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Home arrow Working with Section 106 arrow ACHP Case Digest arrow Winter 2005 arrow California: Modification of Tower Bridge, Sacramento and West Sacramento
California: Modification of Tower Bridge, Sacramento and West Sacramento

Agency: Federal Highway Administration
Considered one of the most important bridges in California, Tower Bridge in downtown Sacramento is the only movable Streamlined Moderne-style bridge in the State.

The cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento plan to use funds from the Federal Highway Administration to substantially widen the sidewalks on the National Register-listed bridge.

Although the proposed project will have an adverse effect on the historic bridge, the ACHP believes that the project is important to the community and will sign a Memorandum of Agreement on the project.

Looking down the sidewalk on Tower Bridge over the Sacramento River, California A sidewalk on Tower Bridge,
Sacramento River, CA
(photo: FHWA)

The Federal Highway Adminstration (FHWA) is considering providing funding to the cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento, California, to modify a historic bridge known as Tower Bridge. The crossing provides vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian access between the two cities across the Sacramento River.

Tower Bridge is a Streamlined Moderne-style lift bridge, consisting of a vertical lift span, steel through truss, and reinforced concrete and steel plate deck girder approach spans. Built between 1934 and 1936, the structure is the only movable bridge of its style in the State.

The bridge also features a unique verticality, which the designers achieved by sheathing the towers in bolted and riveted quarter-inch steel panels. The vertical nature of the towers is echoed in the concrete pylons at each end of the bridge.

Tower Bridge is considered by the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) as one of the State’s most important bridges. Elements of the bridge’s design were later used in constructing the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

Unfortunately, the bridge’s sidewalks, which are a contributing element to the historic significance of the bridge, are too narrow to support safe pedestrian and bicycle traffic during times of heavy use. The cities propose widening the sidewalks by six to seven feet.

The project is important to the local governments as part of their revitalization efforts along the Sacramento River, and is supported by the community.

In September 2004, as part of the Section 106 review process, FHWA notified the ACHP that the project would have an adverse effect on Tower Bridge. The ACHP entered into consultation on the proposed project and called for a site visit and meeting among the project’s other consulting parties to discuss objections raised by the SHPO to the proposed project and FHWA’s responses. U.S. Representatives Mike Thompson and Robert Matsui attended the meeting and voiced their support of the proposed project.

The SHPO has withdrawn from consultation on the bridge-widening project, stating that it does not believe that FHWA has adequately considered alternatives that might avoid the project’s adverse effects. The SHPO is concerned that widening the sidewalks, from the current three to four feet, to 10 feet on both sides of the bridge, will significantly affect the vertical nature of the bridge’s historic design.

While the ACHP agrees that the proposed project will have an adverse effect, it has accepted FHWA’s preferred approach and believes that it is important to weigh the project’s adverse effects against its importance to the cities involved. Thus, the ACHP has agreed to enter into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA).

FHWA is currently developing the MOA, which outlines measures that the California Department of Transportation must take to minimize the adverse effects of the project on Tower Bridge.

The MOA includes provisions to preserve the original sidewalk railings and relocate them to the outside of the widened sidewalks; upgrade the railings to current safety standards in a reversible fashion; and preserve in place those elements such as original concrete walls and lighting fixtures, pedestrian gates, and sidewalk support members as much as possible.

The MOA is expected to be executed in spring 2005.

Staff contact: Carol Legard

Updated March 8, 2005

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