Last year, the county completed the largest project in county history. Contractors retrofit and repainted the Foresthill Bridge to both improve the span’s integrity and increase its ability to withstand earthquakes and the elements.
The bridge was completed in 1973, after two years of construction. It is the highest bridge in California and the fourth highest in the nation.
Building the bridge was part of the Auburn Dam, a project that was started but never completed. Had the dam been completed, the bridge would have been the sole roadway to Foresthill and forestland beyond when the reservoir behind the dam inundated the canyons below. The three-year, $76-million retrofit and repainting project was done on a bridge that originally cost $13 million to build.
The retrofit project won numerous awards, including the prestigious 2014 Bridge Project of the Year award from the American Society of Civil Engineers, an award given to engineers by their peers.
Not all bridges in the county are as stunning as the Foresthill Bridge. But this bridge, like many throughout the county, was showing its age and wear.
The single-lane suspension bridge at Yankee Jims sits a few feet above the North Fork of the American River on the twisty dirt road between Colfax and Foresthill.
Built in 1930, the suspension bridge was given low ratings by Caltrans after a careful analysis of all the bridge’s components.
Weight limit restrictions were then imposed. Placer County engineers, working with contract consulting engineers, used computer modeling to verify the load limitations and helped determine what future actions should be taken. The bridge, however, is safe.
Any bridge that county engineers feel is a hazard is closed to all traffic. A new bridge is now proposed to span the American River’s North Fork and will likely sit adjacent to the existing structure. County public works is still evaluating several designs and has not arrived at a final decision on what the new bridge will be and whether the existing bridge will remain, and for what uses.
Story produced by
Placer County Communications and Public Affairs
Author: Robert Miller
Photography: Erik Bergen
Design: Darren Huppert