While the COVID-19 pandemic may have brought many things to a standstill, one thing that has not stopped is the West Sammamish River Bridge construction project in Kenmore.
The project will replace the existing southbound bridge across the Sammamish River and include “the construction of new sidewalk and bike facilities on the west side of the road,” between Northeast 170th Street and Northeast 175th Street, according to the project website. The project will also include new signals at Northeast 170th Street and Northeast 175th Street, new streetlighting, utility undergrounding and new landscaping.
John Vicente, city engineer for Kenmore, said construction crews from Tacoma-based Ceccanti, Inc. are currently making preparations to start demolishing portions of the existing bridge. He said they have a short span of time — the months of July and August — when they will be able to work in the Sammamish River. This is called a fish window and indicates when permitting agencies have determined work in the river will have the least impact on spawning salmon, Vicente said. He added that there is no flexibility when it comes to the fish window.
The bridge project had been delayed a year due to the 2019 federal government shutdown. As previously reported, the shutdown delayed permit approval from the the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Park Service, which were both furloughed and accumulated a backlog of requests as a result.
To make sure they can complete the work they need to do during the fish window, Vicente said a lot of work is being done in advance.
Currently, northbound and southbound traffic along the bridge are allowed and Vicente said they don’t anticipate completely closing the bridge to traffic, barring any emergencies.
He said while drivers can expect delays, a silver lining in the middle of the current pandemic is that traffic is relatively light with so many people staying home. Crews have been able to close lanes without too much of an impact on commuters. In addition, Vicente said they have also extended usual lane closure hours so crews are able to get more done in a day.
Drivers can check bridge traffic thanks to a live video feed on the project website.
According to the project website, the construction team is also working on Saturdays “for the foreseeable future.” This weekend work was authorized by the city to keep the project on schedule and take advantage of low traffic volumes.
The site states that typical weekend construction hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. but “mobilization and light work may start earlier and extend later.” Drivers can expect to see the west side of the bridge reduced to a single lane as crews continue demolition of the west sidewalk. The speed limit has also been reduced to 25 mph throughout the work zone for the safety of the public and construction team. This speed limit applies 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
According to the project website, construction began in March and is scheduled to be completed in late 2022, although Vicente said, “everything is contingent upon the COVID-19 virus.” As a result of the outbreak, he said there have been delays up their supply chain as some suppliers have closed for the time being while others are short staffed.
“We do not know how this is going to have an impact on the project timeline,” Vicente said about the pandemic, adding that the saving grace has been the reduction of traffic that has allowed them to work more efficiently.
He said construction crews are practicing social distancing when they can but in some cases, they need to be close together to do their work. And in these cases, Vicente said they do what they can to protect themselves.
Vicente said the West Sammamish River Bridge construction project will cost $43 million. According to the project website, $12 million is from the Federal Highway Administrations Highway Bridge Programs; $7 million is from the state Transportation Improvement Board; $1.6 million is from the Surface Transportation Program and $12 million is from the Connection Washington State Fund. Additional funding comes from the city of Kenmore, Northshore Utility District and other utilities within the project limits.
The city of Kenmore has created a website for some of its major construction projects, including the West Sammamish River Bridge, Juanita Drive Northeast pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements and 68th Avenue Northeast pedestrian and bicycle improvements.