A semi truck drives across Bridge 102 located just east of Granite Falls on Wednesday. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A semi truck drives across Bridge 102 located just east of Granite Falls on Wednesday. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Granite Falls group urges preservation of bridge slated for demo

Bridge 102 just east of Granite Falls was built in 1934. It has withstood quakes but might not survive time.

GRANITE FALLS — Over a century ago, an enormous log and some rope helped people cross the South Fork Stillaguamish River.

As logging and mining boomed east of the gap, a steel bridge replaced the log in 1911.

Today, thousands of drivers every year cross the towering concrete and steel span built in 1934.

At 87 years old, the structure, officially called Granite Falls Bridge 102, has held together remarkably well.

“It’s a testament to the engineering that went into it,” said Fred Cruger.

Cruger is the treasurer of the Granite Falls Historical Society and a member of the city’s planning commission.

He wants to save the bridge and turn it into an overlook reserved for pedestrian and emergency access.

For decades it has been a vital connection along the Mountain Loop Highway, averaging 750 freight trucks loaded with gravel, lumber and soil every day. That’s about 14% of daily traffic, Snohomish County Public Works Director Kelly Snyder said.

But county staff say the bridge has outlived its “design life” of 75 years.

“We’ve done a really good job of maintaining it beyond that life expectancy,” Snyder said.

At this point, the bridge is slated for demolition after a new one is built around 2025, but the decision is not final.

Keeping the old one, and its liability and risk, would require federal approval and consultation with area tribes and other agencies, Snyder said. If it was kept, the cost of long-term maintenance or future removal “could fall entirely” on county taxpayers, she said.

The original concrete structure and metal beams underneath Bridge 102 in Granite Falls. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The original concrete structure and metal beams underneath Bridge 102 in Granite Falls. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Snohomish County Public Works applied eight times for federal grants to replace the bridge.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant program awarded the project just over $22.1 million.

The total estimate for the replacement is $28.7 million, with county road funds covering the difference.

Structurally, the existing bridge is sound. It spans 340 feet with two 10-foot-wide lanes, and it stands about 97 feet above the river.

Even after some major earthquakes in the region, inspections didn’t reveal critical damage, county engineer Doug McCormick said.

Bridge inspections cost about $5,500 every other year. A special truck with a bucket crane is contracted, in partnership with the Washington State Department of Transportation.

A truck driver waits for another truck to drive across Bridge 102 before crossing Wednesday in Granite Falls. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A truck driver waits for another truck to drive across Bridge 102 before crossing Wednesday in Granite Falls. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Workers paint the bridge every 20 or 30 years to preserve the metal. It last happened about a decade ago and cost just over $1 million. Painting the smaller Red Bridge, also on the Mountain Loop Highway, is estimated to cost $2 million.

Otherwise, maintenance is part of daily road work along the Mountain Loop Highway and not a major expense, McCormick said.

Instead, modern vehicle width and the narrowness of the vehicle deck have made it obsolete. Trucks have to take turns crossing.

“I think it’s known by all the drivers that it’s a narrow structure that they need to take care of when driving across,” McCormick said.

Designs for the new bridge call for it to be 406 feet across, 30 feet wide, and just downstream of the current structure. Sidewalks of 5 feet are planned for each direction.

One of the first crossings over the South Fork Stillaguamish River for settlers was a large log. (Granite Falls Historical Society)

Normally the water below is a milky blue, though since work upstream this summer it has been a bit more brown.

When it rains, the river surges down the city’s namesake falls. The sound roars off the sheer rock wall across from where people can watch the fish ladder that helps salmon charge upstream.

A small trail leads down to the underside of the bridge and down a steep path to the river. On a recent visit, brown and yellow leaves covered the damp ground, with cedar trees all around.

“You get a real feel for the river, the falls, the beauty of it all,” said Tom Thorleifson, a Granite Falls Historical Society member and retired teacher.

This steel bridge over the South Fork Stillaguamish River was built in 1911 and later replaced by the structure that stands today just east of Granite Falls. (Granite Falls Historical Society)

This steel bridge over the South Fork Stillaguamish River was built in 1911 and later replaced by the structure that stands today just east of Granite Falls. (Granite Falls Historical Society)

In 2018, demolition was estimated to cost $1.3 million, the county engineer said.

But Cruger and other local historians say that’s a mistake and a missed opportunity.

He sent former U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao a letter in 2019 supporting the replacement bridge. His letter also asked for the existing span to be saved.

Should the bridge be closed, a detour through Darrington is about 90 miles.

“It would be a much safer pedestrian and bicycle crossing,” Cruger said. “I would rather see the tourism, the historical and cultural elements of those items enhanced, rather than detracted by the new bridge.”

Built in 1934, Granite Falls Bridge 102 across South Fork Stillaguamish River still stands today just east of Granite Falls. (Granite Falls Historical Society)

Built in 1934, Granite Falls Bridge 102 across South Fork Stillaguamish River still stands today just east of Granite Falls. (Granite Falls Historical Society)

The county’s current plans call for cyclists to use the 15-foot travel lanes on the new bridge, which would be built just west, or downstream, of the existing one. About 400 feet of new road to the new bridge could displace some parking near the fish ladder.

Snohomish County staff plan to add spaces on the east side of the highway. To help people safely reach the fish ladder without crossing the highway, the county is considering a pedestrian path underneath the bridge.

Once the new bridge is built, the downstream view will likely be obstructed.

“If somebody were to walk out on the old structure and look out on the side, they’re going to see the side of a girder,” said McCormick, the county engineer.

But nothing is yet set in stone.

The bridge’s potential eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places would be considered during the federal environmental assessment, which includes public comment.

Until then, people can stay informed by visiting the county’s project website at bit.ly/3Gr2Neb or signing up for email alerts.

Ben Watanabe: bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3037; Twitter @benwatanabe.

Correction: An earlier version misstated the cost for bridge inspections.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Kim Skarda points at her home on a map on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Concrete, Washington. A community called Sauk River Estates has a very steep slope above it. There is a DNR-approved timber sale that boarders the estate properties, yet they were not consulted about the sale before approval. The community has already appealed the sale and has hired their own geologist to conduct a slope stability report at the site. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Beneath steep slope, Concrete neighbors fear landslides from logging above

Nielsen Brothers plans to cut 54 acres of timber directly behind the community of 83 homes. Locals said they were never consulted.

Law enforcement respond to a person hit by a train near the Port of Everett Mount Baker Terminal on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
2 killed in waterfront train crashes were near Mukilteo ‘quiet zone’

In June, two people were hit by trains on separate days near Mukilteo Boulevard. “These situations are incredibly tragic,” Everett’s mayor said.

Rob Plotnikoff takes a measurement as a part of the county's State of Our Waters survey at Tambark Creek in Bothell, Washington on Monday, July 1, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish County stream team bushwhacks a path to healthier waterways

This summer, the crew of three will survey 40 sites for the State of Our Waters program. It’s science in locals’ backyards.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
4th suspect arrested after Mountlake Terrace home robbery

Police arrested Taievion Rogers, 19, on Tuesday. Prosecutors charged his three alleged accomplices in April.

A 10 acre parcel off of Highway 99, between 240th and 242nd Street Southwest that the city of Edmonds is currently in the process of acquiring on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds ditches $37M Landmark public park project off Highway 99

The previous mayor envisioned parks and more in south Edmonds, in a historically neglected area. The new administration is battling budget woes.

Edmonds school official sworn in as Mount Vernon supe

Victor Vergara took his oath of office last week. He was assistant superintendent of equity and student success in Edmonds.

Former president Donald Trump is seen with a bloody ear as he is assisted off the stage during a campaign rally in Butler, Pa., on Saturday. MUST CREDIT: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post
Pops, screams and then blood: On the scene at the Trump rally shooting

Isaac Arnsdorf, Jabin Botsford | The Washington Post BUTLER, Pa. - The… Continue reading

Biden, Democrats, Republicans denounce shooting at Trump rally

Reaction pours in from government leaders

A bloodied Donald Trump is surrounded by Secret Service agents at a campaign rally in Butler, Pa, on Saturday, July, 13, 2024. The former president was rushed off stage at rally after sounds like shots; the former president was escorted into his motorcade at his rally in Butler, Pa., a rural town about an hour north of Pittsburgh. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)
Trump rally shooting investigated as assassination attempt

President Joe Biden gave a brief televised statement, condemning the violence as “sick.”

Firefighters and EMTs with Sky Valley Fire tour Eagle Falls while on an observational trip on Wednesday, July 10, 2024, near Index, Washington. (Jordan Hansen / The Herald)
Beautiful but deadly: Drownings common at Eagle Falls, other local waters

Locals and firefighters are sounding the alarm as Eagle Falls and the Granite Falls Fish Ladder have claimed five lives this year.

A view of the south eastern area of the Lake Stevens that includes lakeshore and UGA that is a part of the city's annexation area on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020 in Lake Stevens, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lake Stevens fight to take over sewer district could end soon

The city and sewer district have been locked in a yearslong dispute. A judge could put an end to the stalemate this month.

Lynnwood appoints new council member after abrupt resignation

Derica Escamilla will take the seat vacated by Shirley Sutton in May, who claimed the city had a “total lack of leadership.”

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.