In Stetson and denims, Pasadena Mayor Rick Cole rode a balky palomino pony onto the Colorado Street Bridge on Monday, officially reopening the 80-year-old landmark after nearly four years of reconstruction.
The span became Pasadena's leading earthquake casualty when chunks of concrete began working their way loose and plummeting into the Arroyo Seco--160 feet below--after the 1987 Whittier Narrows temblor. The bridge was closed in 1989 by safety inspectors.
On Monday, the structure was pronounced healthier than ever by engineers and city officials. The refurbished bridge, with its nine graceful arches, can now handle big rigs, buses, bicycles, or most anything else, said Cynthia Kurtz, Pasadena's public works director.
"We can take elephants across now," she said.
"It's designed for the same loading as a normal freeway bridge," said engineering project manager Bill Robertson.
Cole led a motley, high-spirited procession of cyclists, pedestrians, antique cars--and Councilman William Paparian's 1993 Chevrolet Z28--across the bridge. Horns were sounded, and people waved at each other or took each other's pictures.
"First time without training wheels!" shouted former Pasadena Mayor Jess Hughston, in a flamboyant bicycle racing outfit with a stars-and-stripes motif.
The first car to cross was a powder-blue 1908 Panhard et Levassor, driven by David Rice, a retired Pasadena printer.
Officials expect an average of 6,000 vehicles each day to cross the bridge, which connects Pasadena's San Rafael neighborhood to the Old Town and civic areas.
The $27.4-million reconstruction, for which all but $6 million is coming from Federal Highway Bridge Repair and Replacement Act funds, has drawn a few brickbats from local fiscal watchdogs.
"I wanted to have a pedestrian and bicycle bridge instead of spending all of that money on it," said Harold Sadring, a member of the city's Code Enforcement Commission. "But it's done now, and I'm here to celebrate. It's beautiful."
In the past 33 months, workers have peeled away the old deck, exposing the bridge's ribs like an X-ray. They then replaced deteriorated concrete and crumbling abutments.
The bridge is pedestrian friendly, with benches recessed into the walls and old-fashioned light posts with hanging globes.
It also has a spiked railing, calling attention to its longstanding reputation as "the suicide bridge."
About 100 people have taken the plunge since the bridge opened Dec. 13, 1913.