SHINE — The Hood Canal Bridge will undergo at least two daytime weekday closures during two weeks in April for its biennial Blue Ribbon inspection, state Department of Transportation spokeswoman April Leigh said Friday.
During the weeks of April 10-14 and April 17-21, the bridge’s drawspan will be opened intermittently between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. for 15 minutes to one hour. During those periods, the bridge will be closed to vehicular traffic, bicyclists and pedestrians.
Leigh said in a Friday telephone interview that the openings would occur twice daily and the bridge preservation crews would try to do them at the same time as required maritime openings. Federal law gives maritime traffic the right of way over vehicular traffic.
“Travelers can expect at least two drawspan closures to traffic per day. There could be times when more are necessary to have a thorough bridge inspection,” Leigh wrote in a Friday afternoon email.
“These inspections happen every other year and each year we have given 10-days-to-two-weeks notice,” she said.
A Blue Ribbon inspection includes an overall assessment of the bridge’s mechanical and electrical systems, DOT said.
All DOT floating bridges undergo similar inspections, the agency said.
“The inspections require daylight to see inside tight spaces and get detailed observations on bridge components and operations,” according to a press release.
Advance information on scheduled drawspan openings via text/email alerts is available on DOT’s website at www.wsdot.wa.gov.
Travelers can get information about the Hood Canal Bridge via DOT email alerts, the DOT app, and on the statewide travel map. They also can get information on the Transportation website. Once at www.wsdot.wa.gov, click the “traffic and cameras” link and then click the “Hood Canal area” link.
In February, Steve Roark, DOT’s Olympic Region administrator, and Mark Krulish DOT Olympic Region spokesman, traveled throughout DOT’s seven-county Olympic Region, which includes Clallam and Jefferson counties, to explain the agency’s extensive 2023-2024 construction and maintenance schedule.
These closures are not noted on DOT’s “virtual open house” website for the 2023-2024 schedule at https://engage.wsdot.wa.gov/north-olympic-peninsula-2023-construction/construction-projects-and-expected-delays/
Leigh said these April openings were not included in that presentation because they happen every other year as part of regular inspections.
“This is an inspection, not project work,” she said.
Despite the lack of previous publicity, Leigh said in addition to the press release, a travel advisory was sent to all of DOT’s community partners in the Hood Canal Bridge project.
Both Port Angeles City Manager Nathan West and Port Townsend City Manager John Mauro wrote Friday afternoon that they were aware of the upcoming inspections closures.
However, they were more concerned that DOT has not yet released firm dates for the four summer weekend closures slated for July and August.
Roark said two weeks ago that DOT hopes to firm up those summer weekend closure dates by mid-April.
According to the Washington State Bridge Inspection Manual Chapter 8 (Electrical and Mechanical): “The National Bridge Inspection Standards/National Tunnel Inspection Standards requires that complex bridges and tunnels have specialized inspection procedures, and additional inspector training.
These structures have numerous mechanical and electrical systems requiring inspection, troubleshooting, repair, and rehabilitation.”
Blue Ribbon inspections consist of visual and operational inspection of the electrical and mechanical systems.
“Disassembly of electrical and mechanical components for closer inspection is also conducted throughout these inspections to gather a higher level of detail than is typical in the routine inspections,” DOT said.
Leigh’s email said these Blue Ribbon inspections began after the November 1990 sinking of the I-90 floating bridge in Seattle during a windstorm.
Then-Gov. Booth Gardner established a Blue Ribbon Panel to investigate the circumstances that led to the sinking of the bridge. The result was mandated annual Blue Ribbon inspections that were required by the Transportation Commission.
Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.