SILVANA — A hole in a nearly century-old bridge prompted Snohomish County Public Works staff to lower weight capacity and reduce the crossing to a single lane.
Implemented this week, the temporary change at Pilchuck Creek bridge just north of 236th Street NE on Pacific Highway could last years because the county doesn’t have the money to replace it.
Every day, about 428 vehicles use the steel-and-concrete bridge first built in 1933, according to county estimates.
“Safety is our top priority,” Snohomish County Public Works bridge engineer Tim Tipton said in a news release. “By reducing traffic and weight loads on some bridges, we extend their life and keep traffic flowing safely until a replacement or rehabilitation project can be funded and scheduled. All county bridges are routinely evaluated and maintained.”
Snohomish County Public Works is responsible for 205 bridges, as well as 1,600 miles of roads and about 200 traffic control signals.
In April county employees found a hole in the concrete deck of the Old Highway 99 bridge that spans 181 feet and is 24 feet wide. They installed a steel plate to cover the gap on the crossing about 20 feet above Pilchuck Creek, but the steel girders were not affected, Snohomish County Public Works spokesperson Julie Kuntz said in an email.
“The lane reduction and load limits will lessen the impact of vehicles on the structure and extend the life of the bridge,” Kuntz said. “The bridge is considered safe for traffic. The bridge will be monitored, and the plates will remain in place until funding can be acquired so a replacement or major repair can be completed.”
Public works staff changed the lanes prior to the crossing to make it a single lane with barriers and barricades. Signs instruct northbound and southbound traffic to yield when vehicles are on the bridge, similar the Jordan Road bridge. Yield signs and pavement markings were installed to control traffic on the bridge.
But it still can’t take the heavy freight that once crossed it, so the county set a weight restriction.
Snohomish County staff intend to seek federal money for rehabilitation or replacement of the bridge during the next funding cycle, in 2023.