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Calistoga officially has a new downtown bridge.

Federal, state and local officials along with local residents turned out on a sunny Thursday morning April 18 to cut the ribbon on the new Lincoln Avenue Bridge.

The $22 million bridge was funded with 80 percent of federal money, came in under budget and was finished ahead of schedule.

U.S. Congressman Mike Thompson said the bridge was a good use of money and created 220 new jobs.

“It’s a great example of federal, state and local cooperation,” he said.

At nearly a century old, the bridge was long overdue for an overhaul.

Napa County Supervisor Diane Dillon, a self-professed history buff, noted that when the previous bridge was built in 1919, city officials said the bridge would “last forever.”

The new bridge project utilized new innovations and technologies designed to minimize noise and impact on nearby businesses, said Tony Tavares, California Department of Transportation District 4 director.

Located within the bridge itself are fiber optic cable lines, city water and PG&E gas lines, all of which had to be relocated during construction.

Replacement of the downtown bridge, which began in 2017, occurred in stages, and traffic had been limited to one lane in each direction with occasional overnight intermittent bridge closures.

Along with a disruption in traffic flow, and the closing of two bus stops on the bridge, businesses suffered losses during the construction.

“I think it had an impact on the town in total,” said Michael Dunsford, co-owner of The Calistoga Inn, earlier this year. “It became very restrictive with the flow of pedestrians. Anytime somebody is driving through or looking at a massive construction zone with big cranes and jack hammers, guys with orange vests, that pretty much sends a message of ‘keep out.’”

Dunsford said they lost business because of their location, at Lincoln Avenue and Cedar Street.

“At the same time, we’re very fortunate we count our blessings we made it through to the other side. We know that it’s good for the town in the long term. You can already tell. The bridge is so much more open and inviting and you can just see the flow of pedestrians wanting to walk down and see the river. We’re thrilled that the bridge is finished. It’s opened up the path of travel.”

Calistoga Mayor Chris Canning acknowledged that the Caltrans team was “extremely responsive and accommodating” throughout the duration of the project.”

He also noted that the stop sign at Lincoln Avenue and Cedar Street, which was put in as a temporary safety measure during the bridge construction, will now remain permanently.

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You can reach Cynthia Sweeney at csweeney@weeklycalistogan.com or 942-4035.

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The Weekly Calistogan Editor

Cynthia Sweeney has been editor of The Weekly Calistogan since July, 2018. Previously, she was a reporter for the St. Helena Star, and North Bay Business Journal. She also spent a significant amount of time freelancing in Hawaii.