PORT ANGELES — Customers have made their bets.
The 8th Street Bridge’s Grill has closed its contest.
And 487 people await the news of who guessed the correct date for the reopening of the rebuilt Eighth Street bridges, which have been closed for more than a year.
Will it be on Jan. 15, the most popular guess, made by 13 people?
Or will it be closer to the most pessimistic, which put the reopening of the bridges sometime in December 2010?
“I told him that I so hope he is wrong. I can’t survive that long,” said Steven Bridge, owner of the grill at 511 W. Eighth St., who devised the contest, which will award free burgers to the 10 who come closest to the correct date.
The two aging two timber trestles on West Eighth Street were taken down and are being replaced with concrete spans in a project contracted for $18.4 million.
The Tumwater Creek bridge was closed in August 2007, followed by the Valley Creek bridge in September 2007, cutting off a vital artery between the east side and the west side of Port Angeles, and isolating businesses and residents between Tumwater and Valley creeks’ deep ravines, accessible only from the north or south.
The bridges were expected to reopen in early November.
The city now expects the bridges to reopen at the end of January or beginning of February, city spokeswoman Teresa Pierce said.
Bridge said he started the contest for a little comic relief.
He was waking up frustrated and going to sleep mad, he said.
“Every day, nearly down to the last customer, I get asked when the bridges will reopen,” he said.
“So this is the way to have a little fun with it.”
He asked customers to bet on when both bridges would be fully reopened to public access.
Throughout the month of October, bets poured in.
The most popular month is January with 110 guesses, followed by December with 104 guesses and February with 82.
The second most popular date, after first-place Jan. 15, was Dec. 15, the date guessed by 11 people.
At least one guess was made for every day in November — so some people have already lost the contest.
The number of guesses tended to thicken in the middle of each month, although the first day of one month was popular for another reason.
“We had a few who guessed April 1 for April Fool’s Day,” Bridge said of the five guesses for that date.
“But mostly the guesses were all over the place.
“This is totally unscientific and random guesses.
“Some people guessed days just because it was their birthday or something like that.”
In addition to drumming up some fun to have with the closure, Bridge — who opened his grill in October 2007 after both bridges had closed — said he wanted to call attention to dwindling business in the two-block span on Eighth Street between the bridges.
“Since the bridges closed, there have been four businesses that have closed,” Bridge said.
Among those are an espresso shop, a hair salon, the Finishing Crew and Bridge’s own nail salon, he said.
He also owns a tanning salon and laundromat next door to the grill.
“We just couldn’t keep the nail salon going,” he said.
As far as his own guess goes, Bridge is optimistic that the city will reopen the bridges in January — and his guess would be on a Monday.
“It seems like there is a trend to do stuff like that on a Monday, so my guess would be on one of the middle Mondays of the month,” he said.
But he didn’t enter the contest.
“I can have my own food anytime I want,” he said.
Although the work isn’t moving along as fast as Bridge would like — “It is like they are working in slow motion,” he said — city spokeswoman Pierce said that the work is coming along.
“They are working on laying the sidewalks now and the barriers,” she said.
“Each bridge is about 750 feet long, so when you think about it, that is about 3,000 feet of sidewalks and barriers.
“And this work isn’t as obvious as putting up big girders and cranes.”
Each bridge will be 47 feet wide with two 12-foot travel lanes, two 5-foot bicycle lanes and two 6.5-foot sidewalks, and will feature two pedestrian viewpoints.
Pierce said most of the delays have been to the weather.
“Some days there have been terrible winds,” she said.
“Sometimes it can feel like a perfectly fine day to us, but that wind whipping down Tumwater can be dangerous and they can’t have cranes operating.”
Reporter Paige Dickerson can be reached at 360-417-3535 or at [email protected]