Monday, May 22, 2023

New on-ramp to SR 3 near Bremerton part of project to keep fish moving

By Mark Krulish

Keeping people moving during construction is a herculean effort. This is especially true as we work to remove barriers to fish under state highways.

If you've traveled along State Route 3 in Bremerton, you may have noticed crews hard at work. We've been transforming a stretch of highway near Chico Way Northwest.

We're now entering the homestretch of our Chico Creek fish barrier removal project.

A big milestone happened over the weekend. On Saturday, May 20, we opened the new Chico Way on-ramp to southbound SR 3. Drivers no longer need to use a detour that had been in place since July 2022.

Our contractor, Guy F. Atkinson Construction, has spent the past several months building the new on-ramp. The new ramp was needed so it could align with new bridges on Chico Way Northwest and SR 3.

These bridges create more space for Chico Creek to flow underneath the highway. This improves fish passage and access to the spawning habitat for many native fish species.

The brand new on-ramp from Chico Way Northwest to southbound SR 3

Week-long closure of northbound SR 3 exit ramp

Just as we reopen the new southbound on-ramp, we need to temporarily close the northbound SR 3 exit to Chico Way Northwest. The closure is scheduled to extend around the clock for one week and is tentatively scheduled for late June. We'll send email updates when the closure is scheduled.

The weeklong closure will allow our crews to remove old pavement and realign the connection from the highway to the exit ramp. They will also build up the exit ramp to connect with the new bridge.

Drivers heading northbound on SR 3 will need to use the Austin Drive exit to get to Chico Way Northwest. The good news is after the weeklong closure, most of the remaining work won't affect travelers.

Drivers will have to detour around the SR 3 northbound Chico Way
exit ramp closure for one week.

Entering the final stage of construction

Now we’re getting close to the project payoff. Workers will physically put Chico Creek onto a new engineered stream channel. Workers will also connect Chico Creek to the nearby unnamed tributary. The new channels simulate what's found in a natural stream. Workers have planted native vegetation. There are engineered bends and elevation changes. It's all designed to support every life cycle of fish. The new channels provide places for fish to lay eggs and hide from predators. Overall, fish will be able to move between fresh water and saltwater habitats.

Other final steps include decommissioning the old culverts, additional landscaping and improvements to the surrounding habitat.

Once the project is complete, the SR 3 and Chico Way Northwest interchange will have two new bridges and relocated southbound SR 3 exit and on-ramps. All the while, people were kept moving on SR 3 which required no long-term closures to traffic. We essentially moved the creeks instead of completely digging through both directions of SR 3.

This will create more space for Chico Creek and the unnamed tributary to flow. It will also eliminate barriers to fish passage present since this interchange was first built.

Before the project, there were five barriers to fish at the SR 3 and Chico Way Northwest interchange.
Once the project is completed in winter 2023, fish will have access to 21 miles of potential habitat and an improved connection to Chico Creek and Chico Bay.

What we've accomplished so far

Along with a new on-ramp, crews have been busy working on other elements of the project:

  • Building a wider, stronger bridge on SR 3 that provides unobstructed fish access to Chico Bay. The new bridge will carry both directions of SR 3.
  • Excavated under Chico Way Northwest to build a new stream channel for Chico Creek and tributary
  • Built an elevated bridge on Chico Way NW that allows for fish passage
  • Built a new southbound SR 3 exit to Chico Way Northwest
SR 3 from above with its new bridges over Chico Creek and a new southbound
on-ramp from Chico Way Northwest

Stay aware

As always, please keep our crews, yourself, and others safe. Be cautious when driving through work zones. New ramps and wider lanes may take some getting used to at first. Please slow down and stay aware so we can complete this work safely.

Visit our project website to find out more information and to sign up for email updates.