For 25 years, Humboldt County staff have been pushing for replacement of the old and deteriorating Hammond Trail Bridge — a segment of the Hammond Trail that crosses the Mad River and provides a non-motorized connection between Arcata and McKinleyville. Now, thanks to $5 million in funding from the Consolidated Appropriations Act, a replacement bridge will soon be a reality.
Congressman Jared Huffman joined Humboldt County staff and elected officials — including Fourth District Supervisor Virginia Bass, Fifth District Supervisor Steve Madrone, Director of Public Works Tom Mattson, Michael Proulx of the Humboldt Trails Council and County Administrative Officer Elishia Hayes — on Friday afternoon to walk the bridge and learn more about the project plans.
“I know that this is a beloved trail in this community,” Huffman said during a press event near the south entrance of the bridge. “And we want to keep it in service and at an even higher standard for generations to come…I’m so pleased that we could bring this five plus million dollars home from Washington to do this critical work.”
The bridge replacement funding is part of a little more than $6.2 million Huffman secured for projects in Humboldt County — $1 million will be used to expand the Burre Dental Center in Eureka and $218,000 will go toward updating Humboldt County’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS).
Of course, the heftiest chunk of change — $5 million — will be used for the bridge replacement, a badly needed project that the county has had a very difficult time funding. “I want to express my extreme gratitude to our congressman for bringing this [funding] home,” Mattson said to the crowd gathered near the bridge on Friday. “The replacement of this bridge falls into a no-person’s-land of funding.” Mattson said that the county has applied for state funding for the project multiple times, but has not been approved because state funding tends to go toward new projects, not the replacement of existing projects.
The bridge was built as a railroad crossing in 1941 and converted into a pedestrian and bicycle bridge as part of the Hammond Trail in 1983. Though periodic maintenance has kept it from completely falling apart, the bridge’s steel trusses have badly deteriorated beyond what can be fixed with temporary repairs. County staff has been saying that the bridge needs to be replaced since 1997. Suffice to say, the project is long overdue.
However, the $5 million is not quite enough to cover the entire cost of the replacement, which Mattson said will cost closer to $7 million. So the county will need to seek some additional state funding to finish the project. With the initial funding already in place, staff will begin the design and technical studies this year. If all goes to plan, Mattson told the Outpost, the engineering and environmental review should be complete by 2025 and construction is expected to begin in 2027.
Once complete, the bridge will continue to serve as a part of the Hammond Trail, a connection to the Humboldt Bay Trail and, eventually, the Great Redwood Trail. The timing of the funding has been very exciting for local trails advocates, with the final leg of the Humboldt Bay Trail receiving approval from the California Coastal Commission this week.
“It’s been a very good trail week,” Proulx said during Friday’s event. “And this certainly is a capstone. And, as some people have said, I’m hoping it will lead to more and better things for trails in Humboldt County.”