Peninsula traffic delays ahead

Hood Canal Bridge weekend closures, other plans set this year

Numerous state Department of Transportation multi-million-dollar construction projects will cause significant delays and detours on the North Olympic Peninsula for much of 2023.

Closures of the Hood Canal Bridge, installation of state Highway 104 roundabouts and fish barrier projects are planned.

“We need people to help us out by staying informed and staying engaged,” said Steve Roark, Olympic Region administrator for the Department of Transportation (DOT). The region includes Clallam and Jefferson counties in addition to Kitsap, Mason, Grays Harbor, Pierce and Thurston.

DOT has set up a “virtual open house” that, although it will not take feedback, will provide updated information regarding construction projects in the area. It can be found at https://engage.wsdot.wa.gov/north-olympic-peninsula-2023-construction/.

It includes information about downloading the DOT app, signing up for emails and other ways to stay informed about road work.

Work though the construction season will be concentrated largely on the eastern side of the Peninsula, with weekend Hood Canal Bridge closures a major disruption.

The Hood Canal Bridge will be closed to vehicular traffic for four consecutive weekends beginning July 28. It will be closed from 11 p.m. that Friday, July 28, through 4 a.m. the following Monday, July 31.

It will be closed during the same hours from Aug. 4-7, Aug. 11-14, and Aug. 18-Aug. 21.

The Hood Canal Bridge weekend closures will be in the middle of the construction work to install a $4.6 million metered roundabout on state Highway 104 at the Paradise Bay Road and Shine Road intersection. Work is expected to begin this spring and extend through the summer into early winter.

During the same time period, a $4 million non-metered roundabout will be installed up the road at 104’s intersection with state Highway 19, also known as Beaver Valley Road.

Another major project — this one on the west end of the Peninsula, the Elwha River Bridge replacement — will begin this year but will not disrupt traffic since the new bridge will be built next to the roadway. No closures of U.S . Highway 101 are expected until the end of the project in 2025, DOT officials said.

Replacement of fish barriers east and west of Port Angeles is not planned until 2024, although several barriers will be replaced this year elsewhere on the Peninsula.

In 2013, a federal court injunction required the state to significantly increase efforts in removing state-owned culverts that block habitat for salmon, bull trout and steelhead.

Hood Canal Bridge

The Hood Canal Bridge project will entail rehabilitating the center locks on the Hood Canal Bridge’s west half drawspan.

“They have served us well but they are at the end of their life,” said Roark, adding that the bridge needs constant maintenance because it rests in a harsh salt-water environment.

The center locks allow the bridge to be opened and closed and the state is obligated to open the bridge for marine traffic, including Navy ships.

They guide the span and keep both halves of the bridge connected.

The contractor also will have to “test and trim” the bridge after the new center locks are installed, which will require 14 nighttime closures, from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.

“There’s no way to avoid impacts from the bridge closures,” Roark said, adding that no mitigation is planned.

”We tried to fit them when they would have the least impact on commuters, people traveling to medical appointments and the movement of people and goods,” he said.

Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau Executive Director Marsha Massey said the state transportation department has been very communicative with the bureau regarding the projects and potential impacts on tourism.

“We appreciate that they came out here to talk with us and meet with us,” Massey said. “We started this conversation back in the fall. Our initial concerns were the Hood Canal Bridge closures.

“The tourism commission compiled a list of dates and asked them to consider not closing the bridge during those times. They were very respectful to take those into consideration,” Massey said.

“I feel like it’s been a dialogue. It’s not going to be easy. The big piece is communication,” she said.

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Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached at Brian.Gawley@ soundpublishing.com.

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