Thursday, January 20, 2022

Battling the weather to get Hood Canal Bridge work done

Update: May 5, 2022

Four total weekend closures of the SR 104 Hood Canal Bridge have been rescheduled to 2023. No total weekend closures are planned for 2022. The closures will occur sometime between spring and early fall 2023. As soon as they are scheduled, WSDOT will announce the closures via and WSDOT Hood Canal Bridge email alerts.

By Doug Adamson

So what's up with these repeated night closures on the State Route 104 Hood Canal Bridge? Why are they scheduled only to be cancelled and then rescheduled again? Why is weather-sensitive work done during the winter?

If you've asked these questions, you're not alone.

First an important note. The SR 104 Hood Canal Bridge is unique. There are none like it in the world. The span was built specifically to fit the area that features extremely deep water, occasional powerful winds and strong tides. The floating bridge has a large draw span that physically retracts the driving surface of the bridge to make room for boats and other marine traffic.

The Hood Canal Bridge is unique, carrying traffic over extremely deep water that sees powerful winds
and strong tides, necessitating regular maintenance.

It requires year 'round maintenance to stay in good working order. The maintenance includes everything from electrical work to removing rust. The span also needs regular construction. Parts and machinery wear out. This is especially true since the span is in a harsh marine environment. Since the bridge is unique, many worn out mechanical portions of the bridge need to be built.

Current construction at the bridge bolsters the system that is essential for draw span operations. The bridge has elements that keep the bridge aligned when both halves come together after it is closed to traffic. The system also keeps both halves together when it is open to traffic.

Part of the effort includes replacing thick industrial sized rubber bumpers. The bumpers connect to the end of each half of the bridge and serve a very important role in helping to prevent wear and tear on the concrete floating pontoons.

Bumpers connect to the end of each half of the Hood Canal Bridge, helping to prevent
wear and tear to the floating pontoons.

We had anticipated this phase of work would have been completed last spring/summer.  But supply chain issues delayed the installation until after the favorable weather timeframe.

Contractor crews need calm water, light winds, and favorable tides. Workers use a floating work platform to reach these areas while the draw span is closed to traffic.

The work is scheduled a week out based on the forecast at that time. As you know, our Pacific Northwest weather is fickle and can change in short order. This means we will continue to find weather windows until we can complete the work.

Remember, this is one phase of the construction. During summer and fall 2022, travelers can expect up to four total weekend closures of the SR 104 Hood Canal Bridge. While not yet scheduled, the weekend closures will extend from 11 p.m. Friday to 4 a.m. Monday. Crews will also need a series of night intermittent closures.

Four full weekend closures of the Hood Canal Bridge for further maintenance
will happen later this spring or summer.

Stay plugged in

As we continue to work through the challenges, we ask travelers to stay informed. Real time information is available via and on our app.  Get advance notification via email alerts.

We appreciate continued patience as we work through many issues to complete the work. We understand the vital role this bridge plays for everyone who relies on it. We strive to keep this key span in good working order for everyone who relies on this bridge.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Preservation work along SR 20 on Canoe Pass and Deception Pass bridges is complete

By Meggan Carrigg Davidson

Even though I was born and raised in the area, the beauty of the iconic Canoe Pass and Deception Pass bridges never ceases to amaze me. If you happen to be one of the 18,000 people who drive over the two bridges each day or one of the estimated 3 million annual visitors who take in the magnificent views, then you know how truly unique this location is.

Over the past several years, we completed preservation work on the bridges that connect Island and Skagit counties along State Route 20. The two bridges are often mistaken as one bridge but are separated by Pass Island in the middle.

The Canoe and Deception Pass bridges are often mistaken as one bridge
but are separated by Pass Island in between them.

In fall 2018, we began sandblasting and installing scaffolding to portions of the bridges to clean and paint the two structures. In fall 2021, Cekra, Inc. completed sandblasting down to the original 1930’s lead-based paint, repairing the original steel that supports the structures and applying a new coat of paint to protect the aging bridges for years to come.

As we completed this work, we made it a priority to minimize effects to the environment as well as keep both directions of the bridges open along SR 20 throughout the year, particularly during the summer peak traffic. We appreciate your continued patience while we completed this work.

Preservation work necessary

The bridges were previously painted more than 20 years ago and had since endured wind, sun and saltwater exposure. Due to the pounding from these natural elements, the existing paint on the two bridges was weathered and damaged, allowing corrosion to occur. This project repaired those damaged areas.

During the project, 4,000 gallons of paint was used to prevent future corrosion. An estimated 150,000 man-hours were worked to complete the bridge project.

The contractor cleaned exposed metal and applied 4,000 gallons of paint under a full containment system that looked like tarps hanging from the bridge. This system kept paint, dust and other debris from falling into the water below. Crews also replaced 80 structural steel components and 5,400 rivets and bolts. An estimated 150,000 man-hours were worked to complete this project.

Much more than just a matter of appearance, new paint prolongs the life of our bridges. Most of the work our maintenance crews and contractors do is preservation work – repaving highways, maintaining facilities, repairing structures, etc. This work is crucial in protecting taxpayers' investments to build our highway system.

A full containment system was used to prevent debris from falling into the water below the bridges.

Canoe Pass and Deception Pass bridges' history

Although the idea of a bridge increasingly gained popularity in the early 1900s, it didn’t easily come to fruition without hard work and dedication by Captain George Morse and many others. Morse, the new Whidbey Island representative to the state legislature, introduced a bill in 1907 allocating $90,000 to build the bridge. Engineers studied the area and drew up plans for two steel arches. During the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle, a model of the bridges was on display.

In 1918, the bridge was promoted as a necessary war effort to serve Fort Casey near Coupeville and in 1921, state legislators wrote an appeal to Congress citing its military importance. The American Legion helped form the Deception Pass Bridge Association, which encouraged state legislators to pass the 1929 Bridge Bill, which was ultimately declined. In 1933, after many unsuccessful campaign attempts, a bill was successfully passed granting the Washington State Parks committee permission to build.

By August 1934, bridge fabricator Puget Construction Company of Seattle built the two-span bridges in less than a year. The bridges opened to drivers and pedestrians in the summer of 1935, connecting Fidalgo and Whidbey islands and providing the only land access on and off Whidbey Island.

The two bridges were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 and make up part of Deception Pass State Park, the most visited park in Washington.

The preservation work will keep the bridges healthy for the many visitors
who use the structures year-round.

The rest is history!

We thank you for your patience as we completed this restoration work. These two iconic bridges have seen their fair share of weather from wind and salt coming through the strait of Deception Pass. With our work complete, millions of people can continue to take in the beauty from all directions and witness the dramatic whirlpools in the waters below. We are excited to see these bridges fully open and fulfilling their crucial role in transporting people, goods and services to and from Whidbey Island and connecting visitors to the beauty in our local area.

You can check out photos of all the stages of work in our SR 20 Deception Pass and Canoe Pass bridges Flickr album.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Did your holiday gifts make it on time? Our Freight System Plan looks at what’s happening to the supply chain

By Janet Matkin

Did your new gaming console fail to arrive in time for the holidays? Are you surprised that grocery store shelves are empty of your favorite foods? You're not alone. The pandemic has forced us all to think about how products make it from manufacturers to our homes.

In the past, the global supply chain has been largely invisible to the average consumer, functioning quietly in the background with no real need to understand the complex network of ships, planes, trucks, trains, and technology. We clicked a button and our packages showed up in a few days. We visited the mall and stores were filled with a vast selection of clothes, electronics, and toys.

But now things are very different. Shelves aren't as full, prices are higher, and some items can't be found at any price. Products manufactured overseas have always been in high demand and during the early months of the pandemic production of such merchandise lagged and shipments were reduced because of COVID restrictions.

Updating our Freight System Plan will look into how supply chain challenges
 – including at the Port of Seattle – affects the public.

When products (especially from Asia) were finally available, the pent-up demand led to a surge of cargo ships trying to deliver products to U.S. ports. Some ships chose to return to Asia empty, rather than wait for American export products to be loaded and slow their travel times back to Asia for new loads. This led to American products – including Washington-grown grains and fruit – being left behind.

Prices to ship products increased substantially. Cargo ships had to drop anchor and wait for several days before they could pull into ports. Warehouses started overflowing with no room to unload incoming goods. Shipping containers filled with merchandise began piling up at ports. Trucks, trains, and airplanes had difficulty meeting demand to move products inland. More online shopping pushed delivery companies beyond their capacity. Manufacturers couldn't get parts to build their products and assembly lines slowed or stopped. Workers retiring and other employment shifts led to a shortage of truck drivers, traincrews, and port workers. These factors continued to strain the entire supply chain.

Delays on getting goods and products delivered across the country – and the issues leading to those delays – have had significant effects on everyone.

Suddenly many of us have an interest in understanding how freight moves throughout the world and what that means in our daily lives. The interconnected system of ports, airports, highways, railways, and waterways that make up the freight network is important to all of us.

At WSDOT we're taking a close look at all these issues as we update our statewide Freight System Plan. We want to know how issues with the freight network are affecting you. Let us know in the comment section below what you are thinking. Please subscribe to our email distribution list if you'd like to receive email updates and be more involved as we move forward with developing the Freight System Plan over the next year.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Snoqualmie Pass to reopen with the goal to get freight moving at 5 p.m. Sunday

By Mike Allende

After being closed for almost four days due to extreme avalanche danger and record-breaking snowfall and conditions, I-90 Snoqualmie Pass will reopen at 5 p.m. Sunday at 45 mph at the summit with traction tires advised. It is absolutely vital for travelers to understand that the priority is to get freight traffic moving; recreational or general traffic should continue to delay their travel. Blewett Pass on US 97 will also open at 5 p.m.

Crews continued to work throughout the day Sunday to manage the massive amounts of snow, trees, debris and ice that closed the passes last week. On Snoqualmie Pass, which was will have been closed for 90 hours, crews have been able to clear two narrow lanes across most of I-90. Shoulders, ramps and chain up areas are still mostly unusable and access to rest room facilities are limited. Heavy snow is also affecting multiple local roads in communities along the I-90 corridor, so all drivers need to be prepared to cross the pass without stopping.

Crews have opened two narrow lanes across most of Snoqualmie Pass so drivers must take it slow and give each other room.

Photo of two narrow lanes across Snoqualmie Pass

Although traffic camera views in some areas show roads that look clear, they don't show the whole story. There remain areas where several feet of snow still must be removed to open more lanes, shoulders, exits, etc. Crews will continue to work to clear roads, exits and rest areas. Workers and equipment from other parts of the state were shifted over the past few days to assist with the opening.

This won't be normal pass travel conditions

One of the things we often see upon reopening a highway is a race to get going, leading to collisions. We can't emphasize enough that a crash upon reopening Snoqualmie Pass could cause the highway to close again. It really only takes one driver going too fast or being unprepared to shut it back down.

There are just two narrow lanes – normally there are 5 eastbound and 3 westbound – and very narrow shoulders, so there is nowhere to move vehicles that become disabled. It is absolutely vital that drivers take it slow, give each other space, focus on the road and are prepared to drive the entire distance across the pass – in particular having enough gas and good traction tires appropriate for compact snow and ice.

There will be limited access to ramps, shoulders and rest room facilities so all drivers across Snoqualmie Pass should be prepared to drive the entire route without stopping.

Photo of limited access along Snoqualmie Pass

Stevens and White passes

Work continues on both Stevens and White passes. White Pass is on track to reopen late Monday afternoon while Stevens Pass and nearby Tumwater Canyon will likely not reopen before Wednesday.

While we've been able to clear the east side of Stevens Pass of snow and avalanche concerns, there is still ice that is 4-inches thick on the roadway that must be removed. On the west side of the pass there are snow slides 60-70 feet high and 100-200 feet wide along with more avalanche concerns that must be addressed before we can clear the highway.

In Tumwater Canyon we have seen 208 snow slides – about 25 per mile – and those must be cleared and we have to ensure that it is stable to safely open for traffic. Chumstick Highway – which is sometimes used as an alternate route in the area but has height and length restrictions – is a county road that is also dealing with significant snow issues and is not equipped to handle the level of traffic US 2 can, so we need to reopen Stevens and Tumwater Canyon at the same time, which likely won't be before Wednesday.

Huge snow slides – some measuring 60-70 feet tall – continue to be challenges in reopening Stevens Pass.

Photo of 70 foot snow slide on Stevens Pass

On White Pass avalanche issues have subsided and crews continue to plow and blow snow which in some slide areas measure 16-18 feet. We expect to reopen it late Monday afternoon.

Again, we recognize that everyone wants to get moving and to their destination. Our crews are working as hard and fast as they safely can in very challenging conditions, and we appreciate your continued patience.