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Cables, beams, pillars to bolster Bridgeport Bridge

The RSC General Engineering of Sacramento doing the work on the Bridgeport wooden bridge. Wednesday afternoon the crew were surveying the area before construction.
John Hart/jhart@theunion.com | The Union

Stabilization work on the Bridgeport Covered Bridge will go “way, way beyond” anything done so far to buttress the historic 152-year-old landmark span, the contractor said.

Richard Spaulding, owner of RSC General Engineering of Sacramento, made that statement on Wednesday, the first day of work on the project following the Sept. 2 groundbreaking ceremony.

RSC was the top bidder for stabilization work as part of a $1.3 million bridge restoration approved by Gov. Jerry Brown on June 20.



“This will be like the Golden Gate Bridge,” said Spaulding of an innovative stabilization design authorized by the California State Parks department. “We’ll have (steel) cables spanned over the top of columns.”

“It’s a piece of history that’s been here forever. Sometimes it’s nice to preserve old things.”
Richard Spaulding
owner of RSC General Engineering of Sacrament

Spaulding, in business since 1981, said his company’s work is estimated to last through the end of December.




Spaulding, who has completed major bridge projects in San Jose at the East Taylor Road bridge over Highway 101 and the historic Jibboom Street metal truss swing bridge over the American River in Sacramento, was joined Wednesday by his son, Rick Spaulding, RSC staff member Armando Guzman and geotechnical engineer John Raney.

“We’re just doing surveying today,” Spaulding said.

On Monday, his workers will install metal fans to catch any sediment or debris from construction. After that, the group will drill holes for the cable attachments and then demolish the old footings from prior stabilization efforts.

Once all that is done, the crew will begin installation of a series of steel cables, cross beams and pillars that promises to hold up the bridge like a super sling or a giant girdle.

“A wooden bridge is its own worst enemy,” Spaulding said, pointing to deteriorated shingles on the side of the bridge that were soaked and damaged in a 1997 flood. “The wood dries out, and then the siding gets washed out and it becomes like a dam, building up pressure.”

He said the bridge is already bowed slightly from the pressure.

The new stabilization design calls for four steel pillars — two at each end — to be installed along either side of the bridge and extending at least 20 feet above the crown of the bridge’s roof. Then two large steel crossbeams will be placed under the span toward the center.

Finally, steel cables anchored in the rocks on either side of the river will be stretched over the steel columns, connecting with the crossbeams.

“This will go way, way beyond” what was done before,” said Spaulding, referring to a 1997 stabilization project that used columns posted underneath the bridge at either end. “All that weight in the middle (that was not addressed before) will be held up.”

After RSC’s work is done, design work will begin on the bridge restoration. Plans call for the damaged siding shingles to be replaced and a new roof to be added.

According to Vicky Waters, deputy director of public affairs for California State Parks, Spaulding’s firm was chosen for the job in August in a competitive bidding process that began in May. Spaulding’s firm was selected for the $300,000 contract for their expertise, she said.

“This is a very important project for us,” Waters said. “We are very confident of the contractors we’ve selected.” A contractor has not yet been hired for the second phase, she added.

For his part, Spaulding said he couldn’t be more pleased.

“I really wanted to do this,” Spaulding said of the project. “This one really means something to me.”

He said there was a lot of satisfaction in contributing to saving a legacy for future generations.

“It’s a piece of history that’s been here forever,” he said. “Sometimes it’s nice to preserve old things.”

To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email kbrenner@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.


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