PORT ANGELES — Contractor crews working for the state Department of Transportation have begun to place girders for a new U.S. Highway 101 bridge across the Elwha River.
Drivers are experiencing alternating single-lane traffic, with stops of up to 30 minutes to allow placement of the girders, between 3 a.m. and 9 a.m. through Thursday morning. Work began Saturday.
The crews will set three girders each day, according to DOT, although the work is weather-sensitive and may be rescheduled.
Setting the girders is part of a $36 million project to replace the bridge, which was built in 1926. After the Glines Canyon and Elwha dams were taken down in a project that ended in 2014, the Elwha River changed in course and eroded the bridge foundations, lowering the riverbed by an estimated 14 feet.
Bore samples in 2016 found that the foundations of the bridge were not in bedrock but in gravel, and DOT placed nearly 5,000 tons or riprap around the piers. It has conducted routine inspections to judge the bridge’s safety.
Beginning in April, crews have built access roads to allow drilling for piers.
Toward the end of bridge construction — likely in mid-2024 — Highway 101 will be closed for nine days to allow crews to complete the tie ends and final paving. During this brief closure, travelers will detour using state highways 112 and 113.
The new bridge will be 40 feet wide and accommodate two 12-foot lanes with two 8-foot shoulders. The current bridge is 28 feet wide. The new alignment with Highway 101/Olympic Hot Springs Road will have a more gentle curvature.
Real-time traffic information is available at www.wsdot.com/traffic or by downloading the WSDOT app.
For more information, see www.elwhariverbridge.com.