Methow Valley bridges in need of repair and replacement
Transportation continues to be one of my top priorities as your senator because its infrastructure and operations are critical to our area’s economic growth and quality of life. Not only is having an efficient and effective transportation system important for getting our crops to market and enabling tourists and adventure-seekers to visit our region, it is also a growing safety issue.
Our region is also uniquely positioned — because of our clean and abundant hydropower — to continue to explore and promote vehicle electrification. As manufacturing technology continues to advance with electric vehicles, our area could greatly benefit from a less-expensive, cleaner, and local fuel source.
As you may know, the 12th Legislative District that I represent includes all of Chelan and Douglas counties, a small portion of Grant County, and approximately half of Okanogan County. Many transportation priorities for the district involve the more populated Wenatchee area, but there are numerous bridges in the scenic and rural Methow Valley in need of attention.
All 11 of the bridges along State Route 153 between Pateros and Twisp are in need of repair or replacement. These bridges were constructed between 1933 and 1950. While the bridges have undergone maintenance work over the years, all of them are now in advanced stages of deterioration, according to the state Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).
For example, the decks on four of the State Route 153 bridges are worsening due to water seeping below the asphalt layer and causing potholes. Two other bridges have rails and sidewalks that are in such poor condition that they are closed to pedestrians. Yet another bridge, near Carlton, was temporarily closed in 2014 for repair when cracks were discovered in one of the piers. Replacement of all the bridges is estimated to cost nearly $100 million. Repairs are occurring to some bridges.
Bridges are expensive and difficult to replace. But it is essential that we have safe and functioning bridges throughout the Methow Valley. State Route 153 is a major corridor in the valley and a portal to the rest of north central Washington, allowing access for residents, tourists and adventurers, as well as products and emergency service. Without adequate bridges along State Route 153, travelers to and from the Methow Valley would be forced to take long detours.
Budgets and proposals
The state transportation budget provides funding for operations of WSDOT, the Department of Licensing, and Washington State Patrol. It also appropriates funds for maintenance, preservation and construction projects based on predetermined schedules. Occasionally, the two-year transportation budgets include opportunities to add smaller-scale items. However, for larger-scale appropriations (like bridge replacements), legislative increases in gas taxes and vehicle fees provide the corresponding revenue that funds new, major state transportation projects.
If the Legislature considers a revenue package for new projects in the upcoming session, it is important for the Methow Valley to share its transportation priorities and discuss whether we need to move forward on any new projects at this time.
As your state senator, I welcome your thoughts and opinions on transportation and other important issues in our region.
Brad Hawkins is the 12th Legislative District senator representing north central Washington in Olympia.