‘A capstone’: $5 million award to replace Hammond Trail bridge

Jared Huffman, county officials tour site after appropriation secured

April 09, 2022

The long-proposed Hammond Trail bridge replacement project is closer to fruition with the arrival of $5 million in federal funding, local leaders and North Coast U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) announced during a windy press conference and tour celebrated on the rusting bridge on Friday afternoon.

The $5 million in funding secured by Huffman and California U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla will cover the majority of the estimated $7.5 million cost of the bridge’s replacement. The appropriation secured by the federal representatives is expected to allow the county to begin the preliminary engineering and environmental review phase of the project later in the year as the remaining funding for the project is secured.

The Hammond Trail Bridge Replacement project is one of nine projects receiving federal funding appropriations in Huffman’s district. The items were brought forward by the representative for his North Coast district after making a call for proposal requests, with chosen projects included in the most recent U.S. omnibus appropriations bill.

Huffman said the project stood out among the many proposals in his district and he looks forward to keeping it in service for the future.

“This project just checked so many boxes and I’m so pleased that we were able to bring this $5 million dollars home from Washington to do this critical work. I’m looking forward to walking out over this rickety bridge and getting a sense for just how urgent the replacement is,” Huffman said. “What is really going to be fun is to watch the actual replacement take shape and happen in the months and years to come.”

Humboldt County Public Works Director Tom Mattson said it has not been easy to secure dollars for the replacement project, with unsuccessful efforts dating back to 1997.

“The replacement of this bridge falls into a ‘no person’s land’ of funding (because) it’s not a new project, it’s a replacement of an existing project. So while we’ve applied a couple of times for state funding, that really goes to new projects. It’s only through the congressman’s efforts that we’re going to be able to do this,” he said. “I’m very, very happy for Humboldt County that we’ll be able to replace this bridge before it falls down.”

Matson told the Times-Standard the county is looking for avenues to secure the remaining funding needed, but the $5 million will be great leverage in pursuing the remainder.

“We’ve got a little over $2.5 million left, but we will be active and searching,” the public works director pointed out. “We’ll look at the state active preservation program. We’ll look at Coastal Conservancy. We’ll look at anything, basically. There’s lots of different grants out there that we can piece together.”

Humboldt County Administrative Officer Elishia Hayes said the sum is a welcome one as the county goes through a tough budget year.

“This project would not have been possible without these dollars. We don’t have the capacity within our organization to fund a project of this magnitude,” Hayes said. “I think it’s going to be really a great addition to the community. … People from all over the county will come here to use the trail and once it’s all connected it’s going to be a really big deal.”

The Hammond Trail bridge was built in 1941 by the Hammond Redwood Company on its railway line to replace an older bridge. The bridge has been used as part of the trail since 1981 when the county received an easement deed to build and maintain a multi-purpose trail over the bridge. It was repurposed for pedestrians and cyclists in 1983. The metal structure is near the end of its lifespan as its steel trusses have deteriorated severely.

The bridge anchors the south end of the Hammond Trail, a five-mile trail connecting Mad River Beach and Clam Beach along the west side of McKinleyville, and crosses the Mad River to bypass U.S. Highway 101 and provide a connection to Arcata’s Humboldt Bay Trail.

Michael Proulx of the Humboldt Trails Council believes the funding will preserve the Hammond Trail’s viability for many more years and help trail connectivity now that the county has approved other sections of the Humboldt Bay Trail project.

“This certainly is a capstone, and, as other people have said, I’m hoping it will lead to more and better things for trails in Humboldt County,” Proulx said.

Following a tour and some conversations with local officials, Huffman appeared to appreciate the trail and bridge.

“It was windy and cold, but that’s part of what’s beautiful and wonderful about this coastal area. So many people use this trail. I definitely get the sense that the connectivity on this coastal part of the community, all the way up to Clam Beach all the way down to south Eureka, is going to be something this community uses for a long time to come,” Huffman said to the Times-Standard.

A total of $13.5 million were destined for projects in the 2nd California congressional district under omnibus appropriations with $6.21 going to Humboldt County projects:  $5 million to fund the bridge replacement; $1 million for the Open Door Burre Dental Clinic for an expansion project; and the county received $218,000 for a comprehensive economic development strategy.

Source: Eureka Times-Standard