A small bridge in Santa Clara that provides a connection from Intel’s corporate office on Juliette Lane with the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail is up for demolition. The Freedom Bridge is a crossing over the San Tomas Aquino Creek that was permitted by the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) in 1997 and constructed by Intel. Since then, the bridge has operated under a lease agreement between SCVWD and Intel. Recently SCVWD requested that Intel, which owns the bridge, remove the structure.
“It’s old and structurally deficient,” said Barbara Keegan, director of SCVWD’s District 2. “The bridge was built as a temporary structure and never meant to be permanent. There are several problems with it.”
In addition to the Freedom Bridge’s aged state, it’s also not ADA compliant or fully accessible to the public because it ends at a private parking lot owned by Intel. One of the most worrisome flaws is that the bridge could exacerbate flooding, which has become more of a regional concern in recent years.
“Bridges are usually designed to deal with floods, but the Freedom Bridge doesn’t have enough freeboard, which is the distance between the water level and the underside of the bridge,” explained Usha Chatwani, civil engineer, SCVWD.
If the waterline were to rise above the bottom level of the bridge, water could be diverted onto land and cause debris from the bridge to dislodge and flow downstream, potentially causing contamination or obstruction.
SCVWD had initially contacted Intel in 2015 about removing the bridge but concerns were raised about access for cyclists. Meetings with the City of Santa Clara and SCVWD ensued to figure out a way to maintain bridge access over the creek.
“Good effort was made on both sides,” Keegan commented. “There are still many moving pieces, so the door isn’t closed.”
If the City decides to build a new bridge at some point, there would be a joint-use agreement made between the SCVWD and the City, and SCVWD would issue a permit for the project. SCVWD would continue to maintain the creek while the City would maintain the bridge.
According to Lenka Wright, Santa Clara’s Director of Communications, the City is currently working on the Freedom Circle Specific Plan, which is in close proximity to the bridge. As part of that plan, a future creek crossing and funding options will be explored.
“If a new bridge is identified as a need, it would require funding and permitting, and would not be completed in any near-term schedule,” said Wright.
This past November, SCVWD sent a letter to Intel informing the company that it has an extension until September 2019 to remove the bridge. The extension is designed to allow for enough time to get permits from a number of agencies allow the demolition work. There will continue to be road access in the vicinity despite the bridge’s absence.
“We enjoy partnering with other public agencies to provide recreational opportunities to the public and look forward to working with the City of Santa Clara on possible future improvements,” said Keegan.