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Southworth Bridge work needed for public safety, environment

Fisherman cast their lines at the mouth of Curley Creek in the shadow of the Southworth Bridge, which is scheduled to be replaced starting next summer. - Jeff Rhodes/Staff Photo
Fisherman cast their lines at the mouth of Curley Creek in the shadow of the Southworth Bridge, which is scheduled to be replaced starting next summer.
— image credit: Jeff Rhodes/Staff Photo

When many South Kitsap residents hear “Southworth Drive” and “widening” in the same sentence, they just naturally get defensive.

But the latest road project, which involves replacing the aging Southworth Drive Bridge with a wider, more environmentally sensitive structure, is completely unrelated to earlier construction work and promises to be far less controversial, officials insist.

“First and foremost, this is a matter of public safety,” said Ed Smith, project manager for the bridge construction. “We’re also not adding either lanes or capacity, so it shouldn’t result in more traffic. We’re just trying to make it safer for people crossing the bridge, and at the same time make the environmental situation a little nicer.”

The work comes on the heels of the hotly debated and recently completed widening of Southworth Drive from Olympiad Drive to the Harper Pier.

A determined group of Harper residents fought that project tooth and nail for years until it got under way in August, resentful that adding four-foot shoulders on both margins cut into their property and fearful of what it would mean to fish and wildlife when more stormwater began flowing into Sinclair Inlet.

The new project, however, is located several miles to the east, where the road crosses Curley Creek.

“The Southworth Drive Bridge crossing the Curley Creek estuary in South Kitsap was constructed in 1929,” a press release about the project notes. “Yearly inspections have indicated deterioration in several bridge components and that the bridge is reaching its life expectancy.”

“When you hear that, you have to take action,” Smith said. “Thousands of people cross that bridge every day, and you can’t take chances with their safety.”

Plans call for replacing the deteriorating multi-span bridge and piers with a longer and wider single-span bridge.

The new bridge will be a concrete girder bridge approximately 125 feet long and 46 feet wide.

The new bridge will provide:

• two 12-foot travel lanes;

• five-foot bicycle lanes

• five-foot sidewalks; and,

• viewing platforms.

In the project area, Southworth Drive will be closed to through traffic for the duration of the project — estimated to be about a year starting this summer.

Banner, Locker, and Sedgwick roads will be designated as detour routes.

“I drive that road myself,” Smith said, “and I understand people’s concerns about convenience. Fortunately, though, we have several excellent roads nearby that can absorb that traffic and people should be able to make it to their ferry in just about the same amount of time.”

Smith said the environmental component of the project is geared toward making it easier for salmon to transit the estuary.

Improvements to the stream and estuary functions include:

• widening the stream channel under bridge;

• removing existing bridge piers in the stream channel;

• removing a partial fish barrier;

• removing rip rap and concrete bag slope protection;

• planting riparian vegetation along the stream and estuary; and,

• constructing a rain garden for improved stormwater quality.

“At high tide,” Smith said, “the distance across the top of the water there is about 40 feet, which makes for a constricted entrance to the creek.”

Smith said the narrow nature of the entrance formed a waterfall under certain conditions, making it difficult for fish to pass by.

“When we finish,” he said, “that entry will be expanded to 80 feet.”

All told, the project is expected to cost around $2.8 million, with $875,000 coming from federal funds and the remainder from state and county road money.

“We really needed to replace the bridge anyway,” Smith said. “The fact that federal funds were available just made the timing that much better.”

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