A pair of construction cranes prepare on Tuesday to hoist the second of eight 177-foot, 200,000-pound concrete girders that will support a new bridge being constructed on U.S. Highway 101 over Indian Creek southwest of Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

A pair of construction cranes prepare on Tuesday to hoist the second of eight 177-foot, 200,000-pound concrete girders that will support a new bridge being constructed on U.S. Highway 101 over Indian Creek southwest of Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Girders arrive for Indian Creek fish passage project

Traffic on new bridge expected early next year

PORT ANGLES — Installation of girders at the Indian Creek Bridge will interrupt traffic for the next couple of days for travelers along U.S. Highway 101.

The installation, part of a project to improve fish passage on the Elwha River tributary, began at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday and will continue until 5:30 p.m. Thursday, with traffic being stalled on the bypass bridge for 20-minute intervals at least eight times a day according to state Department of Transportation (DOT) officials.

Four of the eight 177-foot, 200,000-pound girders were being installed on Tuesday with the remaining four to be placed on Thursday.

“The project is rolling along nicely so far. It’s been on schedule the whole way,” said Mark Krulish, DOT spokesperson.

“So far we haven’t heard any complaints about traffic impacts,” Krulish said.

The original bridge has been removed. A temporary bridge bypasses the area. Traffic lights direct traffic around the construction site.

The $16.4 million project began in the spring with the removal of an outdated fish barrier and culvert.

“Most of the work is scheduled to be done in the late fall and we could have traffic on the new bridge as early as January. There’s still some work that needs to be done that will depend on the weather,” Krulish said.

The project is set to be fully completed next spring with a 180-foot concrete girder bridge installed.

Over the summer, DOT prioritized work on the culvert as there was a small window of time, the “fish window,” in which to get the work done before fish returned to the river.

“You can only work in the fish window each year for a couple of months and that is usually in the summer,” Krulish said.

“So, prior to a lot of the bridge work, we were doing the fish window work with the Department of Fish and Wildlife,” he added.

The project is expected to restore more than 11 miles in potential habitat gain for migratory species.

DOT is under a 2013 federal court injunction to remove state-owned culverts that impede salmon migration in much of Western Washington by 2030.

The Indian Creek project builds upon DOT’s plan to replace the 1926 Elwha River Bridge on Highway 101.

The $36 million replacement of the nearly 100-year-old Elwha River Bridge will begin sometime next year.

Removal of dams on the Elwha River led to erosion around the bridge foundations. Engineers estimate that the riverbed around the bridge’s piers has lowered 14 feet.

The safety of the bridge is routinely assessed, DOT says.

Updates are expected later this week on the Indian Creek project webpage at https://wsdot.wa.gov/construction-planning/search-projects/us-101-indian-creek-remove-fish-barrier and the Elwha River Bridge webpage at bridgereplacementproject.

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected].

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