(FOX40.COM) — For nearly a century, Yankee Jims bridge has served as the only means of passage between Colfax and Foresthill over the North Fork of the American River but Placer County intends to change that.
Placer County Engineering Manager Kevin Ordway said in a video that the bridges maximum weight limit of three tons is no longer adequate for the average weight of modern vehicles and is showing some significant structural damage.
According to a September 2017 report from the county, Ordway said the bridge has the lowest safety ratings of any in-service bridge in California.
“Being built in 1930 it was designed for the vehicles of 1930,” Ordway said. “Most of your vehicles of today, your three-quarter ton pickup, are over three tons or 6,000 pounds. It doesn’t mean its gonna collapse at three tons but it does irreparable damage every time a vehicle over three tons crosses it.”
Given that the bridge is located in an extremely remote area in dense forest, it also serves as a hindrance rather than a help for fire trucks trying to make their way across the bridge.
Ordway said that in 2012 crews trying to access the Robbers Fire from Colfax were unable to cross the bridge and had to find another way across.
That fire was located near Yankee Jims Road and Shirttail Canyon Road in Foresthill, which is only a 1.4 mile drive from the bridge.
“So that really gave the energy needed to get the funding and start securing it so we could put in a bridge that would meet current fire truck loads and current vehicular loads,” Ordway said.
The county plans to build a steel arch suspension bridge right next to the existing bridge in order to maintain the history of the existing bridge while providing a safer way to cross.
“While it looks like an expensive bridge it is actually the cheapest option that will bring the least amount of damage to the channel,” Ordway said.
Another significant benefit to this bridge project is that the material removed to realign the road and bring in needed materials will result in the creation of a new parking lot.
Currently there is a small three or four car parking lot at the western end of the bridge that can fill up extremely fast during peak use and has caused people to park along the roadway, creating a nearly impossible to access route for first responders in the case of an emergency.
“So the plan is to sign the road for ‘no parking’ and then we will define how many parking spots there are and where people park down here at the river.”
History of Yankee Jim Bridge
This crossing has been used since the gold rush as miners in the Foresthill Divide and the small community of Yankee Jims used the crossing to access the rail station in Colfax to get to Sacramento or the Bay Area.
In 1906, the county purchased the road and the old deck truss bridge from the Colfax Commerical Company.
That bridge would fail in 1930 and cause the county to approve an emergency project to construct a new bridge over the much used crossing.
Similar Project’s in Placer County
In 1982, the county carried out a similar project a few miles up stream from Yankee Jim Bridge at Iowa Hill Road.
The existing bridge was a one-lane timber and steel suspension bridge that was built in 1928 by the county to replace an earlier wooden bridge at the same location.
The bridge connected Colfax and Iowa Hill, but was no longer suitable as a vehicular bridge and was repurposed into a pedestrian bridge.
A more modern two-lane bridge was built just downstream from the 1928 bridge to serve vehicles in 1985.