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Preliminary work for new Sandia Creek Drive bridge is starting

Sandra Jacobson of California Trout, George Sutherland and Bob Blankenship of Trout Unlimited

Special to the Village News

The Sandia Creek Drive bridge replacement project over the Santa Margarita River, two miles north of Fallbrook, is a long-awaited community improvement.

The new bridge will be built about 150 feet downstream of the existing structure and will straighten out the curve near the trailhead parking lot. It will make it safer for trail users and motorists to use this high traffic area. It will also allow safe passage for endangered Southern steelhead upstream to spawning and rearing habitat in the river.

Another key benefit is that the new bridge provides reliable and safe access for residents during high flows that flood the existing bridge. The new structure is designed to allow 100-year flood flows to pass beneath it. The current Sandia Creek Drive bridge is slated for demolition after the new bridge is completed.

As part of the design phase, residents and recreationists will see temporary grading at the project site to enable crews to get access for soil borings and bedrock analysis to ensure bridge stability the week of Feb. 11. There will be traffic control at the site while the larger equipment crosses the road and bridge, but delays will be minor.

The bridge design has been vetted through the hydraulic, civil and structural engineering team in collaboration with San Diego County. This alternative was selected in consultation with Fallbrook Trails Council, Fallbrook Public Utility District, Fallbrook Community Forum and the new landowner The Wildlands Conservancy.

The key message for people that know and love the Santa Margarita River Trail system as a local jewel is that this bridge project won't cause trail usage restrictions.

The design phase is funded by California Department of Fish and Wildlife and State Coastal Conservancy. It is an example of how to integrate endangered species management into community infrastructure projects that benefit fish, water and people.

Construction is anticipated to start in 2020. Fundraising is underway by nonprofits California Trout and Trout Unlimited, who are leading the project, by applying for competitive state and federal grants.

The new bridge will be a valuable addition to the Santa Margarita River Trail Preserve, recently acquired by The Wildlands Conservancy. A full-time ranger is on-site to help trail users explore the trail system and understand the unique qualities of the preserve.

This is an update to the Sandia Creek Drive bridge article published in the Village News in May 2018.


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