After serving the Sumner community and its commuters for close to a century, the Bridge Street bridge will soon be replaced.
Of course, soon is a relative term. While the project was awarded to SB Structures on April 17 and construction is slated to begin this month, it will continue for more than two years, with an end date around June 2019.
“The bridge has served us really well for 90 years,” said Carmen Palmer, the city’s communications director. “But it’s definitely time to replace it.”
Replacing the bridge has been on the council’s mind for several years.
In 2012, the Washington State Department of Transportation recommended a load limit be placed on the bridge, possibly due to the bridge’s low sufficiency rating of 9 out of 100.
The bridge now has a sufficiency rating of 7 out of 100.
Around the same time, the council hired an engineering group to further study the bridge and its limitations, Palmer said, and for many years after, continued adding a bridge replacement project to the city’s annual transportation improvement plan.
The entire project is estimated to cost around $18 million, but the city said most of the project (86 percent, or $15 million) is covered by grants Sumner has been collecting for the past several years.
The other $3 million is being paid with the city’s real estate excise tax and utility funds.
The new bridge will have several functional and aesthetic improvements over the old historic bridge, Palmer said.
First, the new bridge will have a larger load limit than the current bridge’s limit of 12 tons. This means trucks and other large vehicles will once again be able to cross the bridge.
“I wouldn’t recommend a 747 land on it, but the beauty of a new bridge is that there is no load limit,” Palmer said.
Second, both the lanes for vehicles and walkways for bicyclists and pedestrians will be wider, allowing for more comfort overall when crossing the river.
On the ascetic side of things, the new bridge will be built to the south of the old, and Bridge Street will be straightened in order to give both drivers and pedestrians a view of the bridge (and what’s beyond) from Main Street.
Right now, “it feels like Main Street ends at Traffic Avenue,” Palmer said. “It’s going to be a much more beautiful corridor going from Main Street to The Old Cannery.”
A small park is also going to be built on the White River’s west bank, which will feature a piece of the historic bridge once construction is complete.
This park is part of the overall construction project.
On the bridge itself, Palmer said the council decided on a design that mirrored the old bridge’s railing and lantern posts.
There will be new overhead catenary lighting as well, as well as pedestal lanterns across the bridge, which will be designed to resemble the cupolas on some of Sumner’s older buildings and “the distinctive tops of hops barns,” a city press release reads.
Palmer said these new lighting structures will add a fresh look to Sumner’s annual bridge lighting during the winter holidays, as well as come with new features the old bridge’s lighting didn’t have, like lighting up purple and gold for the Sumner Spartans’ homecoming or yellow for the Daffodil Festival.
Construction dates are still up in the air, so the best way for drivers to know when delays are going to start is by subscribing to the city’s weekly newsletter or its Twitter @CityofSumnerWA, Palmer said.
“We’re juggling fish windows, subcontractors and let’s not forget weather, so we won’t be able to provide a full day-to-day schedule of work and delays for the project in advance,” she continued.
But while delays might become the new norm for the next two years, drivers won’t have to worry about bridge closures during this process.
“Because this is such a vital link in our community, it is not feasible to shut it down for any amount of time,” said Palmer.
The current plan is to keep traffic to the old bridge until the new bridge is about three-quarters done.
The remaining one-quarter of work on the new bridge at that point would be pedestrian access, so vehicle traffic would switch to the new bridge while pedestrian and bicycle traffic would remain on the old bridge until construction is finished.