EVERETT — Folks peered over the bluff at Grand Avenue Park, lined the piers at the Port of Everett Marina, and one even watched from a dinghy offshore, all seeking a glimpse of a $20 million bridge being slowly rotated into place on Wednesday.
Hundreds of people were out — some with binoculars in hand, others with dog leashes — on a bright blue fall day to witness the final hours of the months-long installation of the Grand Avenue Park Bridge.
“I’m really looking forward to riding my bike over it,” said Susan Ewing, who lives nearby on Rockefeller Avenue. “I think this will be a wonderful addition. It’s a step forward for Everett.”
A traffic jam developed along Grand Avenue as observers flooded to the park throughout the day.
When the bridge opens some time next year, the span will provide an additional and much-desired pedestrian link to the waterfront from the park above. More connections to Everett’s waterfront have long been a high priority for many residents.
Crews worked through Tuesday night scrambling to ready the site for Wednesday’s scheduled installation, which required BNSF Railway to close five tracks that the new bridge crosses over.
With the weight of the million-pound bridge shifted from four steel lifting towers to two transporters used to turn and move the structure, the two south towers still needed to be removed as the sun set Tuesday. A little after 8 a.m. Wednesday cranes carted off the last pieces of the two disassembled towers.
Workers used steel plates, rail ties and plywood sheets to level the ground to allow the transporter to roll over the railroad tracks, according to Kathleen Baxter, a spokesperson for Everett’s public works department.
Around 9 a.m., a single operator beneath the bridge used a controller tethered to the transporters to begin inching the span to the south.
About two hours later, the bridge began its wide swing to bring the northern end toward the park’s bluff. Other crew members spotted from the hillside as the bridge was maneuvered under high-voltage lines and between a gap in a set of electrical lines.
With only about a half-inch tolerance for error in setting the bridge, crews worked carefully adjusting the final resting spot for the steel truss, Baxter said.
“The moving and placement of the bridge today went exceptionally well,” said Heather Griffin, the city’s project manager. “The contractor followed the schedule they set, and, most importantly, the bridge was successfully set on its bearings. We couldn’t ask for a better outcome.”
The bridge started as a utility project to carry stormwater and sewage from north Everett. A $2 million federal grant allowed the city to add a pedestrian deck. A catwalk under the bridge will allow maintenance crews to examine the utility pipes slung underneath.
The bridge slopes down about 4% from the bluff to the waterfront. A switchback eliminated the need for an elevator on the east side.
To reduce maintenance — and to avoid future rail closures so the bridge can be painted — the steel sides are pre-weathered. A layer of rust will prevent inner layers from oxidizing.
The city had hoped to erect the bridge last year, but the steel pieces took longer to manufacture than planned.
Crews are expected to finish up Thursday so West Marine View Drive can reopen Friday.
Julie Muhlstein contributed to the story.