January 31, 2000
DUVALL--King County Road Services Division staff will be sending out fliers soon to 19,000 area residents to announce that the Novelty Bridge will be closing in March for new construction that is expected to take seven months.
"But even with all our efforts, we know there will be people out there who will be surprised when NE 124th closes down on March 15," bridge project manager Jim Markus said at the Duvall City Council meeting last week. "But for those who, for some reason, will not know about it, there will be flaggers out and lots of signs."
Markus said designing the new bridge has been one of King County's most elaborate projects. "It has been very complex," he said. "The project has a seven-year history, but it is right on schedule."
Markus said incentive language was included in the contract to encourage the contractor to finish early. "The contractor, Wilder Construction, has ordered the steel and it will be cut in advance," he said. "It is proceeding as well as possible right now and I am happy about that. But it is definitely more expensive to do it that way."
He said original projections were for an 18-month construction time. In response to community concerns that time was reduced to a year, then to seven months.
The new bridge will be a tied arch structure, with public art included as part of the project, funded by King County's Public Art Program. The art will have three parts--railings, pylons, and a paint design. The color scheme is part of the art and the bridge will have an open railing system using a metal wave pattern, so that people using the bridge can see the river.
"It's a repeated design, so that it can be replaced easily if it gets hit," he said.
Originally, Road Services had hoped to raise both ends of NE 124th out of the floodway while the road was closed for bridge construction, but ran into environmental and farm protection problems.
"We had to balance 'high and dry' with the needs of the fish," said Markus. "We ran up against property rights, impacts to fish, and farmland preservation. The council said they would not steal from one resource to give to another."
He said the county could revisit it at a later date, but that it is a "big problem. We looked at alternative sites for mitigation, but that was not satisfactory for fisheries."
Norton Posey, King County traffic engineer, said county staff has spent two years considering detour routes. "We identified the best alternate route as West Snoqualmie Valley Road to Woodinville-Duvall Road and across to SR-203," he said. "Some people may not use that, but instead go up Avondale and come across."
Engineers identified four intersections for improvements. Those are: Woodinville-Duvall Road at W. Snoqualmie Valley Road for a traffic signal and a right turn lane; Woodinville-Duvall Road at SR-203 for timing and route changes affecting Virginia Street traffic; SR-203 at Stephens St. for a traffic light; and Woodinville-Duvall Road at Avondale for additional turn lanes. The signal on Stephens Street will be operational by February 22.
"Cameras will be installed at intersections also, so controllers can make timing changes without having to go to the intersection," Posey said. "Traffic information will also be available on the county's website."
Posey said he is aware of the gridlock that occurs when NE 124th is closed due to flooding, but insisted that the improvements will help move traffic and that some motorists eventually change their commuting habits and use different routes. "Things 'shake out' after people start adjusting," he said. "Traffic will calm down."
Duvall Police Chief Glenn Merryman said emergency vehicles and paramedics will be stationed in town during rush hour traffic, and Duvall police officers will be available for traffic control. "We are going to plan for the worst and hope for the best," he said. "I am optimistic, but this will cause some problems and some stress."
Mayor Glen Kuntz said he had been concerned about overtime pay for the Duvall officers, but was assured that the county will foot the bill.
As far as the old bridge is concerned, King County attempted to find a home for it, "but there were no takers," said Markus. "It would be difficult to move, and the taker would have to deal with the lead paint." Instead, the old bridge will be taken down and cut up, he said.
The bridge was built in 1920, not 1899, as had been previously reported in the Valley View. It is in bad condition, is too narrow for modern traffic, and has no shoulders.
The new steel bridge will be 623 feet long and have two 12-foot-wide travel lanes with 8-foot shoulders. Total cost will be $10.8 million. Construction is expected to be completed in November.