Opinion

Keep the Mount Si Bridge

(Editor's note: The following is a copy of a letter sent to King County about the Mount Si Bridge Replacement Project.)

The area served by the Mount Si Bridge is largely, if not entirely, part of King County Fire District 38. As fire commissioners with District 38, we wish to register our public-safety concerns about the current plan to replace the existing Mount Si Bridge with a new structure.

The existing bridge is the only public-safety access to serve citizens who live on the north side of the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River. Currently, approximately 1,400 people live within this single-ingress area, with expected population growth in the near term of at least 100 percent. Serious damage to, or loss of, this single bridge would prevent fire and police protection from reaching these citizens. This limited-access problem describes both the existing situation and the primary proposal by King County for the Mount Si Bridge.

From a public-safety viewpoint, King County has a unique opportunity to enhance the existing level of access to this area by leaving the current bridge intact and constructing the new bridge in a different location. This second bridge would improve the life-safety access for the residents of Fire District 38 by providing an additional point of ingress and egress for the local residents, and, most importantly, for public-safety personnel. We consider this option to be a unique opportunity because it is available at very little additional cost.

It is our understanding that the existing bridge structure received a seismic retrofit in 1997 and that it could be expected to provide an additional service life of about 20 years with normal maintenance and, perhaps, a restricted load limit. By leaving the existing bridge in place, the cost and congestion associated with dismantling it would be avoided. Further, aside from the direct insurance benefit to public safety, a second bridge over the Middle Fork would help absorb the increased traffic impacts that are currently expected in this area. There are at least two sites where a bridge is feasible without destroying the current bridge.

In summary, as fire commissioners charged with providing public-safety services to the citizens of Fire District 38, we urge you to adopt the alternative above. This would leave the existing bridge structure intact and in service for the foreseeable future, and add a new bridge facility. The creation of a second means of access for fire and police personnel and a fallback option if one of the bridges is out of service due to flood, earthquake or accident, is a cost-effective public-safety benefit that would ordinarily not be achievable.

Ronald Pedee, Gary Stevens and William Weber

King County Fire District 38 commissioners

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