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Hood Canal Bridge closures are here

The Hood Canal Bridge connecting Kitsap and Jefferson counties will have wider approaches at each end. - TIFFANY ROYAL/Staff Photo
The Hood Canal Bridge connecting Kitsap and Jefferson counties will have wider approaches at each end.
— image credit: TIFFANY ROYAL/Staff Photo

Weekend travel to Jefferson County will be curtailed as the span is revamped.

HOOD CANAL BRIDGE – It’s only been two years since construction began to repair the floating bridge that connects Kitsap and Jefferson counties.

While Washington State Department of Transportation officials say they’ve tried their best to keep the impacts to drivers to a minimum, construction is, well, construction.

And with it comes traffic delays, and now closures.

Travelers should be advised that the Hood Canal Bridge will see its first closure beginning at 8 p.m. Thursday, continuing through the weekend until to 4 a.m. Monday.

The second closure will be from 8 p.m. Aug. 21 to 4 a.m. Aug. 25.

During the closures, crews will be replacing approaches on both ends of the bridge. By the end of the project in 2009, the floating section at the eastern end of the bridge will be wider, with new approach sections and transition trusses on both the east and west ends.

The western end will also be widened to allow for continuous eight-foot shoulders across the entire length of the bridge.

WSDOT officials have been working with the public in an attempt to keep them as informed as possible and lessen the impact to drivers. But it hasn’t been without its hitches.

While it is obvious to anyone who has traveled to Jefferson County that there is major construction going on, with the narrower-than-usual driving lanes and the presence of the familiar bright orange vests, most of the work is actually being done out of their line of sight.

Since early spring, crews from Poulsbo-based contractor Kiewit General have been building new road approaches on large scaffolding systems just north of the bridge.

During the first closure next week, crews will remove the old roadway on the west end first and roll in the new road.

And roll they will, literally.

There are four 300-ton rollers, about 30-inches by four-feet in size, that will be used to remove the old road from its current position.

These rollers will slowly move the old road onto steel supports that have been constructed on the south side of the bridge.

The new 190-foot long roadway will then be moved into place and secured.

The west end will be completed first to allow crews to resolve any problems before using the same system, this time with eight 500-ton rollers and four 300-ton rollers, to replace the east end with a 640-foot span during the second closure.

In the end, the new roadway will be 40 feet wide at each end. The existing roads are only 26-feet wide.

The old sections will be demolished about a week after they are moved onto the steel supports, said WSDOT Hood Canal Bridge site manager Ray Arnold.

While the construction of the approaches took place this spring, crews have spent the past two years preparing the site for the transition.

After the new road sections are in place, construction at the bridge site will be complete – for now.

“(This is) as far as we can go without pontoons and anchors,” Arnold said.

The original graving site – a large water-filled hole, where the bridge pontoons and anchors are preassembled, from there to be floated to their final destination – was in Port Angeles, until crews unearthed remains of an ancient Native American village. The state was forced to pull out of the site last December.

WSDOT officials hope to make an announcement soon for a new graving site. The state favors the Port of Tacoma because it would be the easiest place to construct the pontoons and float them north to the bridge for installation, Brown said.

That work is expected to take place in 2009.

Traffic backups

Communication with the public over traffic impacts has gone fine so far, Brown said.

The only major problems was on June 9, when bridge work and a paving project on SR-3 caused traffic to backed up at both ends of the bridge until late into the night.

After that, officials took a closer look at how to coordinate projects better.

“I think we’ve done pretty good job on the whole,” Brown said.

The state’s outreach efforts have included 123,000 direct-mail postcards carrying project information to area residents, and traffic advisory signs on the major routes that are affected by bridge work, including at Kitsap ferry docks.

“We know 60 percent of the people who drive across this bridge have ridden a ferry in the past 30 days,” Brown said. “We can only do so much in terms of communication but we are putting (forth) a lot of effort.”

His biggest concern is the night of the first closure, when some travelers will try to make it across the bridge at 8 p.m. Aug. 11 and discover it’s too late.

A half-hour before the closure, there will be crews and signs on the major routes informing the public that the bridge is closed. Drivers on the 5 p.m. ferries on the Kingston/Edmonds and Seattle/Bainbridge routes will be told they will not be able to cross the bridge that evening.

“Inevitably, there will be that last guy who wants to try and make it but won’t,” Brown said.

So, the alternative to getting between the two counties? Driving around.

Arnold said it takes an additional 60 to 90 minutes to drive down to Belfair and pick up Highway 101 north and head back into Jefferson County.

The state has also worked with the major employers in Jefferson and Kitsap counties about creating alternative routes for employees, as well as with the visitor and convention buearu centers on how to redirect summer vacation traffic.

“We’ve coordinated it so it won’t greatly impact their tourism economy,” Brown said.

More information about the bridge project and closures can be found at www.hoodcanalbridge.com.

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Bridge closed

Heading to Port Townsend or Olympic National Park? Think again. The Hood Canal Bridge will be closed from 8 p.m. Aug. 11 to 4 a.m. Aug. 15, and again from 8 p.m. Aug. 21 to 4 a.m. Aug. 25. Updated information on closures can be found online at www.hoodcanalbridge.com.

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