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New Bridge a ’Bare’ Necessity for Big Bear Lake

Thu May 06, 2010 - West Edition
Jennifer Rupp

The Big Bear community in San Bernardino County, Calif., will see the construction of a new bridge along a new alignment of State Route 18 over the canyon, downstream from the dam at Big Bear Lake.

The new 475-ft. (144.8 m) long bridge will incorporate 12-ft. (3.7 m) lanes, one 12-ft. turn lane and 10-ft. (3 m) shoulders. In addition, a 5-ft. (1.5 m) ADA compliant sidewalk will be constructed on one side of the bridge. This project will ultimately realign and signalize the intersection of SR 18 and SR 38. The total project is approximately 2 mi. (3.22 km) long.

Settlement of the Big Bear Valley region dates back to the 1850’s with the discovery of gold, and later it became the home of cattle ranchers in the 1880’s. Farmer Frank Brown built the original rock dam in Big Bear in 1885, which created Big Bear Lake. In 1910, the Big Bear Mutual Water Company began construction on a stronger, more modern dam (the Big Bear Lake Dam) approximately 50 yds. (45.7 m) downstream from Brown’s rock dam. (

The Big Bear Bridge was added across the top of the dam in 1924 when San Bernardino County added a new highway route from Running Springs through Snow Valley to the dam at Big Bear Lake. The bridge was widened in 1970.

The San Marcos division of Flatiron West Inc. is heading up the project with construction of the new bridge, approach work and drainage. A number of California-based subcontractors also are on the job, including Drill Tech Drilling and Shoring of Antioch for foundation excavation, and Edick & Watt Inc., headquartered in El Cajon, for drilling and blasting. CMC Fontana Steel of Fontana is performing the rebar work, The RJ Noble Company based in Orange is responsible for paving, and Los Angeles’s Terno Inc. was hired for electrical work. Flatiron purchased construction signs from Statewide Safety and igns Inc. of Poway.

The project began in February 2009 and will continue through the summer of 2011. The winter shutdown was longer than anticipated, from mid-January through March, due to record snowfall in the area. According to the National Weather Service, Big Bear averages 61 in. (155 cm) per snow season, with up to 100 in. (254 cm) on forested ridges bordering the lake. This year’s total snowfall to date is 121 in. (307.3 cm). (Snow Summit Mountain Resort Snow Report).

“The shutdown has delayed construction, however, we are working hard to make up the time lost and finish early,” said Rob Richardson, project manager for Flatiron.

On-site excavation equipment includes a Volvo 460 and a Volvo 290 rock excavator. Approximately 10,000 cu. yds. (7,645.6 cu m) of rock are being excavated and hauled to U.S. Forest Service sites to be used in road restoration. Crews also are using a Caterpillar 950 wheel loader and a variety of other machines on the project, including a Liebherr 630 EC-H 40 tower crane, rented from Mr. Crane in Orange, Calif.

This improvement to the Big Bear communities will ensure year-round access to the area by providing well-needed standard lanes and shoulders, and separating the highway from the dam. The project will at the same time preserve and highlight the natural and cultural resources of the immediate area around the dam.

“We’re using integral colored concrete for the bridge and retaining walls,” explained Richardson. “The newly-cut rock slopes will also receive a shotcrete architectural treatment to create a natural look that will blend in with the surrounding area.”

Caltrans is taking special care to not disturb any of the outlying areas during construction. With respect to the California spotted owl, which resides in the mountains of San Bernardino, night work will be kept to a minimum so as not to disturb the birds and other wildlife in the vicinity of the project.

Certain phases of the project will require one-way traffic control with flagging, however delays are not expected to exceed 15 minutes. Alternate routes are available.

For more information on the Big Bear Bridge project, visit and click on the “projects” link.

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