By Noel Smith
On Monday, August 7, a full 176 days after it was closed because of the failure of the culvert that took Trout Creek under Valencia road between Trout Gulch Road and Aptos School Road, County officials opened the 2-lane temporary bridge after a very upbeat ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by at least 50 – 60 Aptos residents, county and school district officials. The temporary bridge now allows traffic access to Valencia School and the community of Rolling Green Estates.
What was for many an added 6.6-mile commute over winding, narrow, mountain roads from the Estates to the Aptos Post office has again become a half-mile jaunt.
PVUSD School buses couldn’t access Valencia Elementary School over those narrow mountain roads safely so the school was closed and the students and teachers were spread out between Aptos Junior High, Aptos High, Cabrillo College and Mar Vista Elementary School. Many of them were transported by family and friends.
According to Supervisor Zach Friend – who was the point person is getting the various governmental entities on board – because of the effect on the community and the education of its children, the Federal Highway administration (FHWA) approved the County’s $4 million request for the repair of the failed culvert and road at Valencia and Trout Gulch. Also the one state regulatory hurdle through state Fish and Wildlife in regards to design of the culvert was successfully addressed by the county.
“I’ve heard from state and federal agencies,” said Friend, “that the County’s diligence and thorough approach to this road repair, in tandem with the persistence of neighborhood outreach, was key in the approval. They were flooded with letters from local residents and students of Valencia elementary asking that this road be prioritized for review and funding and as a result Valencia Road was the first approval! This was truly a community effort to have it expedited through the state and federal process.”
The temporary two-way bridge is rated for all traffic, including school buses (Yeah!) emergency vehicles, heavy trucks etc. while the major culvert work is being completed below.
“We are so, so grateful that we now have our main way into our campus,” said Valencia Elementary School Principal Caryn Lane. “It has been a long journey for our teachers, our kiddos and our families and the people we care about that we share our community with.”
According to Friend, “The winter rains caused $129 million in damages at 320 sites. While the Valencia Road bridge repairs carried the largest price tag, the county is still struggling to complete all the repairs that will take another 2-3 years.
A note from Jason Hopping, County Communications Manager, reminds locals that, “The temporary bridge on Valencia Road is still an active construction site, with a posted 15 miles per hour speed limit. While everyone’s excited to have the bridge there, we’ve noticed some people traveling a bit too fast. Please respect the workers and drive safely.”