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Legislative budget includes $1.1 million for Renton bridge replacement

The bridge at Riverview Park will be replaced thanks to a $1.1 million line item in the legislature
The bridge at Riverview Park will be replaced thanks to a $1.1 million line item in the legislature's budget.
— image credit: Brian Beckley, Renton Reporter

This article has been corrected.

The new state budget may have been a long time coming, but for the city of Renton, it was well worth the wait.

Included in the 2013-2014 legislative budget is a $1.1 million line item that means the replacement of the old bridge at Riverview Park.

The bridge, a 12-foot-wide, 120-foot span over the Cedar River along the Maple Valley Highway, was acquired in the 1970s and connects the parking lot on the north side of the river to the 11-acre park and trail system on the south side.

Additional work was done to the bridge in 1993 to add handrails and signage and then in 2005 the piles were reinforced and the decking was replaced with concrete.

But the old bridge is supported by piles sunk into the river, as well as concrete abutments, which makes it vulnerable to debris that routinely comes down the river during high-water flood and seasonal melting events.

"It would get caught on that bridge," said Renton Parks Planning and natural Resources Director Leslie Betlach.

And in recent years, the number and size of floods rushing under the bridge have increased, bringing more debris with them.

"We've had series of 100 year flood events over the past several years and it's taken its toll on that bridge, significantly," Betlach said.

Betlach said after each flooding event, the city has had engineers look at the bridge to make sure it was still sound and the last review said it was getting close to its life expectancy and would need to be replaced.

In 2012 the city applied for two grants to rebuild the bridge, but it did not receive either and had a decision to make.

"We didn't want to close the bridge so we took it to the legislature," Betlach said.

Because of it's location and the connections it makes as part of the Cedar River Greenway and trail system, Betlach said the bridge provides "major access" to the larger system and is of regional importance.

The legislature agreed, and even in a tight budget year officials on behalf of the city were able to secure $1.1 million - more than the $1 million initially requested - to ensure the safety and continued viability of the bridge.

Now, the old wooden bridge will be replaced with steel and, but according to Betlach that is not the most important part of this "amazing project."

"The piles come out of the river," she said. "That's really important."

The city is also proposing the new bridge will also be slightly narrower and made to allow light to pass through, which is important for the ecosystem below.

"That's important for the salmon," Betlach said, adding that shaded areas make it easier for predators.

In addition, some habitat restoration will take place, removing some invasive species along the river bank and replacing them with native plants that will further encourage insects, a key food of the salmon.

Betlach said timing of the project was dependent on permits, though she said there was no possibility of the project being completed this year. Betlach said the construction will also be confined to a narrow "fish window" in August, most likely of next year, that should allow access to the river without disrupting migration patterns.

"It really is an important point of access," Betlach said. "We are very appreciative."

This article has been corrected to reflect the following:
Due to a misunderstanding, it was reported in our July 12 issue that the bridge at Riverview Park was built in the 1990s. The property, including the bridge, was acquired in 1979-1980. In 1993, as part of the park construction, the bridge was modifies to include handrails and interpretive signage. In 2005, there were additional major repairs, including re-enforcement of the in-stream piles and the replacement of decking with concrete. Major flood events in 2009, 2010 and 2011 caused additional damage.

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