May Creek Bridge reopens on schedule

County replaces old, unsafe structure

Kelly Sullivan

May Creek Bridge has reopened following construction of a replacement to the original 42-year-old structure. Crews finished up the bulk of the work at the end of November and drivers are commuting across the waterway once again.

“That is exactly when our signs said it would be open,” said Fred Bushby of Snohomish County Public Works.

Two major improvements were made through the replacement, according to Snohomish County engineer Jim Weelborg.

The previous structure’s sufficiency rating sat at 8.6 out of 100 since 2013. It functioned with only one lane for several years due to erosion, which had weakened crucial supports. The new bridge was designed to withstand natural changes. In the deficient one-lane bridge’s place is a 28-foot-wide, 100-foot-long link across May Creek with wide shoulders.

“The new bridge is designed to carry all types of legal loads,” according to Snohomish County engineer Jim Weelborg. “The original bridge, built in 1975, could no longer carry legal loads for several vehicle types.”

The $3.3 million project was headed by the county agency. Striping and replanting work is all that is left for the project. The route was opened up at 5 p.m. on Nov. 30.

Roughly 741 daily trips are made across the existing structure, according to the project’s design report. Snohomish County traffic planners estimate that count will increase to 1,000 trips by 2034. A six-mile detour was established that took travelers out and along U.S. Highway 2, which was also undergoing significant construction all summer.

The two Washington State Department of Transportation paving projects between Sultan and Skykomish ended this fall. The roadwork covered 25 miles of U.S. Highway 2 sections and cost about $8.3 million combined.

Drivers between Gold Bar and Skykomish experienced up to two-hour wait times partway through the season. However, the backups dropped significantly once WSDOT changed work hours, so closures occurred during the day and night. The split cut delays down to 20-30 minutes.

The May Creek crossing was closed off to traffic from May through the end of November. The full road closure was proposed to get the work done as fast as possible, to minimize costs and mitigate environmental impacts, according to the design report.

“It is much longer, so it will allow high flows to go under it without causing damage hopefully,” Bushby said.

The creek crossing is roughly 3.5 miles upstream of its confluence to the Wallace River, according to the report. The former bridge “currently acts as a constriction to the free flowing characteristics of May Creek.”

Sediment around the foundation was being removed by a head cut, or vertical drop in the riverbank that has made its way upstream and reached the bridge, causing faster flows by narrowing the stream. The new bridge has been built to account for natural changes in the banks.

The Snohomish County Council awarded Bellingham-based Strider Construction the more than $2.5 million project contract on Feb. 22. About $2.4 million came from a federal grant and a $600,000 match by the county, according to the project design report.

Bushby said the work went mostly as planned, and Strider was a great contractor.


Photos by Kelly Sullivan: May Creek Bridge, nine miles east of Gold Bar, reopened on Thursday, Nov. 30. Construction began on the replacement for the May Creek Bridge in May. The 42-year-old bridge had been reduced to one lane for years.


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