The crossing at May Creek, nine miles east of Gold Bar, will be shut down for the summer. When it reopens, a 100-foot-long, 28-foot-wide bridge will replace the partially washed out structure that has functioned with only one lane for several years.
Snohomish County Public Works has headed planning for the overhaul of the 42-year-old May Creek Bridge, the integrity of which has been compromised by erosion for some time.
“Inspectors have rated the bridge as structurally deficient; requiring increased maintenance and inspections due to shallow pile depths and channel degradation,” according to the project’s design report.
Roughly 741 daily trips are made across the existing structure, according to the report. County traffic planners estimate traffic will increase to 1,000 trips by 2034. As of 2013, the structure’s sufficiency rating was downgraded to 8.16 out of 100. The county issued a preliminary closure in 2009 in the event of significant damage done to the creek banks or bridge.
The stream crossing is located roughly 3.5 miles upstream of its confluence to the Wallace River, according to the report. The bridge “currently acts as a constriction to the free flowing characteristics of May Creek.”
Sediment around the foundation is being removed by a head cut, or vertical drop in the river bank that has made its way upstream and reached the bridge, causing faster flows by narrowing the stream.
The banks under the bridge are expected to be more stable once the project is complete.
“The new bridge will be wider to improve safety and longer to reduce scour risks and accommodate stream behavior,” according to the report.
The existing bridge has no shoulders or sidewalks, while the new bridge will have both. The bridge is listed as a local access road, largely traveled by residents living in rural areas surrounding Gold Bar.
“A full road closure is proposed to promote construction efficiency while reducing length of construction costs and environmental impacts; a 6-mile detour route is available to support a full road closure,” according to the design report.
Robert Askew, who lives on Moonlight Drive west of town, said he makes an average 15-20 weekly trips across the bridge to visit Gold Bar Nature Trails, the large campground he owns south of the bridge, which is open year round. He said closing the route down all summer will force locals to take U.S. Highway 2 to get anywhere, and that is going to be an ongoing, rough situation.
On Sundays, when tourists and residents are heading back home from the east, traffic can back up all the way to Index, Eskew said. He is concerned it has “taken a long time to replace a small bridge,” he said, and the project “will have a pretty big impact” on those that regularly use the road.
On Feb. 22, the Snohomish County Council awarded Bellingham-based Strider Construction the project contract for more than $2.5 million. The total estimated cost of the project is $3.3 million, with $2.4 million coming from a federal grant and a $600,000 match by the county, according to the project design report.
Snohomish County Public Works communications specialist Meghan Jordan said the start and end dates for construction will be announced in April. County senior planner Crilly Ritz said the exact dates have not been set because the contract was only recently awarded.