Consultants present update on North Aberdeen Bridge Project

The consultants at David Evans and Associates, Inc., (DEA) spoke about the North Aberdeen Bridge and the potential for replacing it Wednesday night in front of the Aberdeen City Council and many other city residents, A much discussed topic for the city, the presentation covered the bridge’s functionality, why it needs replacing and the project’s next steps.

The North Aberdeen Bridge, its official name, is also known as the Young Street Bridge. The bridge is known throughout the world for its connection to the late-Kurt Cobain, the Aberdeen musician who helped lead the birth and evolution of Grunge music in the late 1980s and early 1990s before his untimely death in 1994.

The bridge’s connection is not lost on the consultation team, nor the city. That said, the consultation team is worried about the safety of the people crossing the bridge, the viability of the bridge and the timing of the city being able to use a portion of the $23.1 million in grant money in order to pay for the replacement of a bridge that has received restrictions on its use via payload limits on trucks and their drivers who drive across it. The other concern about a potential bridge failure is how will that residential section of Aberdeen connect with the rest of Aberdeen? It is an arterial path, with downtown Aberdeen on the other side of the bridge and the only other path for those residents being Think of Me Hill.

“Most of you probably know where the bridge is located,” said Debra Seeman, who spoke for DEA. “But if you haven’t driven across it, It’s the Young Street Bridge heading into North Aberdeen. So, it’s really the only connection to North Aberdeen for vehicles other than coming up and over Think of Me Hill, which is very difficult to traverse if you’re in anything other than a little Mazda Miata.”

The presentation Seeman gave pointed out how the 304-foot-long by 30-foot-wide bridge — built in 1956 — is “functionally obsolete.”

“It’s not very safe for pedestrians or bikes,” Seeman said. “It’s a very narrow shoulder/sidewalk. And it has been inspected over the years and it is rated as structurally deficient.”

Seeman also pointed out the reduced traffic load for the bridge, where only one truck can go across the bridge at a time. Rick Sangder, the city’s public works director, pointed out months ago how Aberdeen cannot watch the bridge, nor the drivers over it, at all times to prevent trucks that are too big to cross it from crossing it.

But that’s not the entire issue.

“There’s a lot of safety problems with this bridge,” Seeman said. “It’s also what we in the engineering world would call functionally obsolete. And it doesn’t meet current standards.”

Seeman said how the list is long for what would need to be fixed on the bridge. Then she brought up the financials regarding the bridge. The city has already applied for and received $23.1 million in federal grants for the bridge replacement. But there’s a time limit to use it. If the city fails to move forward before September 2026, the city would have to provide about $3 million in a match to make the project happen.

“We received $23.1 million for this federal grant. And this will cover the design phase, the right-of-way acquisition phase if necessary, and also then the full construction,” Seeman said. “Everything we do on this project needs to fit within those bookends of $23.1 million.”

Edge constraints

Seeman has worked on 15 bridges throughout her career.

“We’re gonna look at all of the constraints,” she said. “If you’re building a puzzle, you’re gonna put your edge pieces in first and work toward the middle. So what we’re going to start looking at is all of our edge constraints. All of those edge pieces.”

Seeman spoke about the Kurt Cobain Memorial Park, because it’s “very near and dear to our hearts. It’s locally known, it’s nationally known, it draws visitors from all over the world.”

“We know that this is a critical element of the project and we have a very thorough alternative analysis process that we will incorporate things like this constraint into the process,” Seeman said.

Seeman talked about how the project will have to “accommodate” several existing utilities, including bridge-mounted utilities — sanitary-sewer force main and waterline — plus “overhead power and communications” underground, including a Cascade Natural gas line underneath the river and a 24-inch storm outfall on the river’s north bank.

The next constraint, according to Seeman, is the North Shore Levee Project.

“The footprint of that project and our project do overlap in the area of the Kurt Cobain Memorial (Park),” Seeman said. “So we’ll be working with that team as the design is refined. Those are going to be two concurrent tasks. We need to find a good solution together so we’re not tearing up each other’s work.”

Project objectives and benefits

According to the slideshow Seeman used during her presentation, each objective leads to a benefit. They are:

Provide structurally sufficient access across Wishkah River — reduce city costs for bridge repairs and maintenance

Work within $23.1 million project grant — avoid need for additional funding source

Obligate construction funding by September 2026 — avoid 13% local match for grant ($3 million)

Minimize impacts to surroundings — maintain Kurt Cobain significance; cohesive solution with levee

Maintain vehicle access to North Aberdeen during construction — avoid rerouting traffic up Think of Me Hill

Project’s next steps

The next phase is “alternatives analysis.” During the alternatives analysis phase, the first of two open houses is scheduled for March. And then in June, there will be another open house, as well as the “preferred alternative” will get chosen. After that, it’s the preliminary and final design, which calls for a third open house. Any environmental approvals and right-of-way acquisition will be done before the obligation of funding — due September 2026. And then construction would follow near the end of 2026, or start of 2027.

But, the process will also include the public — including a Stakeholder Outreach Group (SOG) consisting of city council staff, Kurt Cobain Memorial Park representatives, emergency services, public transit, school districts and utilities, etc. The process will also include a Technical Working Group (TWG), made mostly of city engineering staff. The TWG and SOG meetings will start in February.

One person who wants to be part of the SOG is Chuck Meskimen, a private Aberdeen resident who shared his thoughts on the bridge presentation. Meskimen helps with the Nirvana Talk and Walk Tours, which takes interested folks to various spots connected to Cobain.

“I thought it was informative,” Meskimen said. “I’m glad they’re forming a stakeholder outreach group to get the community’s input. I’m going to be contacting the city engineer to make sure my name gets into that group because I think it’s important to represent the viewpoints of people who come from all around the world, specifically to go to the bridge, to pay tribute and walk in Kurt’s steps. Because of my exposure in doing the Nirvana walking tours, I see that. I see it every week and I see what a big deal it is. And so I think it’s important to get that representation.”

Meskimen said “(people from) every place around the world” come to see the bridge.

“It seems like the fanbase is growing,” Meskimen said. “That’s amazing. And (the band) continues to sell records. They’re over 80 million now, I think. It’s a pretty amazing phenomenon. And I think that if (the city) were to do anything to demolish the bridge, the outcry would be heard around the world.”

A couple thoughts from city council

Councilor Sydney Newbill weighed in on the subject.

“Of course I know preserving the bridge itself is what’s most important to community members, but safety also needs to come first,” Newbill said. “So I think it’s the plan that we have … that analysis process is going to be pretty extensive and it’s going to give us all the alternatives that we can work with and we’re gonna put it in their hands and circle back to it when we get another report.”

Councilor Riley Carter weighed in, too. Part of his answer was about the connection Cobain has throughout the world.

“I think there’s a lot of … I don’t really have a good answer for you,” Carter said before a laugh. “This is my first council meeting. A lot of things came out of nowhere and I’m kind of learning the motions of things. I do agree with the gentleman who came up. That’s a landmark. Kurt Cobain is known worldwide. I remember being in a music venue in Italy, many, many years ago. They actually had a picture of Kurt Cobain from his childhood days in there, in Italy. So that’s like ‘Wow,’ just seeing that in person that far. It does make a big impact.”

Despite the connection Cobain holds, Carter also had his eye on the city’s residents’ safety.

“At the same time, public safety is huge, that’s No. 1.” Carter said. “Me personally, I hate waiting until tragedy happens to say ‘Oh now we need to take care of this, right? It has to be avoided. We’ve all seen that bridge and it’s in rough shape. I think we’re going the right route, I really do. I don’t know enough to really make any further comments on that, but I like the direction it’s going.”

Ruth Clemens, Aberdeen’s city administrator, also provided some input on the presentation.

“I thought it was very informative,” Clemens said. “I hope that it shows the community how serious we’re taking community outreach, because we’ve heard from not only our local community, but we’ve heard from our regional community. And so we understand the importance to the music community and to the global community (as far as) how important this bridge is. We want to be inclusive throughout this whole process.”

New city council president

Wednesday’s meeting marked the first one since Aberdeen’s new councilors were sworn in. Since former Kati Kachman is no longer on city council, the council needed to elect a new president. Kacey Ann Morrison won the seat by a narrow margin. She beat fellow Councilor Debi Pieraccini 5-4. Liz Ellis, the third council nominee, received three votes.

Clemens spoke briefly about what makes Morrison the right choice to lead the city council.

“I think council member Morrison is in a really good place,” Clemens said. “She’s a seasoned council member and I think she is very informed. She’s one of our more engaged council members. I think she’s ready. I think she’s ready to take on that role and I’m very excited for her. She’s one of the council members that I really work closely with. She’s very active in the community and she’s also like very active in bringing community issues to the forefront of the council’s priorities, as well as bringing it to the mayor and myself and making sure that we’re always aware of what’s going on in the city. I think she’s ready. She’s definitely ready for that role.”

Contact Reporter Matthew N. Wells at

Matthew N. Wells / The Daily World
Debra Seeman, who spoke on behalf of David Evans and Associates, Inc. (DEA), presented to the public and Aberdeen City Council many reasons why the Young Street Bridge’s replacement is a need. The phrase “functionally obsolete,” was used in the presentation. Safety seems to be the consultants and city’s main concern. Despite those concerns, there are many strong-voiced community members who want the bridge to stay.

Matthew N. Wells / The Daily World Debra Seeman, who spoke on behalf of David Evans and Associates, Inc. (DEA), presented to the public and Aberdeen City Council many reasons why the Young Street Bridge’s replacement is a need. The phrase “functionally obsolete,” was used in the presentation. Safety seems to be the consultants and city’s main concern. Despite those concerns, there are many strong-voiced community members who want the bridge to stay.