WINTHROP — Winthrop officials are hoping that a new bridge now under construction will make life a lot easier for residents looking to walk or bike to the grocery store, and for visitors looking for parking on a busy weekend.

First envisioned about 15 years ago, the Spring Creek Pedestrian Bridge will connect downtown Winthrop with its new skating rink, a large parking lot, and a major Methow Valley Sports Trail Association trailhead.

Eventually, it will also lead to businesses south of Winthrop’s southern Highway 20 bridge, including the town’s post office and main grocery store.

Funded by a grant from the state Recreation and Conservation Office and the state’s fuel tax, the $3.4 million project includes design and construction of the 12-foot wide bridge, trail design, and right-of-way acquisition costs for much of the trail, said Winthrop town planner Rocklynn Culp.

She said the town initially hoped to also build the full trail with those funds, but delayed construction and other unforeseen costs meant only about one-quarter mile of trail — from the downtown area to the trailhead — will be built now. It will be paved and accessible for people with disabilities.

“We’ll be poised. We’ve acquired almost all of the right-of-way we need, and we have it designed, so it’s a pretty ready-to-go project,” Culp said of the remaining trail to the town’s post office.

The Susie Stephens Trail is named for a Winthrop woman who was a former executive director of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington, and also headed the Northwest Bicycle Association. In 2002, she was hit by a bus and killed while crossing a street in St. Louis, Mo., where she was helping to direct a conference for the National Center of Bicycling and Walking.

Culp said the Highway 20 bridge, just south of the new pedestrian bridge, includes a blind corner and intersection, making it dangerous for people who walk or bicycle across.

“It’s a really narrow crossing, and it goes down to an intersection that’s a pedestrian’s no-man’s-land,” she said. “There have been countless near-misses there for cyclists,” she said.

Culp said if the bridge looks massive, that’s because it is. In order to be fish-friendly, it has no pilings in the Methow River and more than spans it in order to survive a 100-year flood.

Its design is called a cable-stayed bridge, which is similar to a suspension bridge, but used for a shorter span.

She said it was also designed to look like and old bridge so it will fit with Winthrop’s Western theme. “It’s self-weathering steel, so it will have the rusted old look,” she said.

The town will open the bridge to bicyclists and pedestrians once it’s complete, and is planning a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Winthrop’s Christmas at the End of the Road celebration, and a trail dedication ceremony next spring.

K.C. Mehaffey: 997-2512

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