Adam Spencer, The Triplicate

By Friday evening, the new Steven Memorial Bridge on South Fork Road will be fully open to traffic with no need to stop at the signal that has controlled traffic since construction began last spring.

Hurdy Gurdy Creek Bridge has been fully open to traffic for nearly two weeks and the decades-old bridge was hauled away to landfills and salvage yards in


"We would really like to thank the local community that lives up here," said Dave Gerlach, office manager for West Coast Contractors, the prime contractor for the project. "We know it was an inconvenience, and we really want to thank them."

On Wednesday, crews were finishing the last steps of this year's construction season: re-vegetating roadsides via tree-planting and hydroseeding (spraying a blend of seed, mulch, fertilizer and water, which produces rapid regrowth).

Next spring, contractors will return to remove the old single-lane Steven Memorial Bridge, put down another layer of asphalt, improve wetlands for five-fingered ferns and install a parking lot on the east side. Near the parking lot, crews will build a vault restroom and trail to the river below the bridge, which is a popular put-in for whitewater boaters.

Removing the old Hurdy Gurdy Bridge, which was coated in lead paint, required respirators and special environmental training for crews, Gerlach said. The old bridge spans were "shrink-wrapped" and hoisted by crane onto trucks headed for Oregon, Gerlach said.

The $8.6 million project to replace the bridges was entirely funded by the Federal Highway Administration.

Chuck Laws, project engineerfor the Federal Highway Administration, said the construction season went well this year, but some remediation work was required on the west-side pier of Steven Memorial that cost about a month of construction time.

Electronic readings of the concrete in that pier showed that the material near the bottom was not up to standard, Laws said, but the issue was resolved by core-drilling the pier and high-pressure grouting the problem area.

The new bridges are part of a larger project to replace all one-lane sections on South Fork Road along the scenic South Fork Smith River.

In 2009 and 2010, four one-lane sections were widened and one-lane bridges over Rock Creek and Boulder Creek were replaced with two-lane structures, costing almost $14 million.

Big Flat resident Chuck Blackburn has seen the bridge project progress daily and said he has been impressed by therate of work, but he was concerned about access to the popular freshwater "Steven Spring" on the west side of Steven Memorial Bridge.

"It concerns me because there's a lot of people - in the Hmong community especially - who use that spring," said Blackburn, who also prefers the spring for his drinking water.

Laws and another engineer for the Federal Highway Administration met with representatives of the Del Norte County Roads Department and the Smith River Alliance this week to discuss options for maintaining access to the spring, but the details have yet to be determined, Laws said.

For more information on the bridge replacement project, search for "bridges of south fork" at

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