Thursday, July 13, 2023

No “ex-Seuss” for most ferry trips during Lewis and Clark Bridge closure

By Kelly Hanahan

Starting Sunday, July 16, the Lewis and Clark Bridge (also known as the Rainier Bridge) on State Route 433 in Longview will fully close for up to eight days of construction. During the closure, people driving will detour to either US 101 or Interstate 5. This is a LONG detour! So be extra prepared or consider postponing your trips if you can.

The Wahkiakum County Ferry carries people and vehicles between Cathlamet and Westport, Oregon. It will run twice an hour around the clock while the bridge is closed — but please know that it should only be used for urgent trips, because its priority will be emergency response and those with medical needs.

“But why can't you just borrow a bigger ferry from all of those Seattle people?!” That's one of the most often asked questions, and we get it! We wish we had more ferries, too. Unfortunately, there aren't any extra ferries available to be used in this location, so we're sticking with the small but mighty, “Oscar B” to get us through!

While the Wahkiakum County Ferry will be running 24/7 during the Lewis and Clark Bridge closure, it's very limited capacity means heavy priority will be given to emergency responders and those with significant medical needs and appointments.

So, what does this mean for the average person who wants to drive their car onto the ferry? We want to be really honest; it may very well be stressful and frustrating! Here's why. …

The ferry will have a priority lane managed by law enforcement and contractors only to be used by:

  • Ambulances and first-responder vehicles on return trips from the hospital in Longview
  • Healthcare workers and first responders commuting to work (who will show their badge!)
  • People going to dialysis, chemotherapy or similar crucial but non-emergency medical appointments (pack your appointment documentation, like an email or text, if possible)

These will likely fill a lot of the ferry's 23-car capacity, so everyone else should expect to wait in long lines for hours.

As a public service to help head off frustration, we pulled together a few examples of when you should not plan to take the ferry during the bridge closure:

You should not board to coif your hair.
Nor plan a trip to groom your mare.
The same to reupholster a chair.

Don't trek to recycle aluminum
On the small but mighty Wahkiakum.

Postpone your trip to fly a kite.
Hold off on LED patio lights.

Please understand the time's not right
To harvest clams or gather berries
If your route requires the Wahkiakum Ferry.

We hope that helps make the distinction clear. Keep in mind that if you're walking or biking you will be able to cross the bridge during most of the full closure. For all of those access details, check out our project website.