New bridge at Van Zandt replaces Whatcom's lowest-rated crossing

The backbone of Whatcom County’s newest bridge was lowered into place on Wednesday, Oct. 29.

The 120-foot, reinforced concrete girder helped the new Potter Road Bridge take shape next to the existing bridge, which has the worst structural rating of all county-managed bridges.

The old one-lane, steel-truss bridge will be torn down in 2015, and traffic will switch over to the two-lane concrete bridge now being built by Scarsella Brothers, Inc., of Seattle. The construction company bid $6.39 million for the work. The total cost, including engineering and property purchases, was $8.45 million.

Most of the money for the bridge, $6.68 million, came from a federal grant. The remaining $1.77 million is from the county road fund, which gets revenue mostly from a county property tax.

Fewer than 1,000 vehicles a day travel on the bridge over the south fork Nooksack River at Potter Road, but it’s the only way to reach the homes and farms on the river’s west bank.

Work was planned to start in 2013, but permit approvals took longer than expected, project engineer Doug Burghart said. The new bridge will be completed in late 2015 or early 2016.

“We weren't sure, depending on who got (the job), whether they would tackle it in two seasons or three seasons,” Burghart said. “This particular contractor decided to tackle it in two.”

Project details are on the county website at whatcomcounty.us/publicworks/potterrdbridge148.jsp.