ASTI BRIDGE An artist’s rendering of a proposed Asti Bridge over the Russian River, near the location of the temporary summer span that is annually built, and taken down, near Washington School Road.

Sonoma County is taking a closer look at plans for the Asti Bridge, a seasonal span over the Russian River just south of Cloverdale.

For decades the bridge has been built and torn down every year, at a cost of at least $200,000 annually, to accommodate high water flows in the spring.

But in 2017, the Pocket Fire in the area forced the emergency evacuation of residents on the east side of the Russian River, an evacuation that raised anew questions about a more permanent bridge across the river near Washington School Road.

“During that particular fire, we understand that residents in the community of Asti on the east side of the Russian River could potentially have been left stranded had the temporary bridge at the Asti Crossing not been in place,” read a 2019 engineer’s report to the Alexander Valley Citizens League.

BRIDGE Temporary bridge crossing of Russian River at Washington School Road, June 2023. (Photo courtesy County of Sonoma)

“Without that bridge, the nearest all weather crossing of the Russian River is located approximately five miles to the north at Crocker Road in the town of Cloverdale. If a fire was to cut off access to that northern bridge, the Asti residents would be trapped without an all-weather bridge in place at the Asti crossing,” the report concluded.

The fire led to the formation of the Alexander Valley Citizens League, which has lobbied the county ever since for a permanent replacement.

A durable Asti Bridge would provide an additional, reliable, year-round egress, particularly during disaster emergencies, which are an increasingly frequent threat, the county says in its report. The total estimated project cost is $20 million, and the county proposes to fund $16 million. Property owners may be required to fund up to $4 million of project costs, dependent on any grant moneys that may be available.

In April of this year, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors asked the Department of Public Infrastructure, formerly Transportation and Public Works, to proceed with design for the Asti Bridge Project. Phase 2 includes preparation of environmental documents and acquisition of right-of-way.

An initial study of the environmental impacts will be reviewed by the Environmental Review Committee on Tuesday, Dec. 19, in the county offices Board Hearing room in Santa Rosa.

In communications with its members, the Alexander Valley Citizens League warns, “We may never again get an opportunity like this to get a permanent bridge built over the Asti crossing… There is no guarantee that the County will continue to put in a temporary bridge if we don’t approve a permanent bridge.”

In this preliminary meeting, the ERC will determine what type of environmental document should be prepared for the project; it will not decide whether to approve the project. That decision will be made by the board of supervisors at a future date, after the environmental document has been prepared and circulated for public comment.

The Environmental Review Committee (ERC) has scheduled a review at 9am on Tuesday, Dec. 19, in the Board Hearing room at 575 Administration Drive, Room 102A, Santa Rosa. With questions, contact [email protected].

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