Thursday, March 29, 2018

Hood Canal Bridge work begins again this April

By Tina Werner

Friday, April 6 at 9:50 a.m.

The night closures and work scheduled Saturday, April 7 and Sunday, April 8 have been cancelled due to predictions of inclement weather. Weather permitting, work and closures will resume 10 p.m. Monday, April 9.

It is that time of year of again: work on the Hood Canal Bridge is returning. Work began last year to rehabilitate the drawspan's mechanical components. This is no easy task, as it is the longest saltwater floating bridge in the world at 7,867 feet. Ongoing maintenance is necessary to keep the bridge operationally sound for travelers and marine vessels who rely on Hood Canal and the bridge as an economic, military, transportation and tourist lifeline.
Sunset over the Hood Canal Bridge

Bridge crews do preventative maintenance on the bridge weekly to maintain the operability of the bridge, which sits in harsh and corrosive salt water by way of floating pontoons. The water depth beneath those pontoons reaches almost 300 feet. In 2009 when the east half of the bridge was replaced, many of the mechanical parts were exchanged to provide reliable operations around the clock to both marine and vehicle traffic.

Due to the uniqueness of this bridge, work on it is never over, but we do our best to maintain traffic flow while bridge work is underway.
Fine-tuning the alignment of the guide rollers in summer 2017 resulted in better alignment of the drawspan of the bridge.

In 2017, we undertook the exacting process of realigning the Hood Canal Bridge's guide rollers. The guide rollers keep the drawspan in alignment as it opens to allow vessels to pass through. This decreases the power consumption in operating the bridge and decreases wear and tear on the drive gears and motors. We also replaced worn hydraulics hoses that circulate hydraulic fluid to mechanical equipment that operate the bridge. This minimizes the risk of hydraulic fluid leakage.

What work is happening this year?
From April through this fall, crews will perform "part two" of this project. First, we will verify the drawspan's alignment by making minor, final adjustments, and then we will replace the mechanical components that operate it. Crews will exchange the drawspan's lower gearboxes, rehabilitate the upper gearboxes and replace the hydraulic fluid on the west half of the bridge. Much of the work must occur during the night slack tides when there is little water movement and light winds. Whenever possible, we limit this work to overnight hours.

What closures are coming?
Work will be done in stages, including:
  • Wheel alignment verification, requiring five intermittent nighttime closures between Wednesday night April 4 and early Wednesday morning, April 11.
  • Next, hydraulic fluid will be replaced and the west end gearboxes will be removed. This is expected to take up to three weeks. Mariners should note that replacing the gearboxes will restrict drawspan openings from a full 600-foot span opening to a half 300-foot span opening.
  • This summer there will be up to three nighttime closures for testing of the components. Once that's done, we can begin replacing gear boxes on the east half of the bridge.
  • Final testing will be done in the fall once the final gear boxes are in place. This could require more intermittent overnight traffic closures.
What travelers can expect:
In early April travelers can expect up to five intermittent night closures. Crews will occasionally open the bridge to traffic to ease congestion as work allows. All closures will begin at 10 p.m. and last until 4 a.m. each weekday beginning Wednesday, April 4 through Tuesday, April 10. Night closures and work scheduled Saturday, April 8 and Sunday, April 8 have been cancelled due to predictions of inclement weather.

Emergency response vehicles will be allowed through as quickly as possible.

Other such night closures will be scheduled through the summer and will be announced as they approach.

What about additional marine closures?
 Federal law gives boats the right-of-way over vehicles when bridges block the path of marine traffic. The rule does not apply to commercial, U.S. Navy or other Department of Defense vessels.

How to stay informed:
There are a number of ways to stay up-to-date on this project:
To subscribe to Hood Canal Bridge openings text messages, send a text to the number 468311 with the words "wsdot hood." To unsubscribe, send a text message to the same number with the words "wsdot stop."

We will also use highway radio and signage to alert travelers of closures. We know it's always a challenge when we close highways and we appreciate your patience as we get this important work done.