Closures planned until 8 tonight on Highway 101 Elwha River bridge

Crews moving equipment after plans change to perpare for expected storm

PORT ANGELES — Multiple closures lasting 40 to 45 minutes each are planned at the Elwha River bridge on U.S. Highway 101 west of Port Angeles from now until about 8 p.m. tonight.

Crews are demobilizing drilling equipment, hauling it up to the bridge deck, which will block the highway, said Claudia Bingham Baker, state Department of Transportation spokeswoman, today.

Some closures could be expected early Tuesday morning if the crews are unable to finish their work tonight, she added.

After that no closures are expected this week, although they may resume later.

Crews have been drilling bore samples along the bridge’s two piers, resulting in intermittent hour-long closures.

The crews are exploring the degree of erosion. Sediment from the former Lake Aldwell and high water has scoured the riverbed in which the piers sit.

The riverbed has been washed out 14 feet down since the Elwha Dam downstream was removed in 2012, according to Chris Keegan, regional operations engineer for Transportation.

The bridge is safe, he said, adding that bridges are inspected on a regular basis.

But erosion around the piers in a concern, he said.

Drilling has not been completed and crews have not collected all the data they need, Bingham Baker said today, but plans have changed because of a storm the National Weather Service has forecast to come into the area on Friday.

Once the equipment is out of the way, another contractor will come in to place large boulders around the base of each of the piers to retard the rate of erosion.

“They want get the rip-rap in place before the water level rises because of the storm,” Bingham Baker said.

The rip-rap work will not require traffic closures on the bridge.

The Elwha Dam was removed along with the Glines Canyon Dam higher up the river as part of a $325 million National Park Service project to restore the Elwha River to its wild state.

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