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New $148M Mission Bay bridge in San Diego fully opens to drivers, pedestrians and bikers

The recently rebuilt West Mission Bay Drive Bridge near SeaWorld received more than half its funding from President Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure law

An aerial view of the newly completed West Mission Bay Drive Bridge over the San Diego River, seen shortly after it officially opened April 4, 2023.(Howard Lipin/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)


APRIL 4, 2023 2:14 PM PT

Elected leaders celebrated Tuesday the replacement of a 70-year-old bridge spanning the San Diego River between Ocean Beach and Mission Bay — the largest such project in the city’s history. The dual-structure expanse now has three lanes in each direction and includes bicycle and pedestrian paths.

The newly completed $148 million Mission Bay Drive Bridge near SeaWorld was more than four years in the making and included $80 million from President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law.

“This bridge provides an enhanced connection between our beach communities and the city, and come summertime, our local economy will truly reap the rewards of this investment,” Mayor Todd Gloria said at a ribbon cutting on Tuesday.

“Because of President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law, we now have two parallel structures, one heading north and one heading south, relieving traffic congestion and getting folks to their destinations safely,” he added.

Several federal officials flew into San Diego for the press event as part of a national tour promoting the $1.2 trillion spending bill approved by Congress a year and half ago. About $400 million, for example, has been slated to help brace San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge against earthquakes.

“We’re not at a dirt-turning ceremony. We’re at a ribbon cutting,” said Mitch Landrieu, White House infrastructure coordinator and former mayor of New Orleans. “This is a project that is finished. This is a promise made and a promise that is kept.”

Shailen Bhatt, federal highway administrator with the U.S. Department of Transportation, was one of the dignitaries to speak at the opening of the newly completed West Mission Bay Drive Bridge.(Howard Lipin/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Shailen Bhatt, federal highway administrator with the Department of Transportation, said he’s headed to Los Angeles next but not before checking in on federally funded repairs to state Route 78, where a rainstorm created a massive sinkhole under the highway in Oceanside.

Caltrans pledged in mid-March to work around the clock on replacing a 230-foot section of culvert that ruptured during a heavy downpour. However, construction continued this week with crews recently discovering several other damaged pipes.

“We’re very focused on the new projects and also providing emergency relief funding so that the existing infrastructure can be rebuilt after being struck by these storms,” Bhatt said.

Work on the Mission Bay bridge started in 2018, receiving a total of $138 million from the Federal Highway Administration, including the money from the infrastructure law.

City crews replaced the original four-lane bridge with two three-lane expanses, each with separate pedestrian and bicycle paths. Vehicle access was never fully closed, with the original structure being demolished only after the completion of the first of the two new crossings.

The project also included 12 acres of wetland restoration along the mouth of the San Diego River between Interstate 5 and Pacific Highway, as well as near Robb Field in Ocean Beach. The project is expected to protect birds, marine mammals and other species.

“We’re extremely proud of our habitat here in San Diego,” Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, said at the event. “We treasure it, and today we helped improve it.”

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