MAY 19, 1997

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Opinion

Bridge closing will cost drivers

Novelty Bridge In 1999, the Novelty Bridge is due to be replaced by a new bridge as the old one has reached the end of its structural lifespan (70-plus years). This bridge, which crosses the Snoqualmie River Valley on 124th Avenue NE, currently serves, on average, 7,000 cars per day. The project cost is $10 million, most of which is federal dollars.
   The existing bridge will be closed between January and December of 1999 for the construction of the new bridge. This will require drivers to take a six-mile detour per trip (12 miles round trip) through the city of Duvall for an entire year.
   The argument for closing the existing bridge during construction is basically one of extra cost and environmental impact. The option to build a temporary bridge or build the new one next to the old has not been proposed as an option.
   The environmental impact of building a temporary bridge or relocating the new one to the north or south of the existing one would require additional land acquisition, temporary roads, and modification of approximately 100 feet of the river bank. The fact is, environmental arguments about loss of river bank and farmland don't hold up when compared with the 2,100 additional gallons of gasoline burned in the valley every day the bridge remains closed.
   The main concern to most residents should be the cost of taking the detour. At 20 per mile, each detour trip costs $1.20; a total of $438 dollars per car for the year in which the bridge remains closed; a grand total of $3,066,000 during the year for all those affected.
   We have real life examples of what happens with traffic congestion when the bridge is closed. Three or four times per year, the Novelty Bridge is closed due to flooding, often for two or three days. The traffic backs up as far as Big Rock Road in the morning and Novelty Hill all the way along W. Snoqualmie Valley Road and across the valley during the evening commute. What this really means is that a six-mile detour can take as long as 25 to 35 minutes.
   Even after it is completed, the Novelty Hill bridge will still get closed during flood conditions. Zero dollars of the $10 million allocated for the project will be used to raise the road at either side of the valley where it repeatedly gets covered by flood waters.
   I believe this project needs reconsideration for additional funds such that the bridge can remain open while a new bridge is built, and any project should solve existing problems during flood conditions. I would rather pay a toll to go across this bridge or have my property assessed than pay for running two cars around a detour for a year.
   It is not too late to delay the project until additional funds can be found to prevent the bridge from closing during the construction of a new bridge. The county contact person for this project is Matt Maling, (206) 205-5202, or Gwen Lewis, (206) 296-8758.

David Kern, Carnation