Granite Construction has started work on a three-year, US$ 50 million project to replace the 85-year-old Ebey Slough Bridge with a four-lane, fixed-span steel bridge.

The new bridge will have two lanes in each direction, with separate bicycle lanes and sidewalks on each side of the bridge. It will be a taller, "fixed-span" bridge, rather than a "swing-span" bridge.

The existing bridge swings on its axis to allow marine traffic to pass, a process that typically takes about 10 minutes and causes delays for vehicle traffic.

"There are only three state-owned bridges older than the Ebey Slough Bridge," said Janice Fahning, Washington State Department of Transpport (WSDOT) project engineer. "The new bridge will improve traffic flow and safety for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists and will help reduce maintenance costs."

SR 529 is the main commuter route between Marysville and Everett. About 17000 drivers use this section of SR 529 each day. The existing bridge is at the end of its service life, and does not meet current traffic needs.

The new bridge will help reduce congestion by handling more vehicle traffic. It will also reduce the need for costly repairs and eliminate the cost of staffing the old moveable bridge.

The existing Ebey Slough Bridge will remain open during construction. Crews will build the new bridge to the east of the existing bridge.

They will also realign SR 529 to meet the new bridge, and add a two-way left turn lane just north of the bridge. The project is expected to be completed in late 2013.

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