Benicia parents fear for children’s safety after pedestrian bridge demolished
BENICIA, Calif. - A pedestrian bridge in Benicia was demolished Friday causing some parents to fear their children won’t have a safe path to get to school.
The City of Benicia said a commercial truck crashed into the walking bridge over Military West on Tuesday, damaging it beyond repair. It continued to deteriorate and pose a serious safety risk.
"The walkway in the bridge was sloping to the point where you could almost see the road from up above," Interim Deputy City Manager Sarah Shawky said. "We started demolition right away."
The bridge was used to cross over the busy roadway and linked a nearby neighborhood with Mary Farmar Elementary School and nearby Benicia High School.
"This bridge is a lifeline for this entire community," parent Adam Packer said. "It was a huge surprise when we found out something happened to it."
The city said the driver of the commercial vehicle hit the right side of the pedestrian bridge and took off. Benicia Police Department is investigating.
Engineers determined the 1970s era bridge would need to come down having not met modern design requirements, Shawsky said.
But the new detours for foot traffic has caused some pain for parents.
"It has been very jarring," parent Christin Eales who has a third and fifth grader said. "I’ve had to cut my work day shorter so that I can now come and pick them up from school every day."
Nerves are also rattled by heavy traffic and potential speeders, especially as Military West reopened to traffic on Friday evening.
"I’m scared," Packer said. "I have fears of sending my kids on a much longer path to school. Who knows who’s out there.
The city and the Benicia Unified School District told KTVU that plans are in place for police officers and crossing guards at specific intersections. Additionally, parents have been informed of alternative pick-up and drop-off places.
"The safety of our community and our children are our top priority," Shawky said. "We want to ensure that our children and our families have safe crossings to school starting Monday morning."
A replacement walking bridge may be years away and cost up to $2 million, city officials said. A plan would have to designed, funded and approved.
"That’s way too long. I want to see that the bridge will be repaired ASAP," said Packer.
In the interim, a couple of parents had the idea of a bus shuttle to take children from the Alvarez 9th St. Park to the elementary school. City officials said they are looking into that possibility.
Until there’s a more permanent solution, parents are preparing for what will be an alternative route for the foreseeable future.
"It seems like such a small thing – a pedestrian bridge in a small town," Eales said. "But it really is affecting a lot of people and disrupting daily routines for parents and kids."
Brooks Jarosz is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Facebook and Twitter @BrooksKTVU