Peninsula residents working to improve Voltaire Corridor
by DAVE SCHWAB
Published - 07/22/17 - 08:16 AM | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Point Loma and the city are continuing to parry over long-sought-after traffic and aesthetic improvements on Voltaire Street Bridge.

And creation of a new maintenance assessment district is one funding mechanism being considered by residents to get the project off the ground.

“This would be a landmark on an entryway to Point Loma, a number of yards away from Nimitz Boulevard, and one of only three entryways into the community,” said Don Sevrens, a member of Peninsula Community Planning Board, working on bridge enhancement. “This would be the only opportunity to have a landmark bridge.”

Sevrens said Voltaire corridor representatives and half a dozen city officials met recently to hear the city's presentation for a possible “narrow scope maintenance assessment district.”

“Given time constraints and cost of MAD preparation, we will simply write checks and create an endowment fund for future maintenance,” said Sevrens. “We will ask the Point Loma Association to be trustee for the endowment. Our goal is still half a dozen ornamental or historic style lamp posts and an attractive railing that creates a suspension bridge effect.”

Architect Joe Holasek, a member of the Peninsula Community Planning Board, is doing the design for Voltaire Bridge improvements.

Sevrens said the idea of rehabilitating the bridge is to have design patterns reminiscent of Golden Gate Bridge on fencing to be installed, as well as adding ornamental acorn lights while making the bridge more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly.

The notion of rehabilitating Voltaire Street Bridge dates back to 1997. Originally built in 1959, the bridge passes over Nimitz Boulevard on the 3900 block of Voltaire Street between Wabaska Drive and Sea Colony Court.

The sticking point between the community and city for years over prospective bridge enhancements remains unchanged: The design and planned installation of a chain-link fence on the bridge railing. 

“The Point Loma community sees the Voltaire Street Bridge as a gateway to their neighborhood and wants something a bit nicer than what one finds on a freeway overpass,” noted Sevrens, a former journalist and 50-year Point Loma resident.

“With the city and community working together, we could have a striking entryway to the Peninsula — and a very attractive bridge that ties into the Welcome to Point Loma sign and the wonderful landscaping that the Point Loma Association has put into place on Nimitz Boulevard,” he said.

Sevrens contends “changes to the bridge and a related Wabaska Drive project can set the tone for a major revamping of the entire Voltaire Street corridor.”

The Wabaska Drive project is being spearheaded by Nicole Burgess, District 2 rep on the City of San Diego Bicycle Advisory Committee. Burgess has been lobbying for bicycling improvements on Wabaska, which will “put bikes on the inside making the vehicles be the buffer, so the bicyclist does not have to go next to fast-moving traffic. For Wabaska, this physical barrier will be a variety of parked cars, bollards, flex posts, and maybe even some planters.”

Previously, Burgess pointed out unprotected bike paths “are just paint and no physical barrier. In these types of facilities, cyclists must ride next to moving vehicles and be cautious of door-zone conflicts. A protected bikeway is safer, more comfortable, and therefore increases bike ridership.”

Burgess hopes adding bike improvements on Wabaska will “provide a model for the city.”

She added the Wabaska bicycle infrastructure improvement project will dovetail neatly into railing and other improvements being planned on the Voltaire Street bridge nearby.

Pointing out PCPB board member Joe Holasek, an architect, is willing to work pro bono on Voltaire Street Bridge's re-design, Sevrens estimated the project could cost as little as $150,000. He added the MAD to pay for the enhanced bridge's continuing upkeep could be in place as soon as a year from now, by summer 2018.

“It will be the responsibility of the community to identify the costs of these bridge improvements to be put in place,” said Sevrens. “Holasek would add schematic drawings to the city's specifications. It's not a lot of red tape. And it's the community doing this. And it's an enlightened attitude by the city to let us (Point Loma) come in and do this.”

District 2 Councilmember Lorie Zapf, whose district includes the Peninsula, is on board with the bridge's renovation.

“The retrofit of the Voltaire Street Bridge is great for the entire Voltaire Corridor,” Zapf said. “I’m looking forward to the long-term revitalization of the Voltaire Corridor.”

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