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Replacing downtown bridge will mean 6-month detour

Construction of the North State Street bridge over Whatcom Creek will begin in June, said City of Bellingham officials.
Construction of the North State Street bridge over Whatcom Creek will begin in June, said City of Bellingham officials. The Bellingham Herald

Construction of a bridge over Whatcom Creek will reroute traffic on the northern end of the downtown business district for six months or more starting in June, city officials said.

Plans call for replacement of an 80-year-old timber bridge spanning the creek on North State Street, between Ellis and York streets — one of two short bridges that connect Bellingham’s northern neighborhoods with the city center via State and Ellis streets.

Cost is expected to be about $2.5 million, said engineer Craig Mueller of the city’s Public Works Engineering Department.

During construction, drivers will be detoured on York Street, Cornwall Avenue and Ohio Street for both directions of North State Street, Mueller said in an interview with The Bellingham Herald.

“It’s the most logical choice,” Mueller said. “We have to replace the bridge.”

About 17,000 cars cross the State Street bridge daily, he said.

A nearby bridge on Ellis Street is about 50 years old and isn’t due for replacement for another 50 years, Mueller said.

State detour.jpg

A possible complication for the project involves state and federal permits related to steelhead and chinook salmon in the stream, he said.

“We would really like to meet that 2019 deadline for in-water work,” Mueller said.

The partial shutdown of the federal government isn’t affecting permit applications, he said.

If permits aren’t issued in time for in-water work during the “fish window” of mid-July through August, construction of new concrete bridge supports will be delayed until summer 2020, Mueller said.

Mueller said the new concrete bridge won’t have supports in the creek itself, like the 1940s-era wooden bridge does.

Crew rolls back the old Potter Road Bridge, west of Van Zandt , Monday, Sept. 21, 2015.

Robert Mittendorf covers civic issues, weather, traffic and how people are coping with the high cost of housing for The Bellingham Herald. A journalist since 1984, he’s also a volunteer firefighter for South Whatcom Fire Authority.

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