Elwha Bridge plans told: State officals provide timeline for new structure

PORT ANGELES — Design plans have been outlined for a two-lane concrete Elwha River bridge anchored deep into bedrock that will replace the existing river-ravaged span that’s being monitored for stability after 92 years.

At the regular City Council meeting Tuesday night, Steve Roark, assistant regional administrator for the state Department of Transportation, presented drawings and a timeline for the estimated $29.3 million project.

He and other Transportation officials also presented the plans Wednesday to the Forks Business and Professional Association and the Forks Chamber of Commerce.

Those plans call for building a new bridge over the Elwha River on U.S. Highway 101 west of Port Angeles and just south of where Lake Aldwell once pooled as a creation of the Elwha Dam, which has not stood since 2012.

Plans include a new intersection with a transit stop connecting Highway 101 with Olympic Hot Springs Road east of the existing Hot Springs road, a new parking lot at the new bridge and a river-viewing area for sightseers — but no bathroom stop, Elwha Project Manager Chris Bruning said in an interview.

It will be connected to a realigned roadway that will be softer and more sweeping than the sharply angled highway that now connects 101 with the existing span, and will be more stable than the existing structure, which is not dug into bedrock, officials at the meeting said.

The project will go out to bid in spring 2019 and construction should begin in summer 2019, Roark said.

Bruning said the new span would be slightly longer than the existing 380-foot structure and have two 12-foot lanes and two shoulders, each 6-feet-to-8-feet wide, for pedestrians and cyclists.

Roark told council members that Transportation officials understood from residents that the road that ties into the bridge needs to be realigned and the curve made more motorist-friendly.

“We heard that loud and clear,” he said.

The bridge will be open for traffic by fall 2020, “ideally faster,” Roark said.

“We’re right on time for construction in summer 2019. The real kicker is the environmental process.”

Roark said agency staff members are reviewing the project for compliance with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) restrictions that apply to historical resources and vegetation but mainly to endangered fish species.

Transportation spokeswoman Claudia Bingham Baker said staff members are expected to complete the NEPA application by December and that federal officials should complete their review of the application by mid-2019.

Bingham Baker said a bridge route over the Elwha should be available throughout the project except for possibly a few weekends toward the end of construction, when traffic would be rerouted to state Highway 112.

Some residents are still pushing for Transportation to develop alternative routes to avoid building a new bridge, Councilwoman Cherie Kidd said, noting that former Mayor Glenn Wiggins urged exactly that earlier during the public comment section of Tuesday’s meeting.

Kidd asked Roark if a “value engineering study” had been conducted to pinpoint an alternative route.

“The costs may be lower, maintenance may be lower,” Kidd said.

Roark said selecting an alternative to what he presented Tuesday would lengthen the environmental review and disputed Kidd’s assertion that a lower cost project was out there.

“We looked at a non-bridge alignment, and the cost is prohibitive,” Roark said.

Bruning said a frequently described alternative that employed nearby state Highway 112 and an old railroad grade would cost between $40 million and $45 million.

He said Transportation officials reviewed seven to nine options that proved too expensive or would have taken too long to review for environmental compliance.

The existing concrete arch bridge has been undermined by erosion since the removal of the Elwha Dam and the Glines Canyon Dam two years later, in 2014.

Roark said the existing arch bridge, built in 1926, had lost 14 feet of sediment around its support columns and has been buttressed with almost 5,000 tons of heavy rip-rap to keep in place what sediment is left.

Bridge tilt, and cracks and water flow are being monitored at the span, which Bruning said was built 92 years ago with supports “in the neighborhood” of 14 to 25 feet below the stream bed — but does not hit bedrock.

“A lot of that, in my opinion, was construction methods then,” Bruning said.

The new bridge will be supported by 8-foot-to-10-foot-diameter drilled shafts “in the ballpark of 50 to 100 feet deep socketed into bedrock,” he said.

The design aspects that have been completed include the geotechnical borings, roadway alignment, a preliminary bridge plan and 70 percent of the final bridge design.

Contract plans are 80 percent completed, traffic control and staging is 30 percent done and community engagement is “ongoing,” according to Roark’s PowerPoint presentation, which urged residents to stay informed about the project by going to www.elwhariverbridge.com.


Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

More in News

Pictured, from left, are Mary Kelso, Jane Marks, Barbara Silva and Linda Cooper.
School donation

The Port Angeles Garden Club donated $800 to the Crescent School in… Continue reading

Clayton Hergert, 2, along with is mother, Mandy Hergert of Port Angeles, sit at the bow of a U.S. Coast Guard response boat on display during Saturday’s Healthy Kids Day at the Port Angeles YMCA. The event, hosted by all three Olympic Peninsula YMCA branches, featured children’s activities designed to promote a healthy lifestyle and a love for physical activity. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Captain on deck

Clayton Hergert, 2, along with is mother, Mandy Hergert of Port Angeles,… Continue reading

Clallam County Fire District 3 commissioners agreed on April 2 to seek a real estate market analysis for Lost Mountain Station 36 after multiple attempts to seek volunteers to keep the station open. They’ll consider selling it and using funds for emergency supplies in the area, and offsetting construction costs for a new Carlsborg fire station. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
Fire District to seek market analysis for station

Proceeds could help build new building in Carlsborg

John McKenzie. (Clallam County Fire District 3)
Sequim to bring back fire, safety inspections

Routine visits out of rotation for almost a year

Isaac Wendel, 11, left, and his mother Jennie Wendel of Port Angeles, comb the beach on the inside of Ediz Hook in Port Angeles on Saturday as part of a cleanup effort hosted by Washington CoastSavers in honor of Earth Day. Hundreds of volunteers fanned out across numerous beaches on Washington’s Pacific Coast and along the Strait of Juan de Fuca to collect trash and other unwanted debris. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Earth Day cleanup

Isaac Wendel, 11, left, and his mother Jennie Wendel of Port Angeles,… Continue reading

John Brewer.
Former longtime editor and publisher of PDN dies

John Brewer, 76, was instrumental in community

Randy Perry and Judy Reandeau Stipe, volunteer executive director of Sequim Museum & Arts, hold aloft a banner from "The Boys in the Boat" film Perry purchased and is loaning to the museum. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
‘Boys in the Boat’ banner to be loaned to museum

Sequim man purchases item shown in film at auction

Charisse Deschenes, first hired by the city of Sequim in 2014, departed this week after 10 years in various roles, including most recently deputy city manager/community and economic development director. (City of Sequim)
Deputy manager leaves Sequim

Community, economic development position open

Hoko River project seeks salmon recovery and habitat restoration

Salmon coaltion takes lead in collaboration with Makah, Lower Elwha tribes

Clallam Transit’s zero-fare program off to successful start

Ridership is up and problems are down, general manager says