After four long years, the Euclid Road Bridge north of Airway Heights will finally reopen this week.
Spokane County closed the bridge in June 2019 over safety concerns. The 40-year-old wooden structure, which spanned a railroad, was rotting.
The closure was a major inconvenience for the hundreds of people who drove across it regularly. It forced them to take a circuitous route to town and added half an hour to many commutes.
“That bridge really made life impossible,” said Erika Von Scheele, who used to live nearby.
Under normal circumstances, Spokane County would have repaired or replaced the bridge fairly quickly. But the situation wasn’t entirely within the county’s control.
While the county owned Euclid Road, it didn’t own the Euclid Road Bridge. The bridge belonged to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway.
Spokane County Commissioner Al French hypothesized that for BNSF, the largest freight railroad in America, fixing a dilapidated wooden bridge in Eastern Washington probably wasn’t a high priority.
It took local officials three years to reach an agreement with BNSF that allowed Spokane County to replace the bridge. Once the work is done, Spokane County will assume ownership.
Tearing down the old wooden bridge and building a new one out of metal and concrete cost about $3.7 million. Spokane County Engineer Matt Zarecor said last year that BNSF would pay for the bulk of the work, although the county would contribute roughly $500,000 to $1 million.
Sherry Boyd-Yost said she’s relieved that the bridge will finally reopen. The detour people have been taking for the past four years requires traveling along a rugged dirt road.
“It was hard on our cars,” Boyd-Yost said. “I felt like sending a car gas bill to the county commissioners because of the extra driving.”
The bridge closure hasn’t merely been a time-consuming nuisance.
Boyd-Yost said that when her brother had a stroke three years ago, the ambulance sent to pick him up couldn’t get across the bridge. First responders called in a helicopter instead.
Von Scheele has since sold the house and farm she owned a few hundred feet north of the bridge. She said the closure likely reduced her property value. It was also a small part of the reason she moved.