Friday, September 22, 2023

Northbound US 101 Riverside Bridge in Hoquiam overnight closures resuming the week of Sept. 25

Update: October 2, 2023 at 1:45 p.m.

Work to upgrade the US 101 Riverside Bridge’s machine rooms will extend into the week of Oct. 2. Two overnight closures have been rescheduled due to last week’s storms. The bridge is now scheduled to close from 9 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 2 and Tuesday, Oct. 3. Travelers can also expect single-lane closures on the bridge during the week from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.

By Angela Cochran

At the beginning of summer, we kicked off a project to repair the machine rooms that help operate the northbound US 101 Riverside Bridge in Hoquiam.

The machine rooms are at the top of the two bridge towers. They house the equipment that operates the bridge when it opens to marine traffic. Repairs were needed to replace leaky roofs, wall systems and other items that protect the equipment from weather damage and erosion.

Riverside Bridge closing to road traffic

To make these repairs, our contractor planned to close the bridge to road traffic eight times in June and July. Work began in June with single-lane closures on the bridge, and four overnight closures. These closures were supposed to continue in July but had to be paused. Construction schedules are dependent on a lot of variables and subject to change. In this case, some components for the machine rooms could not be properly fabricated in time for the July closures. So crews did as much work as possible with single-lane closures until the pieces were ready.

The good news is that the components are now ready. Crews will be able to complete the project the week of Sept. 25. To do this, drivers will see overnight closures of the bridge starting Monday, Sept. 25 through Thursday, Sept. 28. Each night, the bridge will close to vehicle traffic from 9 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. each following day.

During the closures, travelers will follow a signed detour over the Simpson Avenue Bridge, where flaggers will alternate one direction at a time to keep people moving.

What we were waiting for

The components in question are called shrouds. They cover the pulley wheels at the top of the bridge that open and close the span. There are four total for the Riverside Bridge that were custom fabricated. On top of that, the parts had to meet certain specifications. While the parts were actually made in time, unfortunately, they did not meet all of the specifications required for installation. So we had to wait while they were completed. Why are the shrouds so important? They protect the pulley system from the weather.

The project was delayed while we awaited shrouds, which cover the pulley wheels at the top of the bridge (seen on the left, circled). Without them, as seen on the wheel on the right,
the pulley system is susceptible to bad weather.

What’s done and what’s left to do

During the first four overnight closures and the daytime single-lane closures, crews were able to get several items completed. They used a large crane to lift materials to and from the roof of the west machine room. They reconstructed the roof, installed new railing and replaced the siding on three walls. One wall on the east machine room also has new siding. Some smaller items within the machine rooms, like door hardware, were also replaced. Crews even completed painting the operating room. That leaves one wall on the west room and the roof and three walls on the east room. And of course, installing two shrouds on each of the machine rooms.

During the closure of the bridge earlier this year, cranes were used to lift
components to and from the west machine room.

Maintenance of the bridge

Even at 53 years old, the Riverside bridge is the youngest of the five moveable bridges in the Aberdeen-Hoquiam area, but it still requires a lot of upkeep. Also, like the other bridges, the Riverside Bridge has a “poor condition” rating from the federal government. While fortunately, the rating doesn’t mean it’s not safe for travel, it does mean that we need to monitor it regularly to see if conditions change. And if needed repairs are not made, that can mean load or lane restrictions and even closures.

Our Aberdeen bridge crew and project office work together to keep these bridges in good working order. In the past couple of years, we have had several projects aimed at maintaining the bridge. Construction crews repainted the bridge’s approach spans, which protects the structure from the elements. Crews also resealed the bridge deck to improve the driving surface. In addition to these projects, our bridge crews also do regular maintenance on the bridge.

Our bridge crews are constantly working to maintain our bridges to keep them operating and safe.

These repairs and others are part of our bridge preservation program.  All five of our movable bridges in Grays Harbor County are aging gracefully due to continued maintenance and construction from our Aberdeen project office and bridge crew. They each range in age from 53 to almost 100 years old. A bridge is expected to have a service life of 75 years based on current standards. More information about bridges in our state is available online in our Gray Notebook publication.