By Don Ford

BERKELEY (KPIX 5) – Caltrans is planning to give the University Avenue Bridge over Interstate 80 in West Berkeley a major upgrade that officials say is long overdue.

Originally built in 1939, the bridge has had a number of modifications over the decades, but there has been substantial wear after being hit by hundreds of trucks over the decades. The bridge has weathered the abuse, but Caltrans says they are going to put a stop to those collisions.

The University Avenue Bridge over I-80 simply doesn’t meet modern safety standards. Caltrans public affairs spokesperson RocQuel Johnson says the bridge is simply too low

“Modern standards are 16 feet, 2 inches, I believe. So we are looking at doing at least two feet more,” explained Johnson

While the bridge may have been state of the art when it was built almost eight decades ago, at 14 feet 5 inches high, larger modern trucks have hit the bridge too many times. Missing chunks of concrete are visible; you could call them battle scars, age spots or simply signs that the bridge must be raised to accommodate bigger trucks.

“Trucks are larger than they used to be, capacity is larger in regards to traffic impact,” said Johnson. “So we want to make sure that we address that need and make sure that height requirement is there.”

Caltrans has several proposals for the new bridge. The online animation shows the basic structure with a simple two-foot lift, while another illustrates the concept of installing two roundabouts with one on each side of the new structure.

Caltrans says it has no plans to begin construction anytime soon.

“Construction starts probably around late 2022,” said Johnson. “We’re not talking about tomorrow. We’re talking a little ways out.”

The new bridge could cost $77 million, but the final amount could change before the project is done.


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