WALLA WALLA, Washington – The landscape along Mill Creek Road east of Walla Walla will take on a slightly different look this fall.
Walla Walla County Public Works is hard at work replacing both the Blue Creek and Mill Creek bridges at a cost of approximately $9.7 million, which is being funded by county and federal dollars.
“The Blue Creek Bridge and the Mill Creek Road projects were combined to save on construction costs,” Chief of Engineering and Construction Seth Walker said. “The project should be completed in November of this year.”
The Blue Creek Bridge project will replace the existing 80-foot bridge with a single-span, 131-foot bridge. Both roads will be realigned and widened. The Mill Creek Bridge will replace an existing 100-foot bridge with a single-span, 168-foot. Bridge, relocating the bridge south to the original channel. Mill Creek Road will also be realigned and widened. Temporary detour bridges will be provided at both sites.
Walker said the plans for the Blue Creek Bridge date back to 1947 and the Mill Creek Bridge has the year 1958 stamped into it.
The project also includes removing and installing new culverts, grading, crushing and placing crushed surfacing and other work. However, another big part of the project is straightening and widening a portion of Mill Creek Road itself.
“We’ve been trying to get this done for a while now,” Walla Walla County Commissioner Todd Kimball said. “We had trouble getting the right-of-way access along the straightening corridor. A couple of landowners made it a little more difficult for us, whom I understand — they’re losing property — but the straightening is really important to the safety of our citizens.”
In reference to the Mill Creek Bridge replacement, Kimball pointed to the fact that the current bridge has a concrete abutment which literally changes the flow of Mill Creek 90 degrees as it winds from the Blue Mountains towards Walla Walla.
“That abutment that the river goes up against and turns sideways,” Kimball said. “You know, water likes to go in a nice straight line. It takes the path of the least resistance. It hits that abutment and has to take a 90 degree turn to go underneath that bridge. In the long term that’s just not an acceptable way to deal with a river or creek.”
In years past, trees and limbs come down Mill Creek when the water is high and hit that concrete abutment and just stop, causing a dam of debris restricting the flow of water under the Mill Creek Bridge. With the installation of the new Mill Creek Bridge, the problems with the abutment will be eliminated.