City Council approves replacing bridge over San Diego River

Architect's rendition of the new Mission Bay Bridge over the San Diego River.

SAN DIEGO — A plan nearly two decades in the making to replace the decrepit West Mission Bay Drive bridge over the San Diego River was unanimously approved Monday by the City Council.

The $155 million project will replace the 1950 four-lane bridge that connects the Midway area and Mission Bay Park with two three-lane bridges. Up to $140 million of that sum will come from federal grants. The remainder will be paid for by the city.

The existing structure is considered structurally deficient and functionally obsolete by Caltrans, meaning it’s not up to current building standards and cannot handle traffic between the beaches and Interstate 8, according to staff.

The roads leading to the bridge — West Mission Bay Drive and Sports Arena Boulevard — both have three lanes and the span only offers two, creating significant congestion at commute times and during summer afternoons.

It’s designed to handle 40,000 daily trips, though traffic volumes exceeded 64,000 vehicles a day during a 2009 study. That study said a wider bridge would reduce wait times at nearby intersections by up to two minutes.

“This is just such a huge improvement,” said Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, who represents the beach communities.

The new bridge will also provide better pedestrian and bicycle access, with 12-foot multi-use tracks in each direction. The existing bridge has very narrow paths on either side.

The city plans to put the project out to bid this week and begin construction next year. The work is expected to be completed in fall 2021, according to staff.

Since newer sections will be built first, two lanes in each direction will remain open over the river while the work proceeds.