Downtown San Diego Condo home owners and Downtown San Diego Loft home owners and San Diego residents celebrated the San Diego Coronado Bridge’s big 40 years of service Sunday August 2nd. The City of Coronado is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and when the San Diego Coronado Bridge opened in 1969, the bridge became and instant landmark.
The bridge is ascending at a 4.67 percent grade from Coronado before curving 90 degrees towards San Diego. The Navy’s tallest ships are allowed to sail under it because the curve makes the span long enough so it can rise to a height of 200 feet.
The former Hotel Del Coronado owner John Alessio and then owner M. Larry Lawrence told Gov. Edmund G. “Pat” Brown that they thought a bridge plan would gain traction. Since the 1920’s, Coronado officials had looked at proposal to make the City of Coronado more accessible and in 1965 the state officials approved the bridge plan. A state toll revenue bond was decided to become funding for the bridge.
When the bridge opened “It completely changed things” former Mayor Tom Smisek said. “We had car dealerships, a department store. We had hardware stores and a movie theater. You really didn’t leave very often. You didn’t have to.” The bridge changed the City of Coronado from being an un modern no traffic small town into a modern traffic filled City that attracted millions of tourists, developers and new homeowners.
The bridge allowed tourists and San Diego residents to reach Coronado’s wide, sandy beaches with an easy drive over the bridge. People used to cross the San Diego Bay by ferry boat or drove up the Silver Strand by Imperial Beach but that took way longer. The bridge brought in large shopping centers across the Bay that attracted residents and some Coronado businesses had to close. They were replaced by more tourist attracted shops and restaurants.
Coronado’s population when the bridge opened in 1965 was 19,550 and it has not really changed much compared with 22,845 today. More businesses, smaller homes demolished into two or more units in the same lot, the Coronado Cays and the 10 Coronado Shores Condo towers, was developed by the opening of the bridge.
40 years ago the ferry boats that used to transport passengers and cars stopped when the bridge opened because the State did not want any competition when the bridge tolls were paying for the construction of the bridge.
A new mix of commercial and residential projects took place near First Street and Orange Avenue, where the former ferry landing was located. The City restricted the number of large retail outlets and fast food chains long ago and on the other side of town small stores and landscaped streets of historic million dollar homes.
Phil Needham used to work and drive the ferry boats and he says “It was a village, Today it is a City”.
The City has been given an enviable budget reserve, services and amenities since the property values have increased. In June, single family homes had a median sales price of $865,000.
Some residents of the City of Coronado admires and supports the 2.1 mile bridge and its views but some thinks that state Highway 75, that crosses the bridge and heads across town through a residential neighborhood, had brought more noise to a once quite Third and Fourth Streets.
It cut the city in half, said Wadleigh, who works at Kippy’s clothing store on Orange Avenue. It was like having two Coronados.
Every weekday 85,000 cars travels over the bridge but it was only designed to accommodate 30,000 daily trips. Afraid of increasing traffic in 1986 when the $47.6 million bridge was paid off, some people did not want to get rid of the $1 toll. After the tolls were taken away in 2002 traffic increased with 20%.
Most traffic comes from North Island Naval Air Station, Coronado Officials say about two thirds, nearly 57,000 daily trips. The Navy, that employs 25,000 personnel, reservists and civilian home workers with three ships in port, gives us the number 40,016.
To ease traffic the City officials are studying a tunnel to transport cars from the end of the bridge in Coronado under the City to the Navy Base. This plan is the most expensive option, estimated at a half billion dollars, but it might be the only way.
The City is seeking funding ideas, one is to once again have a toll. Detractors say the the tunnel would be way too expensive and also that the Navy doesn’t support it. The Navy has not taken an official position in this matter. Question is, would a tunnel end Coronado’s traffic problems?
To view the original article in the Union Tribune visit Big blue bridge hits the big 4-0