SACRAMENTO - The Tower Bridge is one of the Sacramento region's most iconic landmarks, so why does Caltrans want to give it away?
Currently, Sacramento owns the portion of Capitol Mall that leads to the bridge on the east, and West Sacramento owns the portion of the Tower Bridge Gateway that leads to the bridge on the west. The state only owns the 737-foot bridge.
The cities combined have applied for 46 permits over the past six years for events like the Farm to Fork dinner, where diners enjoy their food on the bridge roadway. Other events include the Amgen Tour and New Year's Eve fireworks.
"(It's) very bureaucratic, very complex and it's not free," Sacramento's Public Works director Jerry Way said. "This will allow us to control that bridge and not go through all of those hoops and obstacles."
However, giving up the bridge was actually Caltrans' idea. The organization sent letters to both cities making the offer, citing permit red tape.
"We have to jump through certain hoops because it's a state highway," Caltrans spokesperson Dennis Keaton said.
Caltrans is offering to complete an $8.5 million restoration project on the bridge fenders and maintain it for five years after the cities take control.
Sacramento will vote on a memorandum of understanding to continue negotiations Tuesday night, while West Sacramento isn't close to anything formal yet. An agreement would have be reached between both cities to operate and maintain the bridge. A similar agreement already exists for the I Street bridge.
"We're just waiting to hear back," Keaton said. "We need both for this to go through."
"We're going to spend a little bit of time looking under the hood and kicking the tires, making sure that we're not going down a path where we're getting a burden to either one of our cities," Way said.
The earliest local jurisdictions would take control of the bridge is 2018, and local funds wouldn't be needed until at least 2023.
Annual operating and maintenance costs are about $400,000, according to a Sacramento memo.