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King County responds to Kent's Alvord T Bridge protestors
King County plans to close and demolish the Alvord T Bridge in mid-2013 in Kent because it is deemed unsafe for drivers.
The 97-year-old bridge crossing the Green River on 78th Avenue South has a sufficiency rating of 4.18 of 100 -- the lowest of bridges currently open to traffic in the state. In 2008, the county applied for replacement funding from the federal Bridge Replacement Advisory Committee, but the grant application was denied due to the high construction cost, low traffic volumes, and the existence of two alternate river crossings within one-half mile, according to Rochelle Ogershok, a spokesperson for the county department of transportation.
Several members from the organization, Working Washington, dressed up in costumes Halloween day to protest against the deteriorating state of the bridge. They wanted the bridge to be re-built to improve transportation in Kent, claiming the building process would mean new jobs for the unemployed.
"There are places in our community where jobs can be created; this bridge is just one example," said protestor Vanessa Godfrey, on Oct. 31.
County transportation employees say there are no funds for re-building at this time. A new structure would cost about $18 million to construct, while the estimated cost to close and demolish the bridge is $1.14 million, with federal share of the cost at approximately $920,000.
The county receives public finances for roads and bridges mostly through local property tax in the unincorporated areas outside of cities through a separate Roads Levy of $2.25 per thousand assessed value. Under the state Growth Management Act, the successful annexation of urban unincorporated areas into cities is leaving a dramatically reduced base of property tax revenues for county roads in the unincorporated areas.
"This is a flaw in state law: the source of funding authorized by the state for county roads can no longer keep pace with the success of the growth management and city annexations," Ogershok said. "Support for the County Road Fund has not been revisited in 25 years, and is no longer equitable or adequate. With fewer revenues, we must manage the most pressing problems that affect the most people with the resources we have."
The bridge is a timber trestle leading to a steel truss with a timber deck across the river. A study done in 1995 recommended the bridge to be shut down, but the county agreed to go through with extensive repairs to keep the bridge open.
Due to its condition, the Alvord T Bridge is monitored and inspected four times more often than other bridges.
"Those inspections will continue so we can evaluate the rate of deterioration of the bridge and determine whether the recommended closure and demolition date in 2013 can be achieved," Ogershok said. "However, there remains a strong possibility that the interim inspections will indicate that the bridge may need to close earlier if engineers determine the structure can no longer safely remain open."
The latest study showed the bridge is structurally deficient and prone to fractures, has load limits in effect due to its inability to carry standard vehicle loads, and the main bridge supports are severely rusted. It is also functionally obsolete; the road width is narrow, has low overhead clearance, substandard timber rails and poor sight distance at its north intersection with South 259th Street.
King County Executive Dow Constantine is actively working with the Governor’s Connecting Washington Task Force on a statewide transportation package. The executive has said this statewide transportation package must address declining roads infrastructure in rural areas and address our transit needs in urban areas.
Although the county owns Alvord T Bridge, the city of Kent may choose to independently explore alternatives of its own for the bridge in the future.