Friday, August 19, 2011

SR 28 East End Senator George Sellar Bridge – Construct Bypass

By guest blogger Jeff Adamson

Current view of the east end of the bridge interchange.
Design visualization of the proposed new interchange.
“You’re going to do what?” It’s a question we’ve heard a lot when people find that we’re going to use part of an elevated grocery store parking lot for a state highway. Frankly, it saves a ton of money and provides a great solution to a gnarly traffic problem.

Traffic at the SR 285 Senator George Sellar Bridge over the Columbia River connecting Wenatchee and East Wenatchee averages more than 60,000 vehicles per day. We just finished a two year project that added a new eastbound traffic lane on the bridge itself and now the next phase to fix the connections on the east end of the bridge is beginning.

Back in ’97 the community recognized traffic on both ends of the bridge was bad and getting worse. The resulting study documented the “bad” and generated solutions. On the east end, it showed 94 wrecks over four years. There was only one fatal, most were fender benders, but the societal cost analysis tallied a million dollars a year. At the same time, traffic studies showed that despite the 40 mph speed limit, the average was only 20 mph and if nothing changed by 2015, it would be down to 9 mph.

The initial solution was a full blown grade separated interchange (underpass) at Grant Road which is the primary access into East Wenatchee. That’s still the long term plan, but it was a budget buster. An interim solution is to construct a bypass so the traffic not bound for downtown East Wenatchee doesn’t have to go through the Grant Road intersection at all. Work on the bypass is beginning in earnest after Labor Day and it should be done in 2013.

The $16 million project constructs a two-lane, one-way bypass, around Grant Road, for southbound SR 28 traffic that starts at the off-ramp from the Sellar Bridge and reconnects to SR 28 south of 3rd Street SE. The current ramp to Grant Road will be removed and those who want to get to Grant Road will turn left off the bypass between Fred Meyer and Top Foods. We will also build a third left turn lane from SR 28 onto Grant Road and another lane on Grant Road.

To build the bypass and stay as far away from the Columbia River as possible, the Fred Meyer parking lot offered a lot of benefits. First, it was already there which solved most of the environmental issues and second, the parking lot was built strong enough to accommodate the highway traffic. We bought the west side of the elevated parking lot and the rest of what we needed on the west side of Top Foods and designed one of the most unique roadways in our entire highway system.

Phase three, which fixes the west end bridge approaches, goes out for bids next year.