The Chestnut-Bay Bridge is opening earlier than advertised, and just in time for the Bellingham Bay Marathon.
The downtown bridge will open by 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25, the city announced on Wednesday. The marathon and half-marathon on Sunday, Sept. 27, will use their usual route along Roeder Avenue and uphill on Chestnut Street to the bridge.
The marathon’s website still showed an alternate route, which jogged around the bridge, but race organizer Kris Runestrand confirmed late Wednesday afternoon both the marathon and half-marathon would include the bridge. The 5K and 10K races are not affected.
“We’re back to using (the bridge). It avoids another railroad crossing (at Roeder and Central Avenue),” Runestrand said.
When the bridge closed on June 1, the city announced a six-month closure. But Chestnut and Bay streets will open to traffic less than four months after they were closed.
Steve Day, the city’s project manager, said the closure was going to be less than six months all along because the contractor, Strider Construction, was given six months to complete all the work. Crews will remain at the site into October, and vehicle and pedestrian traffic will be limited at times.
Crews also removed the left-turn lane from Chestnut onto Bay Street, added a bicycle lane and improved the sidewalks.
City officials said earlier this year they didn’t want a repeat of what happened when they closed James Street Road last year, for what they said would be six months, to build a new bridge north of Sunset Avenue. The road closure lasted eight months, due largely to unfavorable winter weather.
“We’ve certainly taken some lessons learned from the James Street project to incorporate into the (Chestnut-Bay Bridge) contract,” Day said in February.
Oversized loads had been prohibited from using the L-shaped bridge, built in 1928. The improvements were mainly intended to make the bridge suitable for heavier trucks again.
Waterfront businesses and new development planned for the old Georgia-Pacific site will be able to take advantage of this more direct route for trucks heading to Interstate 5. More than 10,000 vehicles a day use Chestnut Street above the bridge, according to city traffic data from 2014.
Strider Construction was awarded the job with a low bid of $1.58 million. By the time the work is finished, it will cost about $2 million, Day said.
The project is still within budget, city officials said, because they had anticipated additional costs due to the unforeseen complications that can arise on older structures.
The city’s original cost estimate for the project was $2.45 million.