SWEETWATER RIVER BRIDGE  

               

Has anyone wondered about the old steel bridge over Sweetwater River?  It runs  along side  Highway 94 just to the east of the intersection of Highway 94 and 54 at Jamacha Junction.  This is across the road from the new shopping center and where the road is wider.  This is a bridge that goes nowhere!!

This Steele Canyon bridge looks worn out and tired now, but at one time it stood proud and stately.  This narrow bridge stood out from the nearby willows and sage brush on the sides of Jamacha Valley.  The steel girders form triangular patterns on the sides and top of the bridge.  This is  known as a Parker truss bridge.  It is a monument to days when bridges were suspended from graceful steel girders instead of supported by stark concrete pilings.

This bridge was built in 1929 by Pacific Iron & Steel Co of Los Angeles.  It is a three span, Parker Truss bridge - only 22 feet wide (virtually a one way bridge for large trucks) and 460 feet long.  It is one of the remaining three truss bridges and the only Parker Truss bridge in San Diego County.  It is included in the National Register of Historic Places.  It is the only bridge in San Diego County that used a type of construction, popular in the early 1900s, in which the parts were bolted together before construction, then put into place by relatively unskilled labor.   It is unique because the upper members of the bridge form an arch rather than being straight.  This bridge is still used by  bicyclists and pedestrians.  It is maintained by the County as agreed upon by the Board of Supervisors.  Stop sometime and walk across this bridge to look at a piece of history.

As a long time resident in the back country, I have driven across this bridge many times and really slowed down when meeting a truck on the bridge.  It was safe, but seemed very narrow according to today's standards.  This old bridge was reported to have had 13 accidents in a three year span from 1980 to 1983.  This is almost twice the statewide accident average for similar bridges.  There was a curve at each end of the bridge.  The  prior bridge was washed out in the flood of 1927.

In March 1986, Caltrans was awarded a $2.3 million contract to construct a new SR 94 bridge over the Sweetwater River to carry the 10,000 to 20,000 (figures vary) daily users and was completed in 1987.  This new bridge is 44 feet wide and 489 feet long.  This is a much wider and safer bridge and another improvement on Highway 94 which has saved lives.  This is the bridge we use today.

Around the same time the new bridge was under construction, the corner of SR 94 and SR 54 was changed to a four lane road with wider turns.  Here is a picture prior to the changes in 1987 of the feed store and later was a fruit market and junk yard.

 

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