Marsh Street Bridge is getting a much-needed makeover

by: Kailey Cox

Pedestrians may not even realize they’ve crossed the Marsh Street Bridge as they stroll through downtown San Luis Obispo, but they probably will now that it’s undergoing a complete transformation.

The 100-plus-year-old bridge, which crosses San Luis Creek between Santa Rosa and Osos streets, is in desperate need of an upgrade. The City of San Luis Obispo is fully replacing it to improve public safety—for both pedestrians and cars—and to improve the flow of downtown traffic.

Designed by John B. Leonard and built in 1909, the Marsh Street Bridge is considered significant in the area of engineering and architectural design by Caltrans. The bridge is one of the oldest concrete girder (a specific type of deck support) bridges in Southern California and among the oldest remaining structures designed by Leonard.

However, Caltrans also deems the bridge structurally unsound. The new bridge will include both modern safety features and historical design elements, including lighting features that are reminiscent of the original kerosene gas lamps lining the bridge.

Recently, Verdin designed a large postcard about the project for the City of SLO to send out to residents. It reminds everyone to “Stay calm and use the detour,” and includes a handy map of where it’s located.

Starting this month Marsh Street will be closed between Osos and Santa Rosa streets. However, construction itself will not cause any business closures. Some businesses remain open through the COVID-19 pandemic and others, as they are able to reopen, will still be able to put those plans into place regardless of the construction activity. The City is working hard to ensure patrons have access to these businesses as needed.

The project is expected to take roughly nine months to complete, but that could change if there are any unforeseen complications.

Because Marsh Street is a main corridor heading into downtown SLO, signage will start at the Highway 101 off‐ramp and continue along Marsh Street to alert drivers of the closure and provide a number of options to detour around the construction site.

The parking lots for Merrill Lynch, New Times, Pacific Western Bank and Cheng Park will be accessible, as well as parking for Sunset North Carwash, The Photo Shop and True West Tattoo. Due to its proximity to the bridge, the entrance to the DaVita Dialysis Center will be closed, but access to their parking lot will be temporarily available from Pacific Street.

For more information about the Marsh Street Bridge replacement project, including important construction updates or to submit questions, visit

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