Work on new Davis Slough bridge to Camano hits delays

CAMANO ISLAND — Replacing the only bridge between the island and mainland is taking longer than expected.

Work started last August on rebuilding the Davis Slough Bridge on Highway 532 between Stanwood and Camano Island. The state Department of Transportation had planned to finish the project this fall, but officials now expect the work to continue into 2016. They hope to be done in the spring.

Crews are building the bridge one half at a time. They finished the south half and shifted traffic from the old bridge onto the new portion last month. The speed limit is 35 mph, down from the normal 45 mph, until construction is finished.

“We’ve passed the halfway point,” said Tom Pearce, a spokesman with the Department of Transportation. “We had hoped to finish this fall, but with any construction project you can encounter challenges that push things back.”

Much of the roadwork requires dry weather, so the wet winter slowed things down, he said. Once the bridge is completely built, contractors have to wait for more dry weather to do the final paving. That’s why the completion date is set for spring, he said.

Workers are raising the bridge 10 feet, and the approaching highway five feet, to get it farther from the reach of floods and storm debris. Once the new south half and planned north half of the bridge are connected, it will be 24 feet wider than the original, with a four-foot-wide striped median between lanes and 14-foot-wide shoulders. The shoulder space is critical for pedestrians, bicyclists or emergencies, when someone needs to pull over or traffic needs to be routed around an accident, Pearce said.

The new bridge also is designed to hold up if there is an earthquake. If the bridge were knocked out, there would be no land route to Camano Island. More than 15,000 people live on the island and the state estimates about 18,000 vehicles cross the bridge each day, based on a 2014 traffic survey.

The $19 million rebuild is part of a $29 million project that includes wetland restoration and a new dike at Dugualla Bay on Whidbey Island. State and federal law requires the Department of Transportation to create new habitat to make up for the 1.35 acres of wetland workers are filling in to build the new Davis Slough Bridge. Dugualla Bay is about 12 miles from Davis Slough and both are along Skagit Bay. The department plans to build a new dike, then breach the existing levee and let high tides flood about 29 acres, creating a saltwater marsh.

The old Davis Slough Bridge is to be removed in the coming months, and crews plan to build the north half of the new bridge while traffic continues to use the south, Pearce said. Drivers should expect occasional lane closures until the bridge is finished.

Two highway bridges were built in 1949 to cross the distance from Camano Island to Stanwood, one over the Stillaguamish River and one over Davis Slough. The Camano Gateway Bridge over the Stillaguamish, previously known as the Mark Clark Bridge, was rebuilt in 2010.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

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