The steel girders for the city’s Central Freeway won’t be pale green much longer.
Work crews are coating the undergirding of the elevated roadway that connects Market Street to Highway 101 in a new eye-catching Coronado Blue, Caltrans spokesperson David Hafner said.
Started in June 2021, the project is expected to be done in May 2024. It’s on budget and will cost a total $30.9 million, according to Hafner.
“The work is dependent on weather conditions,” Hafner said. “Not only rain, but humidity.”
Built in 1955, the entire Central Freeway was damaged by the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. Only the portion made of concrete west of Market Street was torn down. The remaining steel stretch was retrofitted and reconstructed in the early 2000s.
A group of activists want the freeway to be torn down from Market to Bryant streets and replaced with a grand boulevard and housing. Conducting a study to that effect is mandated in the city’s Master Plan, the blueprint for its growth, but it has yet to be completed.
A review of the Federal Highway Administration inspection reports show the freeway is in fair condition.
Inspectors found two issues—known as deck geometry and underclearance—to be "intolerable" and requiring "high priority corrective action."
Neither of these is an indication that the nearly two-mile long viaduct is inherently unsafe, but those features do not meet modern design standards.
“This bridge can continue to serve traffic safely if properly inspected and maintained,” Hafner said.
Caltrans has no plans to improve the elements deemed “intolerable” because there is no imminent safety risk, he added.
Erick Ramirez, a 22-year tow truck driver for B&A Towing, said the project has been painless. His company's lot is beneath the freeway, and the project forced them to relocate a lot across the street so work could be performed.
“The crews did a good job,” he said. “I like the color. It’s the first time it’s been painted in as long as I can remember.”
Alex Mullaney can be reached at [email protected]