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.

1 comment:

Dan said...

Thank you to WSDOT and everyone involved in this project! I know there were some problems with completion times but as a resident, we were rarely if ever inconvenienced. Nicely done!

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