From the top of San Diego’s soaring 200-foot-tall Coronado Bay Bridge, architect Lew Dominy says you can see Mexico, but outside of special events when the bridge is closed to automobile traffic, pedestrians and bicyclists who might stop to admire the view are prohibited. Dominy, principal at San Diego-based domusstudio architecture, has a plan to build a tube through the distinctive archways of the Coronado’s support piers that would bring multi-modal access to the bridge.
Dominy hatched the concept three decades ago while riding his bike across the bridge during a special event. “When you’re 200 feet in the air looking at the city, it’s just an unbelievable view,” Dominy said. At the time he was interning for the the Coronado Bay Bridge’s designer Bob Mosher, and developed an interest in the 11,179-foot-long span connecting the cities of San Diego and Coronado. Dominy shelved the proposal, but recently began promoting the concept anew.
Over the past six months, he has been meeting with officials from the US Navy, the Cities of San Diego and Coronado, the bridge’s owner CalTrans, and others to promote the idea and determine if the project is feasible. Dominy said the response so far has been positive. “With all the agencies and jurisdictions involved, this will take some time to become real,” Dominy said in an email. “But the momentum is building, and we have gotten very positive responses everywhere we’ve been with the project. We think it could be an iconic draw for cyclists and runners and visitors to San Diego.”
The plan, estimated to cost around $50 million, calls for a steel cylinder to be built inside the 12-foot-diameter pier arches, with structural attachments to the bridge’s existing steel box girders. After speaking with engineers who retrofitted the bridge for earthquakes a decade ago, Dominy said “it appears from initial analysis that no extra support is needed” for the new bike tube. The bridge is built with a 4.7 percent grade, meaning the ascent and descent over the two mile length of the bridge fit within existing ADA regulations. Dominy said the tube structure would be open but include railings and other protections to keep people from falling or jumping. He said the design could also include viewing areas at various points with glass floors to heighten the drama of the view.
To move the project forward, Dominy hopes to raise funding for a feasibility study, that among other things, will help determine if adding the bike and pedestrian tube will impact clearances of large ships that move underneath the bridge.