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Crowds frustrated by long lines at 520 bridge opening

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MEDINA - It’s a project that has been years in the making, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise that thousands of people turned out to celebrate the grand opening of the SR 520 Floating Bridge. But WSDOT had to stop shuttling people to the event, because of the overwhelming crowds. They estimate there were 25 to 35,000 visitors today.

Governor Jay Inslee is proud that Washington is now home to the world’s longest floating bridge.

“This is a big accomplishment and a shot of confidence for our whole state,” he said after cutting the ribbon this morning.

Lots of people took advantage of the chance to learn about the bridge’s engineering and check out its impressive views.

“I drive by it all the time, because I work at the Columbia Tower,” said Russ Glaser. “It was cool to see all the engineering and everything.”

But today the motto “Go Long” seemed to apply to the lines more than the bridge itself. A lot of people couldn’t eat at the grand opening celebration, because many food trucks ran out of food.

“I think the event wasn't too well planned,” said one woman. “We were surprised there wasn't food available and water available.”

The lines to get off the bridge were even longer. Some people waited close to two hours to get on a shuttle to go back home.

“We got in the line, it was at least a mile long and it wasn't moving,” said Glaser, who ended up walking off the bridge and getting an Uber.

“We’re almost there at the front,” said Raghu Gheta, as he tried to keep his two young children entertained in line. “We’re looking forward to getting on the bus and getting back home.”

WSDOT stopped allowing people to come on the bridge in the afternoon, so they could use all the shuttles they had to get people off.

“A lot of people came at the same time, and then started to try and leave at the same time,” says Steve Peer. “We just ended our capacity for transit.”

He says they’ll be reviewing their plans to see if they could have managed the crowds differently. Many people say the lines were frustrating, but traffic on the bridge is nothing new.

“I think maybe a few more buses definitely would have helped,” says Gheta. “But it's a beautiful day so I guess more people showed up.”

Tomorrow, there will be a special bike ride across the bridge, but that event’s already been limited to 7,000 cyclists. The bridge will open up to vehicle traffic later on this month.