A city street, 76th Avenue W., is being dug up as part of a $1.9 million cooperative municipal construction job. The project includes replacement of the existing water line for the city of Edmonds, installation of a 28-inch sewer line for the city of Lynnwood and a freshly paved street.
Nobody anticipated what crews from Santana Trucking & Excavating would find as they began to take the street apart earlier this month to make way for the new and larger pipes.
About 8 feet under the roadway, crews uncovered well-preserved, 30-foot-long western red cedar and Douglas fir logs. Lying horizontally, the logs have provided the under-structure of the street for probably 100 years.
"It's crazy," said Lynnwood public works director Jeff Elekes.
Gulches and bogs are common across Western Washington and the logs probably were bridges over the soft, wet spots in the road, Elekes said.
Several logging operations in the Perrinville and Meadowdale area were in business at the turn of the last century, said Caitlin Kelly, collections manager at the Edmonds Historical Museum.
It is possible that 76th Avenue W. was at one time not only a logging road but a skid road, which loggers would have used to slide the logs down to the water at what is now Haines Wharf Park on Brown's Bay, she said.
Elekes believes the logs were put down alongside tree stumps and then covered over with dirt and rocks. With oxygen blocked from their underground resting place, the logs were preserved and are remarkably dense, heavy and intact.
Santana's construction superintendent Caleb Gott has seen similar construction underneath other old roads around the state.
"It was a pretty common practice back then," Gott said.
Sections of the logs are being cut out to make way for the pipes, but most of timbers will remain as they are under the street, Elekes said.
Dale and Carol Lange live at the north end of the construction project and, along with many of their neighbors, they like to stroll down 76th Avenue W. and watch the construction progress. They noted that most of the unearthed logs lying alongside the street have a flat surface, in keeping with the idea they may have served as a skid road for the early loggers.
Lynnwood public works official Brian Delp said that underneath 8 inches of old asphalt, crews also found that oil had contaminated the soil. Oil was used in the 1920s and '30s to control dust and erosion on the early dirt roads. The oily soil is being hauled out and fresh fill is being trucked in, Delp said.
Between the problems posed by the old logs and the bad soil, it's going to be a lot of work to get the job done by the end of September, Delp said.
"But we have no alternative," Delp said. "It will get done."
The cities of Lynnwood and Edmonds have no plans to put the excavated logs to use, and people are welcome to come pick up these pieces of history, he said.
Only people who live on 76th Avenue W. between about 175th and 182nd streets are allowed to drive on the roadway, but pedestrians can make their way in if they are careful, Delp said.
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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