Access to Ferndale and its neighboring communities
Fernbridge, a 1,320-foot-long concrete arch bridge located on Highway 211 crossing the Eel River, is a beloved local landmark dating from 1911 and formally recognized in the National Register of Historic Places. When built, it was referred to as the “Queen of Bridges” and is still the longest functional poured concrete bridge in operation in the world. The City of Ferndale in Humboldt County, California depends on Highway 211 over Fernbridge for direct access into town. Ferndale’s economy is based primarily on dairy, ranching and tourism, and the only alternative route is a lengthy, time-consuming detour along Blue Slide Road. On December 20, 2022, an earthquake damaged the bridge, requiring it to be temporarily closed to traffic. It was repaired to safely allow two-way traffic by March 2023, and additional repair activities are ongoing.
Caltrans District 1, as the responsible agency, is concerned about ensuring safe and reliable transportation access to Ferndale in the future and is seeking the local community’s input on long-term solutions. At this early stage of visioning, no specific alternatives have been researched and no decisions have been made. To determine the best course of action, Caltrans’ first step is to engage the local community to solicit input into the community’s preferences and desires to guide future discussion of transportation options.
As of Aug. 25 all equipment needed for repairs on Pier 2 has been mobilized. An oscillator – a piece of drilling equipment that rotates steel pipe casing back and forth into the earth to help facilitate the drilling of piles -- is on its way and will be in use soon. Crews have finished putting in metal sheet piles for a cofferdam around Pier 2. A cofferdam is a watertight barrier necessary for foundation construction. Additionally, crews have wrapped up carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) strengthening to make the bridge even tougher and have also been filling in some additional cracks. Next, crews are digging down to the bottom of the cofferdam to place a concrete seal course to enhance its effectiveness and keep it watertight.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the current status of Fernbridge?
Fernbridge is currently safe and open to the traveling public. Emergency work continues on Pier 2 and should be completed in the Fall of 2023.
How can I stay up to date on closures or traffic delays at Fernbridge?
Regular updates are posted on the Caltrans District 1 social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), and the electronic road signs at either end of Fernbridge. Weekly updates are provided on the Road Information Bulletin on Caltrans website dot.ca.gov/caltrans-near-me/district-1/d1-popularlinks/roadinformationbulletin.
How long will repairs take?
Repairs will be ongoing through the Fall of 2023.
What will happen to Fernbridge? Will we get a new bridge, and if so, where will it be located?
We are at the very beginning stages of community outreach and visioning, so no specific alternatives have been proposed or researched. The possibilities are wide open, including what will happen with Fernbridge, the possibility of getting a new bridge, and where that new bridge might be located.
How long will it take to build a new bridge?
The timeline for the construction of a new bridge will depend upon the specific alternative chosen. Typical timeframes for replacement or rehabilitation of a structure range anywhere from 5 to 15 years depending on the complexity of the project. We are currently in the very early pre-planning phase of finding solutions for safe and reliable access to Ferndale, so we do not have an estimated timeframe at this time.
Who will pay for a new bridge?
Cost and financing for any new projects will be explored during research and planning. We can promise, however, that financing will not involve any local taxes.
Will we get better pedestrian and bike access?
The possibility of enhancing pedestrian and bike access can be explored as part of the research and planning process.
What’s the deal with Blue Slide Road?
Blue Slide Road provides access to Ferndale from the south. It is a county-maintained facility and, as such, is not operated by Caltrans.
Who gets to give input?
The local community of Ferndale and the surrounding area, including residents, business owners, workers, emergency responders, and elected officials, are being asked to provide input and share ideas about their vision for access to and from Ferndale.
Myles Cochrane, Public Information Officer
Last reviewed: August 2023