The California Department of Transportation has informed local officials that the pedestrian bridge at Pacheco Boulevard and Seventh Street will be demolished and replaced, eliminating half of the basketball area on the north side of the project.
Caltrans recently told Los Banos Unified School District and city officials that the bridge, which serves as a way for children from the two elementary schools nearby to safely cross Highway 152, needs to be made compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
“The bridge was built in 1974, the ADA was passed in 1990. Every year we’ve been taking program funds to bring projects into compliance,” Caltrans spokeswoman Angela DaPrato said.
For the pedestrian bridge to meet the specifications of the federal law, a new wheelchair ramp needs to be put in and the bridge needs to be widened. DaPrato said the project will require a new bridge to be built at an estimated cost of $2.6 million. She said the money will likely pay for the bridge and ADA compliant sidewalk and curb projects the state agency is planning in town. Construction is preliminarily planned for 2018, DaPrato said.
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The school district owns the property on the north side of the bridge, a basketball court and former tennis area. The city owns the property on the south side, Pacheco Park.
School district Superintendent Steve Tietjen said he is worried about the recreational space Caltrans plans to take away.
“I see people do things at that (basketball court) all the time. I drive down Pacheco Boulevard in the evening, the lights are on and kids are playing,” Tietjen said. “I know kids like to be seen when they’re playing basketball. Are there other places where kids can be seen with the lights?”
Tietjen may not need to worry.
DaPrato said the new bridge will be built on the tennis portion of the district property, leaving the basketball court intact.
“Plans can change, but we’re going to use the tennis court,” she said.
Mark Fachin, the city’s public works director, said the bridge will only be moved slightly to the east. He said it will have a bigger footprint on Pacheco Park because in the drawing he was shown the new bridge’s round base is slated to be three times larger. Fachin said he does not expect the new bridge to interfere with the public’s use of Pacheco Park. He also said the city has been responsible for the maintenance of the pedestrian bridge, a responsibility he plans to transfer to Caltrans when the new structure is built.
DaPrato said the pedestrian bridge will remain open to the public while the new structure is being built.