By Bill Sheets Herald Writer
MARYSVILLE — A new, $39.2 million bridge is opening over Ebey Slough on Highway 529 today, replacing the 85-year-old Ebey Slough Bridge that was too often clogged with traffic and did not meet current seismic standards.
The new bridge will have two lanes in each direction, compared with one each way for the old bridge, which closed Friday night. It will have a 6-foot-wide sidewalk in each direction, compared with the old bridge’s 3-foot walkway on one side. The new bridge will have a bike lane in each direction; the old one had none.
At 15 feet above the slough, the old bridge had to be opened for boat traffic, creating or exacerbating backups. The new one was built high enough, at 28 feet above the water, to accommodate boats that use the slough and won’t have moving parts.
About 17,000 cars and trucks cross the slough every day.
“Obviously the extra capacity of having four lanes for traffic and two bike lanes is a huge improvement that will benefit our city,” Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring said. “It will also provide a more aesthetically pleasing entrance to our downtown and that really ties in nicely to our downtown revitalization plans.”
The city is paying for 10 old-style lamp fixtures on the bridge, said Joe Rooney, chief inspector on the project for the state Department of Transportation, at a cost of $116,010*. They have places to hang flower baskets in the summer.
For the time being they’ll be installed only on one side, since only half of the bridge will be open the first several months. Only two lanes of the new bridge will be used to start, with one lane in each direction. The other half of the bridge, the western side, will be used to store and move equipment needed for dismantling the old bridge. That work is expected to be done by next January, allowing all lanes to be opened to traffic.
The new bridge is just to the east of the old one, so the road won’t have to be realigned much to meet the new span, Rooney said.
Northbound drivers will make a slightly sharper turn to reach the new bridge. To start, drivers headed southbound will cross a temporary ramp, made of fill dirt topped with asphalt, that will meet Highway 529 where it crosses under I-5. A permanent ramp will be built before the other two lanes are opened.
“The flow of traffic should not change,” Rooney said.
The old bridge was one of four built between 1925 and 1927 across the Snohomish River Delta, completing the last section of the north-south Pacific Highway in the state, according to HistoryLink.org.
It wasn’t until these bridges were completed that drivers were able to drive one road through Western Washington between Oregon and Canada.
The old bridge will be dismantled piece by piece, starting with the bridge tender’s house, a boxlike room built into the upper girders of the bridge, Rooney said. Then the bridge deck will be removed, then the girders from the top down.
The bridge was a swing span, meaning it swiveled open 90 degrees to make way for boats instead of raising the bridge deck.
It’s hoped that the gear that rotated the turntable can be saved and put on display in Waterfront Park near the bridge, said Ken Cage*, president of the Marysville Historical Society. Cage and Rooney both said there have been discussions about saving parts of the bridge, including a section of the railing, for display.
When drivers cross Ebey Slough, they’re crossing a body of water named for Col. Isaac Neff Ebey. During the Northwest Indian War of 1855-1856, Ebey led a group of volunteer soldiers up the slough that bears his name to scout and establish an outpost, according to HistoryLink.org.
On Aug. 11, 1857, Ebey was beheaded at his home on Whidbey Island by Kake Indians from Canada, in retaliation for a United States naval attack on their tribe that had killed 27 people, including a chief.
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction, April 16, 2012: An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect cost for the streetlight fixtures.
Correction, April 18, 2012: Ken Cage’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.