BARSTOW City officials announced federal funding was approved for replacement of the nearly 83-year-old First Avenue Bridge, and reconstruction is expected to begin by 2017.

The cement and steel truss bridge with wooden bracing was originally constructed in 1930 and is a major throughway. It is located above the BNSF railway tracks and adjacent the historic Harvey House Railroad Depot.

The overall replacement project will cost $44.5 million, with 88.5 percent being funded through the Cal Trans Highway Bridge Program and the remaining 11.5 percent by the City of Barstow.

The bridge received a sufficiency rating of 3 out of 100 on a recent Cal Trans inspection, although the overall structure is stable and not in danger of falling down, Assistant City Manager Oliver Chi said in an email.

"A major reason for the low rating of the First Avenue Bridge is due to the overall geometrics of the structure," Chi wrote. "The big curve located towards the northern section of the bridge is a major reason for the low sufficiency rating."

Chi also said the rating was not a surprise to city officials as rebuilding the bridge has long been a community priority. A 15-ton weight restriction was placed on the structure in 2010, and significant work was completed by city staff in November 2012 to reinforce it, according to Chi.

A structural column and support brace were fixed, according to a report by the Desert Dispatch. In January, Cal Trans re-inspected the bridge and recommended the weight limits be removed. They are expected to be lifted this month, Chi said.

The reconstruction project is now in its first phase, known as the "Project Approval and Environmental Design" which will take about two years. During this period project details including how the bridge should be aligned, what environmental mitigations need to occur and how the new bridge will be constructed will be decided, according to Chi.

The engineering contract for the project was awarded to Simon Wong Engineering and the City Council approved the funding for the PAED process to begin last week.