Hopes for easing rush hour run high as bridge opens


Herald Writers

EVERETT — The last part of a nine-year, $92 million task to build new eastbound Hewitt Avenue Trestle lanes is virtually complete, and motorists Monday got their first taste of a new alignment.

New ramps from I-5 and Everett to a new bridge over the Snohomish River were opened after state Department of Transportation and construction crews worked through the weekend to put the finishing touches on them.

Other parts of the 2.5-mile trestle, including an interchange at Cavalero Corner at the east end, were completed and opened to motorists at various times in the 1990s.

Officials hope the bridge and ramps will help ease traffic on the trestle, as well as in the northbound lanes of I-5 during rush hour.

"It’s a major milestone. It was a relief for us to get the traffic switched over," said Gilc McNabb, DOT project engineer.

McNabb was in charge of the final phase of construction, a $42 million contract with General Construction Co. to complete the ramps and bridge. The new bridge sits some 70 feet above the river, much higher than the old one, which will be torn down, McNabb said.

The trestle is at the western terminus of U.S. 2.

The new structures got their first test Monday, but it was hardly a fair one. Heavy rain fell on the area throughout most of the afternoon, contributing to traffic accidents and backups in many locations.

The surge of late-afternoon freeway traffic frequently backs up for miles because of merging vehicles at 41st Street and people trying to get off I-5 bound for east Snohomish County communities such as Lake Stevens and Snohomish. Monday was no exception.

Traffic was still slow between the Everett Mall and downtown Everett. Downtown, eastbound traffic on Hewitt moved slowly as motorists got used to the new, two-lane ramp at Walnut Street.

"The biggest difference is the two-lane access directly from Hewitt" Avenue, McNabb said. Those lanes and the single freeway ramp still merge to just two lanes, but the merge point is farther away from the freeway.

"I think the congestion on I-5 will be reduced simply because the merge is moved farther east," he said.

The trestle work replaced a narrow, two-lane road that was constructed in the 1930s. The old structure included numerous wooden support members, a maintenance nightmare.

The new concrete trestle lies parallel to the westbound lanes, which were built in the 1960s.

Although the new structure still has only two lanes, it’s much wider and safer than the trestle it replaced, McNabb said.

The contractor was able to finish the job much faster than was thought when the work began two years ago, McNabb said. That was partly because some of the materials were delivered over private land on Ebey Island instead of by barge, as was in the original plans.

The cost will be about $1 million more than originally thought, however. That’s because more expensive bridge footings were installed, he said.

McNabb was afraid the bridge would not have been completed until next year if bad weather prevented the last bit of work.

Some construction will continue on new bicycle-pedestrian facilities that will be complete in the spring.

There have been some other traffic adjustments in Everett, McNabb said.

Hewitt Avenue is a one-way street between Maple and Walnut streets, and there’s no access to the trestle onramp from Chestnut Street.

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