Clallam County faced with $1.7 million dilemma on McDonald Creek bridge replacement

Officials must decide whether to spend money on temporary span near Agnew or reroute traffic for eight months in 2017.

PORT ANGELES — Pick your poison: an eight-month closure of Old Olympic Highway at McDonald Creek or spend $1.7 million on a temporary bridge.

That’s the dilemma facing Clallam County officials as they prepare to replace the 60-year-old McDonald Creek bridge in 2017.

Public input will help determine whether the county spends taxpayer money on a temporary span or diverts east-west traffic onto U.S. Highway 101 for up to eight months next year.

“We need a decision somewhere between now and when we break ground on this very critical thing, because it’s going to affect a lot of drivers,” County Engineer Ross Tyler told commissioners Monday.

If a temporary bridge is not installed, westbound motorists would detour 1.5 miles from Old Olympic Highway to U.S. Highway 101 along Kitchen-Dick Road.

From there, it’s 1.8 miles to North Barr Road and another 1.3 miles back to Old Olympic Highway.

The project site near McDonald Creek will be closed throughout construction except for local access to private driveways west of the bridge, according to the scope of work.

Call for bids

A call for bids for the $4.73 million project will be issued in December. The estimated cost does not include the installation of a temporary bridge.

Construction will commence early next year, Assistant County Engineer Joe Donisi said.

“We’re expecting that road to be closed for up to eight months to do this project if we don’t put a temporary bridge in,” Donisi said of Old Olympic Highway.

Two options

“So those are our two options: an eight-month closure and utilize the 101 as the way around, or try to pay $1.7 million for a temporary bridge.”

The new bridge will be 40-feet wide — the same width as the rest of Old Olympic Highway in the Agnew area — with eight-foot shoulders on each side.

It will be funded with $3 million in county real estate excise taxes, $922,000 in county road funds and $808,000 in Federal Highway Bridge Preservation Funds.

“We’re kind of short on funds on this project, and it’s a mostly county-funded project,” Donisi said in the board work session.

Clallam County received federal money to complete a seismic retrofit of the aging bridge several years ago.

Replace the bridge

County officials later decided to replace the bridge for safety reasons.

“It’s a 1956 bridge,” Donisi said. “It’s very narrow, and we’re really looking forward to having a full-width bridge there that matches the road on each side of it.”

Commissioners next Tuesday will consider a supplemental agreement with BergerABAM, Inc., to prepare the plans, specifications and estimates for the new bridge.

“This basically gets them into the full-blown design,” Tyler said.

Meanwhile, the Clallam County Road Department will disseminate information about its two options for Old Olympic Highway and schedule public meetings to gather feedback from residents.

“I don’t even want to convene a public meeting at the grange or something like that until we’ve got enough time for that [information] to settle out to the locals out there so we can get good attendance here,” Tyler told commissioners.

“We need to have everybody out there, so this won’t be the only time you hear that subject. We’re going to be real loud with it.”

Tyler added: “We’ve got to figure out — and we want everybody’s input — what’s going to be the best way to go here.”


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

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