merchants may have to live with traffic detours for
a second Christmas shopping season.
General contractor Shasta Constructors Inc. predicts construction will
run into January, missing the scheduled mid-November completion date
by two months.
"We're doing everything in our power to get it done earlier," Shasta's
project manager, Steve Moseman, said last week. "It's to our own
advantage to get it done before the weather goes sour."
If Shasta misses the Nov. 19 completion date, it could be penalized
$3,000 a day, said Barry Martin, a city spokesman.
"The city is hopeful that the contractor intends to make the Nov. 19
completion date and will do whatever is necessary to achieve that,"
Martin said more workers were on the job in recent weeks, suggesting
that Shasta is picking up the tempo. Significantly, the concrete deck
is scheduled to be poured on Aug. 30, nearly a month ahead of a recent
schedule, he said.
Moseman said the $7 million project has fallen behind because of
problems discovered during construction and city delays in clarifying
engineering issues. His company should not be penalized for delays
that are not its fault, he said.
Construction of the 344-foot, two-lane bridge -- spanning from Soscol
Avenue to Main Street -- was originally scheduled to take a year,
finishing in September. The project lost two months when the
foundation of an old retaining wall on Napa Creek was found to be
unstable, Martin said.
The city has approved more than 40 design changes to the project,
further delaying the completion date, Moseman said.
Until the bridge is done, shoppers cannot use First Street to enter
downtown from the east. This is of particular importance during the
holiday shopping season when stores do a large part of their annual
business, Martin said.
While some businesses are hurt by the street closure, most downtown
retailers and restaurants are carrying on fairly well, said Cathy
Salerno, president of the Napa Downtown Association.
"I think all in all, the merchants are not devastated by it. They
feel the city is doing all it can do to get it done," Salerno said.
Craig Smith, the association's executive director, said downtown sales
were up 11 percent in the first quarter, suggesting a solid economic
Businesses closest to the bridge work report the greatest business
loss. "We are down 30 percent because of construction," said Rosario
Patti, co-owner of Belle Arti restaurant, a stone's throw away.
"More than once we have had to close our lunch business because of the
dust and noise," Patti said. He was interviewed mid-week as dust and
the sound of a compressor drifted over from the work site.
"We have definitely lost significant tourist traffic," said Alicia
Kelley, marketing director for the Bounty Hunter restaurant and wine
bar on First.
Bounty Hunter relies on a strong local clientele which has not been
deterred, Kelley said.
Bounty Hunter tries to take the long view, she said. "We're happy to
see downtown Napa under construction. It means more great things
Bernie Zipp, owner of The Main Element at First and Main, said he had
lost tourist business. The tourist season typically ends before
holiday shopping, reducing the impact of construction dragging into
December, he said.
Greg Cole, owner of Cole's Chop House on Main, said his restaurant had
done well during construction. Day noise isn't an issue because
Cole's is closed for lunch, he said.
Salerno said the Napa Downtown Association would sponsor holiday
events to draw shoppers downtown even if First remains blocked. After
a year's absence, a holiday tree will be put up at Dr. Dwight Murray
Plaza on First, she said.
The First Street bridge of reinforced concrete will span both Napa
Creek and a planned flood bypass channel. Its traditional design will
echo the new Third Street bridge.
With a total cost of $10 million, including design, the bridge is part
of the Napa River flood control project. The city is building it for
the flood project. The federal government is picking up 80 percent of
the tab, the local flood sales tax 20 percent.