Cars are driven across the U.S. Highway 101 bridge over the Elwha River west of Port Angeles on Saturday. State transportation officials will brief the Port Angeles City Council and the public Tuesday about plans to replace the aging span. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Cars are driven across the U.S. Highway 101 bridge over the Elwha River west of Port Angeles on Saturday. State transportation officials will brief the Port Angeles City Council and the public Tuesday about plans to replace the aging span. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Elwha Bridge presentations scheduled for Port Angeles, Forks this week

State officials to update residents about replacement

PORT ANGELES — Two public presentations are scheduled this week on a state project to replace the U.S. Highway 101 bridge over the Elwha River.

State Department of Transportation (DOT) officials will provide a progress report to the Port Angeles City Council on Tuesday and the Forks Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday. They will discuss what needs to be done before construction of a new span begins later this year.

The Tuesday presentation will begin at 5 p.m. in the City Council chambers at City Hall, 321 E. Fifth St., Port Angeles.

The Wednesday briefing will begin at noon at Blakeslee’s Bar and Grill, 1222 S. Forks Ave.

Steve Roark, DOT assistant regional administrator for project development and delivery, and agency spokeswoman Tina Werner will lead the presentations and answer questions about the $31.45 million project.

If the permitting stays on schedule, construction is scheduled to commence this summer, Werner said in a Friday interview.

“We’re still working through the NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act)] process,” Werner said.

DOT officials gave similar presentations on the Elwha Bridge project to Clallam County audiences last February.

“The U.S. 101 Elwha River Bridge is vital to the well-being of the communities on the Olympic Peninsula,” DOT officials said on the project web page, www.ElwhaRiverBridge.com.

“Replacing the bridge will ensure that the U.S. 101 route continues to be a reliable transportation facility for decades to come.”

Built in 1926, the existing bridge is being undermined by a now-free-flowing Elwha River, which cut deeper into its channel after removal of the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams from 2011 to 2014.

DOT stabilized the bridge piers with nearly 5,000 tons of boulders. The 388-foot-long, 28-foot-wide concrete arch bridge is constantly being monitored for safety.

Werner said DOT is in the process of obtaining the permits it needs to construct the new, 40-foot-wide bridge.

DOT selected a design alternative that will allow motorists to use the existing bridge while the new bridge is being built to the north. The new bridge will be anchored deep into the bedrock.

According to the projected timeline, traffic will be shifted onto the new bridge in the fall of 2020.

The North Olympic Peninsula’s legislative delegation — state Reps. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles, Steve Tharinger, D-Port Townsend and state Sen. Kevin Van de Wege, D-Sequim — helped to secure state funding for the new Elwha River bridge.

The new bridge approach will have a more gentle curve on east side of the Elwha River, allowing the speed limit to be raised from 25 mph to 40 mph.

The new bridge will include Clallam Transit bus stops, better sight lines, lights, turn pockets and an acceleration lane for Olympic Hot Springs Road, DOT officials said.

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

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