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Spanning the globe: Foresthill Bridge gets international attention

Russian engineers inspect one of nation's modern marvels
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Russian engineers visited the 730 foot-high Foresthill Bridge to marvel Tuesday at one of the nation’s modern-day engineering wonders. Completed in 1973, the bridge was briefly the second highest in the world. Eric Sakowski, whose website HighestBridges.com tracks the tale of the tape in the bridge world said Tuesday that it’s now ranked around 30th. Nationally, it’s ranked the fourth highest and highest in California. The span – and the $75 million seismic retrofit and repainting project now being undertaken by Placer County – was a must-see stop for the group of a dozen Russian engineers from the Moscow area. Sakowski, a Los Angeles resident whose love for bridges took him earlier this year to China, helped organize a whirlwind tour of California bridges that took the group to several noteworthy structures. The tour included traveling in a boat wending through the piers at the East Bay Bridge, viewing the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset and appreciating the engineering of Pitkin’s Curve on Highway 1 along the Big Sur coast. For Placer County, which has about 40 percent of the work completed after a January start, Tuesday’s tour was a chance to highlight some of the ingenuity and technology involved in improving on 1970s engineering. In one area, tour members saw how the contractor has created openings beneath the bridge deck in the concrete boxes at both ends of the span. The openings allow equipment inside to strengthen the bridge in the event of a strong earthquake. Stanislav Iluhin, an engineer and vice president of a bridge building company, said the trip and the visit to the Foresthill Bridge Tuesday were good opportunities to look at American technology up close. “It’s also about seeing the culture of the building industry and the techniques being used – and the quality,” Iluhin said. The group was joined on the tour by Foresthill Bridge project manager Sherri Berexa, a professional engineer with the county who said the retrofit is on schedule for completion by the targeted late 2013 or early 2014. “We’re very pleased with the work the contractor has done and the progress that is being made,” Berexa said. “We’re moving into our first winter and the wind is a bigger concern than the rain." Wind monitors are already in place on the bridge and some work will not be performed when winds exceed 50 mph.