Construction fencing and traffic cones mark lane closures on the Eighth Street bridges over Tumwater and Valley creeks in Port Angeles on Thursday as crews prepare to install new railings on the spans. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Construction fencing and traffic cones mark lane closures on the Eighth Street bridges over Tumwater and Valley creeks in Port Angeles on Thursday as crews prepare to install new railings on the spans. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Traffic navigates around work on Eighth Street bridges in Port Angeles

PORT ANGELES — Temporary fencing has been raised around the eastbound lanes of the Eighth Street bridges to allow crews to install permanent safety barriers on the twin spans.

Eastbound traffic over both bridges was closed Tuesday and will remain closed throughout the two month-project, city engineer Jonathan Boehme said. Detours are in place.

Westbound traffic remains open and one sidewalk between Cherry and A streets is available. Businesses remain open.

Permanent fencing will be installed on top of the existing 32-inch concrete barriers on both sides of the bridges to help prevent suicides.

Eight people have jumped to their deaths from the 100-foot-tall spans since they reopened in 2009 with 4-foot, 6-inch barriers. Four of those deaths have occurred since June 2017.

Crews with Interwest Construction of Sequim have begun removing the old pedestrian railing and taking out bolts. Temporary wood barriers will be installed for the safety of the workers and to prevent objects from falling off the bridges, Boehme said.

Support drilling

Next Monday, crews will begin to drill cores into the concrete barriers for new fence posts that will support the protective screenings, city officials said.

Including the 32-inch concrete base, the chain link fencing will be 8-feet, 8-inches above the sidewalk at its lowest point and 10-feet, 7-inches at its tallest point.

The screening will have a curved top to represent the Olympic Mountains, city officials said.

After the fences are installed on the south side of the bridges, westbound traffic will be shifted to the eastbound lanes to allow crews to work on the north side of the spans, Boehme said.

The project is scheduled to be completed Sept. 14.

Boehme and Deputy Chief of Police Jason Viada said the project has caused traffic congestion on detours.

Tumwater Street, for example, was backed up to Fifth Street on its northbound approach to Marine Drive on Thursday afternoon.

“The best thing we can say is to allow for some extra travel time,” Boehme said.

The City Council awarded a $770,770 construction contract to Interwest in April.

The protective screening was designed by Sargent Engineers with input from the council and the public.

Council member Cherie Kidd lobbied the state Legislature to help fund the safety project.

The city was eligible for state funds because the western bridge crosses the Tumwater Truck Route, a state highway.

State Reps. Mike Chapman and Steve Tharinger and state Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, all of whom represent the North Olympic Peninsula’s 24th District, secured a $350,000 budget proviso for the Eighth Street project in the 2018 legislative session.

The city also received more than $124,000 in community donations to help pay for the safety improvement.

Donations are still being accepted, with excess amounts earmarked for Peninsula Behavioral Health suicide prevention programs. To donate, click on the city’s website at www.cityofpa.us.

Built in 1936, the original Eighth Street bridges had 4-foot, 2-inch railings until 1959, when 7-foot, 8-inch railings were installed.

To accommodate the ongoing work, Clallam Transit has established a temporary detour for Route 24.

Rather than returning to The Gateway transit center along West Eighth Street, No. 24 buses will continue north on I street. They will run nonstop along I Street, Fifth Street, Hill Street and Marine Drive until they reach the downtown bus depot.

Clallam Transit Operations and Planning Manager Steve Hopkins said the detour will allow riders to return to the city’s west side after shopping in the central business district without making a transfer.

“The city’s been great to work with,” Hopkins added. “They’ve kept us well informed.”

For Clallam Transit rider alerts, click on www.clallamtransit.com.

Eighth Street bridge project updates will be posted on the city’s website.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].

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