For commuters driving between the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas, the Hood Canal Bridge is a vital piece of our transportation network. As one of the world's longest floating bridges, it turns what would be a 115-mile trip around Hood Canal into a 2-mile trip, and is a lifeline for communities. Unlike other floating bridges in the state, this one sits in salt water. That harsh and corrosive environment means that the bridge requires daily maintenance to ensure it functions for both marine and vehicular traffic.
Each week, bridge crews perform preventative maintenance on the bridge, just as you do when you change your car's oil or windshield wipers. At some point however, a major mechanical part in your vehicle needs to be replaced, such as a transmission. That's a good analogy for the work we have planned for the Hood Canal Bridge, beginning March 18. While repairs to your car may take a day at the mechanic, our bridge repair work will last into the fall, and will require numerous bridge closures.
|The Hood Canal Bridge drawspan must be open during our repair project to|
allow access to the mechanisms and wheels of the bridge.
Why does the drawspan need to be open for the work to take place?
The Hood Canal Bridge is unique. When we need to replace parts, they must be built to order. During the upcoming closures, crews will take exact measurements of the guide roller wheels responsible for opening and closing the drawspan. They need the drawspan to be open to access the mechanisms and wheels, first for measuring them and, later, for replacing them. We realize having the bridge closed to traffic is a big disruption to area residents, so we've worked hard to condense the closures down to as few days and hours as possible. We scheduled the closures at night when we have lower traffic volumes.
What can drivers do?
No question, these closures will be a challenge and will add a lot of extra time to the trips of late-night drivers used to having quick trips across the bridge. Because of the work hours, we don't expect to see any significant traffic increase on alternate routes but some alternative transportation options such as ferries may have limited availability. Updates will also be available on our Twitter account, on our Hood Canal Bridge web page and you may subscribe to our free Hood Canal text messages by sending a text to 468311 with the words 'wsdot hood.'
|The gear boxes of the Hood Canal Bridge will be replaced with new ones during our upcoming bridge repair project.|
Area emergency services are aware of the upcoming closures. We have a plan in place to ensure that we close the drawspan as quickly as possible to get emergency responders across the canal if necessary. The amount of time needed to close the drawspan will depend on what activities the contractor is doing when notified by emergency services.
Why wasn't this work done when the east half of the bridge was replaced in 2009?
We did replace some of the mechanics during that project, and we are now replacing more parts. This ongoing maintenance is critical to keeping the bridge functional. In fact, we will be back again next summer for another construction project during which we will replace steel girders in the bridge. In a perfect world, we would be able to do all this work at once. The reality is, however, that we must schedule the work when funds and resources become available. Our job is to gauge the most effective times and methods to do this work while meeting the myriad other transportation needs in the state.
Why didn't you provide more advance notice of these closures?
We try to provide as much notice as possible to the public when we get ready to start projects like this. Our goal is to balance advanced notification with accuracy. Mother Nature can waylay the best of plans, so we work closely with our contractors to hammer out schedules that provide as much accuracy as possible so that when we do provide the information publicly, it's useful and reliable. Even so, changes to construction schedules are commonplace and we may well need to modify dates and times of bridge closures as we move forward. We apologize for the inconvenience these closures are causing, but please know that we are working in your best interest to ensure a functioning canal crossing.