Monday, July 11, 2016

Human error resulted in unplanned Hood Canal Bridge closure

By Cara Mitchell

Human error, and not a faulty part, caused the seven-hour closure of the Hood Canal Bridge on Sunday. It’s a humbling experience to have thousands of people know about, and be unhappy about, one’s mistake. But we know it’s our responsibility to be forthright and accountable for our actions in operating and maintaining our state’s highways and bridges. During routine preventative maintenance on the Hood Canal Bridge last week, a valve was inadvertently left closed on one of four hydraulic lift cylinders. These hydraulic lift cylinders raise and lower sections of the bridge during marine openings. When the valve was left closed, it limited the supply of hydraulic fluid to that hydraulic cylinder, causing the lift span to rise unevenly during an 8 a.m. marine opening on Sunday. Those who were caught in the seven-hour closure know the rest of the story, and likely have their own personal stories on how they adjusted their travel plans. We apologize deeply for this error.

As a result of yesterday’s incident, policies for opening the lift span will be revised to include more quality assurance checks and additional test openings of the span following specific maintenance procedures. Items such as placing signs on the valves as a reminder to open them after maintenance will also be installed. We are taking these steps to ensure that this type of event does not occur again.

Our bridge crews take great pride in maintaining the Hood Canal Bridge. They understand just how vital the bridge is to Olympic Peninsula residents, businesses and visitors. They work hard every day to ensure the bridge is safe for travel, and this humbling reminder is an example of how we will work to do even better for the public we serve.