The state plans to start work this summer on replacing the narrow and aging Gen. Mark Clark Bridge, the only link between the island and the mainland.
The $82 million project also includes work to improve intersections, add lanes and repave parts of Highway 532 between Stanwood and I-5. The work is expected to wrap up in mid-2011.
It can't come too soon for Ric Shallow, who lives on the island.
"Right now if there's an accident, it's like you might as well just go back home and camp for a couple of hours," he said.
The route is also packed with rush-hour travelers in the morning and afternoon, Shallow said.
"The traffic is so bad coming from the freeway at 5 o'clock," he said. From the McDonald's in Stanwood "all the way to the island, it's a madhouse."
The current, 60-year-old bridge will remain open to traffic while the new bridge is built, said Patty Michaud, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation. The old bridge will then be torn down afterward, she said.
The new bridge will be 56 feet wide, compared to the current bridge's 26 feet. It will have two lanes for traffic, the same number as the current bridge. In addition, though, it will have two 14-foot lanes on the shoulders that will be used by bicycle riders and pedestrians and will also provide space for disabled vehicles.
The bridge will retain its current name unless there is a call to change it, state transportation spokesman Dave Chesson said. The bridge is named for the World War II general who retired to Camano Island.
It's not yet certain how traffic will be affected by the rest of the work, Michaud said. Crews will be "spread out across the corridor working on intersections," she said.
Between 2000 and 2006, Stanwood's population increased by more than 25 percent, and Camano Island's increased more than 10 percent, according to the state.
Officials say traffic counts have increased by almost 70 percent in some locations since Shallow moved to the island 10 years ago.
"It was just a piece of cake" back then, Shallow said.
Highway 532 now carries nearly 20,000 vehicles a day, according to the state.
The other improvements:
Improving intersections between Camano Island and I-5, including new left- and right-turn lanes.
Constructing a westbound right lane for slow trucks traveling uphill between 12th Avenue NW and 28th Avenue NW.
Constructing an eastbound lane for slow trucks between Pioneer Highway and 72nd Avenue NW.
Repaving the section of road between the bridge and 72nd Avenue NW.
Building highway storm-water run-off treatment collection ponds.
The state on Thursday hired Parsons Corp. of Pasadena, Calif., with an office in Seattle, to do the design work and Max J. Kuney Construction of Spokane to pour the pavement. The two will be paid $50.4 million combined, with the remainder of the project cost coming in areas such as administration, engineering and environmental work.
Reporter Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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