After 87 years, the time is coming for a replacement of the old U.S. 101 bridge over the San Luis Rey River in Oceanside.

Celebrated in 1930 as state of the art in 1930, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports the bridge, now owned by the City of Oceanside, has to go.

All the traffic from Los Angeles to San Diego crossed this bridge from 1930 until, perhaps 1953, when the Oceanside-Carlsbad bypass was constructed, or until the early 1960s, when Interstate 5 opened. I’ll have to do some more research to find out when this bridge was bypassed.

“The two-lane 950-foot structure, just south of Harbor Drive and the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base, is ‘deteriorated, structurally deficient … and seismically vulnerable,’ and must be replaced, says the preliminary study released by the city this month,” said the newspaper. “What’s more, the design has been labeled ‘fracture critical,’ meaning the steel beams in each portion of the span are all under tension, and if one of them breaks then the bridge would collapse.”

But in 1930, it was another story.

“Replacing a narrow pile trestle structure which was hastily thrown across the San Luis Rey River after the disastrous flood of 1916, the Division of Highways is building a new high level, wide, modern bridge on improved alignment,” said a brief article in the December 1930 edition of California Highways and Public Works, preserved on

My Quintessential California driving tour on Amazon Kindle, or the same chapter in the print book Joyrides Around San Diego takes drivers around Oceanside Harbor, giving a great view of the “fracture critical” steel beams.

And by the way, construction cost in 1930: $281,542 ($5,275,728.91 today, according to the inflation calculator from the Bureau of Labor Statistics). The estimate for replacement in 2017? $18-$22 million.


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