SEQUIM — Weather has delayed construction on the McDonald Creek Bridge at least three or four weeks, with the earliest possible re-opening in mid-April.
Earlier hopes were that the bridge would be re-opened to travelers on the Old Olympic Highway this month.
Crews lost nearly a month because of snow and rain, said Pat McElroy, Clallam County bridge project engineer.
Prior to the wet and cold conditions, work to replace the 1957 bridge to make it more seismically stable and wider was going well and ahead of schedule, he said.
“Flat concrete work is weather-dependent and when we had the snow they couldn’t work at all,” McElroy said.
He said waiting for clear skies to pour the concrete deck also cost workers about a week and a half. The concrete pouring work is all that remains of weather-dependent work for this project, he said.
Clallam County officials originally estimated about nine months to complete the $3.07 million project and that they were optimistic to finish before that date.
McElroy said the county’s contractor, Orion Marine Contractors Inc. of Tacoma, remains on budget and has been granted additional working days due to bad weather into the first week of May.
However, McElroy said with better weather, he anticipates finishing in mid-April.
The bridge closed July 5 last year, leaving a portion of Old Olympic Highway unavailable to drivers.
Neighbors near the bridge, particularly those on North Barr Road, said they’ve seen an increase in traffic, including large commercial vehicles navigating the road’s tight corners and vehicles driving faster than the 35 mph limit.
Chief Criminal Deputy Brian King with Clallam County Sheriff’s Office said deputies conducted some emphasis patrols around the bridge following neighbors’ complaints but haven’t seen any significant public safety impacts related to collisions and speeding.
“Fortunately, we are not seeing collisions increase as a result of increased traffic on the roadway,” King said.
He reported there haven’t been any vehicle collisions since the closure on Barr Road but that a vehicle did strike a loose dog.
The Clallam County Sheriff’s Office has also deployed its radar trailer at times to remind drivers of the speed limit, King said.
“We will continue to conduct random patrols on the arterials affected by the closure,” he said.
County officials have encouraged the use of alternate routes such as U.S. Highway 101 and backtracking on Kitchen-Dick Road or Shore Road.
County engineer Ross Tyler said previously that county staff is avoiding assigning specific detours but they are not deterring people from using roads such as Barr Road and Lewis Road.
“We’re not saying they can’t — we don’t want to direct any more traffic to those minimal roads more than we have to,” he said.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].