July 20, 1998
Residents view bridge drawings at open house
Engineers field questions on traffic, flooding
by Lisa Allen
Valley View Editor
DUVALL--The new Novelty Bridge on NE 124th Street will be multi-colored, with open railings suggestive of waves. It will be comfortably wide for cars, pedestrians and bicyclists with plenty of sight distance.
But while residents could appreciate those features seen in drawings at last week's informational open house at Cedarcrest High School, many continued to be concerned over traffic and how the closure of NE 124th in the year 2000 will affect them.
The open house was held by the King County Road Services Division and was designed to update residents on plans for the replacement of the old bridge. Construction is scheduled to begin around March, 2000, and be completed by October of that year, with detour routes in effect during that time frame.
Margo Nordgren, who lives east of Duvall, says she is already having trouble just getting to the west side of town across Main Street. She said she uses Virginia Street rather than Cherry Valley Road to get across and was concerned over reports that route will be closed when the detours are in effect.
King County traffic engineer Norton Posey answered that more traffic lights may be installed in town, but in order to keep traffic moving on SR-203 and Woodinville-Duvall Road, traffic will probably be limited to making right turns from Virginia Street.
Posey continues to maintain that when planned road improvements are in effect, traffic flows when NE 124th is closed will be essentially the same as they are now.
Those improvements include the installation of traffic lights at the intersection of Woodinville/Duvall Road and West Snoqualmie Valley Road and improvements at the intersections of Woodinville/Duvall Road and SR-203 and Woodinville-Duvall and Avondale Roads.
"And, the improvements will stay in place," he said. "That will be a real plus."
The construction schedule for the $10 million project has been tightened up as well, said engineers.
Originally it was planned the road would be closed for a year, but engineers now say that, although actual construction on the road leading to the bridge will be ongoing for a year, the road itself will only be closed for about eight months.
And, in response to residents' concerns over frequent road flooding, work will include widening and raising the lowest parts of NE 124th. The road is often closed for up to several days during winter flooding, causing rush hour traffic backups around the valley.
But, according to project engineer Gwen Lewis, the road will only be raised 12-14 inches in the lowest spots, which will give commuters only a few hours extra travel time while the Snoqualmie River is rising or falling. The road will still be under water during major flood events.
Dirt will be taken from an area just southwest of the bridge to fill in the two lowest spots on NE 124th, said Lewis.
Due to environmental and flooding concerns, county crews will not be able to fill in the road to a height that would prevent water from overtopping the road.
County engineer Fatin Kara said he monitored the river during a major flood during the 1996-97 winter and noticed that the low-lying areas affected first actually filled in from the hillside, but were not affected by the actual floodwaters until the water was 14 inches over the road.
"Thus, because of those results and the culverts underneath, the road raising will not cause a backwater effect south of the road," Kara said.
Improvements to the actual bridge include widening the lanes from 9.5 to 12 feet, the addition of eight-foot shoulders and increased stopping sight distance from 230 feet to 510 feet. There will also be no load restriction on the new structure.
Lewis noted that the old bridge, built in the 1920s, has been severely weakened by age. "The steel members are rusted and out of place and that weakens them," she said. "The bridge was built for Model T's. It has been closed twice for repairs this year."
The county originally budgeted $28,000 for art to be incorporated into the bridge structure. But artist Carolyn Law remarked at the meeting that the County Arts Commission decided to pool their bridge money to enhance the Novelty Bridge project so she could have enough to use the bridge for a prototype for further projects.
Law's design includes 1200 feet of open railings so drivers can see the river, with "graceful curves like water patterns," she said.
"I'm still tweaking the color scheme," she said. "But at present the main arch is a medium green, side braces will be sky blue and the railing a deeper blue. It's about as elegant as you can get."
The four granite columns marking the approach will have a simple "N" engraved in them for "Novelty," she said.