Beleaguered Sol Duc bridge struck by an overheight vehicle again
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A Clallam County Road Department worker guides a log truck across the Sol Duc River bridge on Quillayute Airport Road on Tuesday as others repair the steel-truss structure. —Photo by Lonnie Archibald/for Peninsula Daily News

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

FORKS — The Sol Duc River bridge on Quillayute Airport Road seems to have become something of a punching bag for heavy equipment.

Clallam County Engineer Ross Tyler confirmed Tuesday that the West End bridge was damaged sometime between April 3 and April 7.

The county spent $22,000 to replace components of the same bridge that were damaged in separate incidents last winter and spring.

In the latest hit to the 14-foot, 3-inch maximum height span, the lower cross member of the east portal was struck on the “inbound” lane where most log trucks pass with empty loads, Tyler said.

“I think it was probably a strike by a piece of equipment or machinery sticking up above the truck,” Tyler said.

He added: “We haven't tracked down the who yet.”

Crews were inspecting the damage Tuesday.

The bridge is still safe to drive on.

“If I was uncomfortable, I would have shut it down immediately,” Tyler said.

The cost of the new repairs will be every bit as expensive as last year's fixes, Tyler predicted.

“I know accidents happen, but it's pretty frustrating when nobody fesses up,” he added.

Tyler said there is little doubt that the driver who hit the bridge noticed the impact.

“That'll knock your dentures out,” he said.

“It would be nice if they would demonstrate the intestinal fortitude to come forward when it happens, so at least we could take a look at the structure sooner than later and get it closed if the damage is too severe,” Tyler said in a follow-up email.

“Worst case would be a structural collapse and someone gets killed or injured.”

The same bridge was damaged on a semi-regular basis by log trucks during the timber boom of the 1980s.

It provides the best access to logging sites north and west of Forks.

An alternate route is available via LaPush, Mora and Quillayute roads.

Although “99.99 percent” of truck drivers operate within safe clearance margins, Tyler said he will have to raise the possibility of closing the bridge to truck traffic during a Board of County Commissioners meeting.

“We support [the logging industry], and they support us, but we also can't keep repairing this bridge the way were doing it,” Tyler said.

“It's frustrating.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: April 15. 2014 6:12PM
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