Counties ask that DOT not close Hood Canal Bridge on tourist weekends

Clallam sends letter; Jefferson to consider it soon

Clallam and Jefferson county commissioners are asking the state Department of Transportation that any Hood Canal Bridge closures scheduled for 2023 not occur during major tourist weekends on the North Olympic Peninsula.

According to the state Department of Transportation website (DOT), up to four weekend closures are being planned starting as early as May 2023 and possibly extending into the early fall. They will extend from 11 p.m. Friday to 4 a.m. Monday.

A series of intermittent nighttime closures also will be necessary during that time. The work will not affect marine traffic passing through the bridge.

“The tourism impact (of bridge closures) is significant. We also want to have additional conversations with DOT about all their projects,” said Clallam County Commissioner Mark Ozias on Tuesday as commissioners agreed to send the letter.

The letter to Olympic Region Administrator Steve Roark notes the agency’s many upcoming projects and urges the agency to “carefully consider the timing and impact each project will have on the residents of our county who rely on our fragile ‘Highway 101’ connection to the rest of the world.”

It specifically requests that the closures not occur on any of the five following weekends in 2023:

• June 3-4 (North Olympic Discovery Marathon);

• July 21-23 (Sequim Lavender Weekend);

• Aug. 29-Sept. 1 (THING festival);

• Sept. 8-10 (Wooden Boat Festival);

• Sept. 22-24 (Port Townsend Film Festival).

It closes by asking to know the scheduled closure dates as soon as possible to allow planning for accommodations and work-arounds.

Jefferson County Commissioner Kate Dean wrote in an email that Commissioner Greg Brotherton will bring a similar letter to the board in the next week or two.

“The Jefferson County Commissioners have consistently been asking WSDOT for more and better collaboration on impacts of their projects,” Dean wrote.

“Oftentimes we learn about road projects when the public does, not beforehand, which is frustrating because we have our own planning to coordinate and can provide helpful input about our roads and usage patterns,” she said.

She also noted the cumulative impacts of DOT projects.

“For example, having one ferry taken off the Port Townsend route in addition to road closures can make it nearly impossible for our businesses to move goods and services and workers to commute on busy weekends.

We continue to beat the drum that the county needs to be at the table when planning is done to help mitigate the significant impacts to our rural peninsula with few options for mobility.”

DOT’s $1.28 million project that will require bridge closures will upgrade and replace key elements of the systems that guide the bridge together and keep both halves connected.

Massive hydraulic systems lift, retract and extend the driving surface of the bridge to create an opening large enough for marine traffic. A key element called a center lock, similar to a door’s deadbolt, helps keep both halves of the bridge together.

The project will bolster the center lock to better withstand tremendous forces, especially during powerful winter storms and fast-moving tides.

Permanent repairs to another system also are planned. Twin metallic objects shaped like pyramids on one half of the bridge help guide the bridge into dual receivers located on the second half of the bridge. The pyramids and a large metal plate that secures them in place will be temporarily removed and then reinstalled using industrial-sized bolts.

The project will extend the ability for the bridge to open for marine traffic and close for surface traffic. During winter 2020, DOT maintenance crews made temporary repairs to the mechanisms. That phase of work was completed by contractor crews during winter 2021.

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Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected]

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