Council Votes to Replace Virginia Street Bridge

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After years of debate, the Reno City Council decided the historic Virginia Street bridge should be torn down and replaced with a new bridge to enhance flood control efforts.

On Wednesday, the council voted unanimously to demolish the 102-year-old, concrete, double-arched bridge.

The Regional Flood Control Steering Committee will consider the council's preference when it reviews the Truckee River flood control project April 13.

"It's time for the City Council to make a decision and take that bridge out," Mayor Bob Cashell said after listing properties and proposed projects that would be ruined by extensive flood bypass channels needed if the bridge was restored.

Councilman Pierre Hascheff wants the committee to consider the bridge immediately and not wait for federal funding. That would put the start of construction of a new bridge in May 2009 with a possible finish by 2011, said Naomi Duerr, flood-control director.

The council also wants its lawyers to begin talks with state historic preservation officers to change an agreement the office, state highway officials and the city signed in 1996 to restore the bridge.

While the bridge has been part of flood control discussions for years, the city owns the bridge and can decide its fate, Duerr said.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told city officials that bypass channels for the historic bridge could collect debris and not help in moving floodwaters downstream.

That's the main problem with the historic bridge - logs and branches jam below the double-arched span, creating a dam that adds to flooding problems downtown.

Council members were told that wider bypass channels must be built for the historic bridge to handle the same volume of flooding as a clear-span bridge with supports on the riverbanks.

Most of the ice rink at the Mapes plaza, the Masonic Building and part of the River Walk in front of the Riverside Artist Lofts would have to go to provide wider channels, flood control manager Paul Urban told the council.

Part of a planned plaza in front of the U.S. Post Office and a planned restaurant-storage building at the Mapes plaza also would be lost with restoration instead of replacement, and an open channel would be built in front of the new Palladio building and in front of the Riverside theater.

That would add at least 50 percent to the $40 million cost of the bridge restoration-bypass channel option, Urban said.

In contrast, officials said a clear-span bridge could cost less than $30 million and be supported by arches on both banks. That would result in a thinner bridge deck, allowing more floodwater to pass beneath.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)