Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Major Hood Canal Bridge work coming up

By Shari King

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 started  for the Hood Canal Bridge, 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.
Up to 12 overnight closures will occur.  The first set of closures occurred in late March; the second set of closures will occur during night hours on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, April 2-5, between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. During that time, the bridge will close to vehicle traffic.

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.
What will happen if there's an emergency on either side of the bridge?
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.


MikeG said...

Why aren't the measurement of these parts known? Wouldn't there be measurements from the time the part was made? Or are they replacing parts with new parts having different dimensions?

Patricia Gritton said...

Will there be any chance of the bridge not opening on time in the mornings or it getting stuck in the open position from work being done (trying to figure if I will run into a problem in April for state testing for my daughter)?

WSDOT said...

Patricia Gritton, that is a good question. There is a possibility that the bridge won’t be opened at exactly 5 a.m. if any marine vessels are going through at that time. Federal law requires that the drawspan be opened for passing marine vessels. Contractor crews should not continue working past 5 a.m., but of course we will keep you updated if there are any changes to this plan.

Drivers can receive up-to-date Hood Canal Bridge information (including notification of openings/closures) through several resources. Advance notification does not occur for passage of marine vessels associated with the Department of Defense.

    •  Social media users can follow updates on Twitter
    •  WSDOT Hood Canal Bridge web page
    •  WSDOT email and text updates
    •  Hood Canal text messages: send a text message to 468311 with the words "wsdot hood"

WSDOT said...

MikeG, thank you for your question. The replacement parts are being newly designed and built, so new measurements of the bridge and its mechanics are required.

Pawadawg said...

Will the 11 pm on the 24th to 5 am on the 25th be the last day or will the bridge be closed 11 pm on Saturday the 25th to 5 am on Sunday the 26th? Just want to be sure. Thanks

Miles Elzinga said...

I have a flight coming in at 9 tonight and need to get to Sequim. I saw last night the bridge didn't close till midnight or so. Will it close at exactly 11 tonight or will it be later. An extra 30 minutes or so would be a lifesaver to be able to get home tonight.

WSDOT said...

Miles Elzinga, our contractor is allowed to close the bridge to vehicles between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., so we advise that you plan on having the bridge unavailable. While unforeseeable conditions may delay work some nights, we can't guarantee schedule changes.

WSDOT said...

Pawadawg, thank you for your feedback. For clarification: Crews are scheduled to complete this segment of work by 5 a.m. on Saturday, March 25. Throughout the summer other six-hour bridge closures will occur and we will get out advanced notification when they are scheduled.

Mike Pollack said...

May I suggest that notices be posted via the usual alert mechanisms when it becomes evident that the HCB will not open as advertised at 5:00 AM?

On the evening of 3/19 the closure was announced... and then nothing until the eventual opening at 5:38 AM on 3/20. By that time I was one of many Monday morning commuters who were sitting clueless in a line at the HCB waiting for it to open. I'm sure at 4:45 AM or so it was known the bridge could not be open as scheduled. It would have been great to be able to alert my boss that I would not be on time, earlier than I did today.

No doubt it is impossible to judge sometimes, but more communication is always better (even "We don't know when it will open."). Thanks!

WSDOT said...

Mike Pollack, thank you for the feedback and suggestion to alert motorists of delays in reopening the Hood Canal Bridge after scheduled work hours.

While we try to provide information via our usual channels (text messaging services, Twitter, etc.) as soon as we receive it, sometimes plans can be complicated by unforeseen issues. That morning was a good example. An emergency responder needing to cross the bridge required the contractor to close the drawspan to allow passage. That delayed the contractor's progress and a prevented a required drawspan test opening before 5 a.m. We did open the bridge to traffic shortly before 5 a.m. to get early birds across, but then proceeded to do the test drawspan opening, which is what delayed you.

We know it's frustrating to be sitting in traffic and we will take your suggestion into consideration moving forward. We appreciate your patience.

BRJ1951 said...

Port Angeles High School is sending a total of 6-7 buses, in 3 separate groups, carrying 160 students, to SeaTac just after midnight April 2 (early Monday, April 3) and later in the morning Monday. Is there some chance that the special closure will be in effect during that time, or can we count on unimpeded traffic? If not, it will require huge logistic rearrangements. Thanks for any info you can provide. Jeff Bohman

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