EVERETT — There were neither balloons nor a brass band to mark the occasion.
After years of planning, literally tons of heavy lifting, pinpoint engineering and an investment of $20 million, the Grand Avenue Park Bridge opened Wednesday with lots of anticipation but little fanfare.
A small crowd of about 20 neighbors gathered after the city of Everett published a newsflash saying the bridge had opened at 2:30 p.m. Construction workers removed chain link fence from around the northern part of the park, but another few hours passed before the crew got a final go-ahead to allow traffic on the pedestrian bridge.
Most in the crowd weren’t too disappointed by a few more hours of waiting.
Neighborhood kids clambered to be the first to touch the bridge’s pristine pavement from behind the barrier.
“Open, open, open, open!” they chanted as Megan Adams snapped a photo.
Adams lives just a block and a half from the bridge.
“Access to the waterfront will change everything,” she said. “We’ve been waiting forever for this.”
Jo Levin is a fifth generation Everettite. As kids, she and her friends would climb down the bluff where the bridge now resides to place pennies on the train tracks.
“There were actually paths leading down,” she said.
The new bridge is an improved — and safer — option.
“I’m excited to have access to some nice restaurants and our beautiful waterfront,” she said.
Jim Conner, 72, lives just a few blocks south of the park. He said he’s most looking forward to quick access to happy hour at Scuttlebutt Brewing.
The bridge passed its final safety inspection Wednesday afternoon.
The new span changes the landscape for drivers taking West Marine View Drive and offers quick access to folks wanting to hoof it down to the waterfront from Everett’s Northwest Neighborhood.
From 16th Street, the bridge goes over the bluff, rail tracks and West Marine View Drive, where it connects to a tower with an elevator and stairs on Port of Everett property. Crossing the rail lines required coordination with BNSF Railway and the Snohomish County Public Utility District because of power lines when crews hoisted the steel into place from below.
About 1 million pounds and a football field long, the steel bridge will support people and utility pipes. The old underground pipes were deteriorated and exposed to damage from landslides.
Some minor work will still need to be performed over the coming weeks, city officials said in a news release.
The city decided it best to postpone any official grand opening because of concerns with the COVID-19 virus.
“For now, we hope the community will take time to visit the bridge for themselves and experience what it’s like to connect to the waterfront,” Heather Griffin, project manager for the bridge, said in a news release.
Work has been winding down in recent days. This week, there were two critical tasks to complete: passing an elevator safety inspection and testing the lighting.
Additional fine-tuning on the lighting is in the works. When complete, the lighting will be dimmed, more uniform and off during daylight hours. For the time being, the bridge lights will be illuminated continuously.
Preliminary work on the project began in August 2017. The bridge was raised and moved into place last September, and the utility pipes were connected to the city’s wastewater and storm systems in February.
Julia-Grace Sanders: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eric Stevick contributed to this story.