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Crews knock down eroded Burien bridge as part of $8 million replacement project

BURIEN, Wash. – With temperatures in the 70s this weekend, heavy winter rain might be a thing of the past, but the winter is still haunting us.

On Friday morning, crews began an $8 million bridge-failure project in Burien after rain caused severe erosion, compromising the bridge’s stability.

Washington State Department of Transportation crews were called out to inspect the bridge back in February.  A WSDOT spokesperson says crews inspect bridges on a routine basis and whenever a weather-event may have compromised a bridge.

WSDOT has 44 engineers and technicians performing bridge inspections. In 2015, those crews completed more than 2,106 bridge inspections.

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Burien’s 67-year-old Peter Western Bridge (at 2232 S 116th St) is now crumbling down to a mess. The city of Burien spent Friday morning tearing down what city Communications Officer Emily Inlow-Hood said would have come crashing down on its own at some point.

“The soil underneath the bridge support columns had completely eroded away. There’s about six feet of air between the bottom of the support columns and the ground below it,” said Inlow-Hood.

Inlow-Hood says it’s all due to heavy winter rains.

“It was shocking to see that amount of water gushing up,” said neighbor Jemil Johnson.

Johnson lives one house down from the bridge.

“The last time we had snow and then it rained right after it and that’s when they detected this thing had to go,” said Johnson.

Q13 News was there when city and state inspectors ruled the bridge was no longer safe.

“The creek rose really high. It also changed the course of the creek, which also caused the scouring of the bridge side,” said Inlow-Hood.

An inspection just last year showed this bridge was just fine. No structural damage. No need for repair.

“Nothing that would have given any sort of signal that a bridge failure was about to happen,” said Inlow-Hood.

But record rainfall had other plans for Washington’s bridges. Not just in Burien but trouble in Eastern Washington, too.  Near Republic, heavy spring flooding from heavy winter snowpack washed away part of the road and compromised the bridge on State Route 21 in April. Now there’s a temporary bridge helping drivers get through the area.

“It’s just infrastructure in America. It all needs to be replaced at some time,” said Johnson.

With a cool demeanor, Johnson takes it all in stride. Despite the nearly 1.5 years of work left to be done after demolition, Johnson points to a bright spot.

“Now we live in a cul-de-sac so it has its advantages; it’s pretty quiet,” said Johnson.

The demolition will last another month. Then, there’s the design and construction phase. About 90% of the project is being paid for through federal grants.  The rest will come from Burien taxpayers.