Stanislaus County considers demolishing 103-year-old ‘Lion Bridge’

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MODESTO, Calif. (KTXL) -- Officials in Stanislaus County are setting their sights on demolishing a 103-year-old bridge.

It’s cracked, crumbling and not as strong as it used to be.

“That bridge was designed for wagons and mules, not for 80,000-pound semis,” said Public Work for Stanislaus County Director David Leamon.

Modesto’s 7th Street Bridge, also known as the “Lion Bridge,” has helped ferry drivers since 1916 but its bones are growing more fragile with each passing car.

“So you see cracked concrete everywhere and big pieces, not big pieces, but chunks of concrete missing,” Leamon told FOX40.

Leamon said not to worry, the bridge is safe. Crews even added a wooden support beam last year to help but Stanislaus County will have to act. Soon, the bridge may be demolished.

“We’re excited about Biggs Cardosa starting and we look forward to the successful completion of the project," Leamon said.

Retrofitting was once on the table, so the bridge would be able to support vehicles heavier than 4 tons, but officials realized it was not possible.

“There wouldn’t be much left of the old bridge by the time we got done retrofitting it and it’s too low anyway," he said.

The bridge may have to go but for some Modestoans, they’d like to see at least some of it preserved.

Chris Murphy, the publisher of the magazine Modesto View and a proponent of protecting history, said he would like to see the lions stay.

“There’s ways to do a lot of this stuff, respecting the past, and also I think it makes our town more interesting,” Murphy said.

Respecting the past is exactly what county officials say they plan on doing. They shared a rendering of what the new lions stomping ground may look like, built near the new bridge.

“Two of them go in the historical plaza, and then two, we’re either going to donate to a museum or put them somewhere around town but all four lions are gonna be saved,” Leamon said.

Modesto should be proud of its "pride", said Murphy.

“Because I think cities are craving their history, they’re craving authenticity, people want to know where they come from,” he said.

County officials are set to discuss the potential plans for the 7th Street Bridge next week. Once approved, construction is expected to begin in 2022. The estimated cost of the project is $38 million.

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