Port Angeles motorists, city getting the hang of detours around bridge work

PORT ANGELES – Drivers are beginning to figure out the detours around the Tumwater Creek bridge, which closed on Monday, but the routes are congested.

Traffic flow on Wednesday also was helped along by Tuesday afternoon’s repair of the traffic light that malfunctioned Monday at the Tumwater Truck Route and Marine Drive.

Both roads are major detour routes.

The problem with the state Department of Transportation traffic light was traced to its electrical power supply, said Acting Police Chief Terry Gallagher.

So a generator was installed until a permanent power supply can be obtained, he said.

“We directed traffic down there until traffic got straightened out,” Gallagher said.

“If traffic issues develop, regardless of the cause, we’ll go down there.”

Officers also spent a few hours at both Marine Drive intersections at Tumwater Street and the Tumwater Truck Route on Wednesday morning as well as on Tuesday, he said.

“It seems like today people are getting an idea of what we want at Tumwater Street and Marine Drive,” he said.

“It is congested but flowing smoothly.”

The closure of the bridge means that some 12,000 vehicles must take routes other than Eighth Street to travel east and west across Port Angeles.

The Tumwater Creek bridge and its twin, the Valley Creek bridge, are aging timber trestle spans on Eighth Street that are coming down to be replaced with concert girder bridges.

The $18.4 million project will end in bridges that are wider by 10 feet, and that include six-foot-wide sidewalks and pedestrian viewing points.

But construction will take out a main artery for at least 14 months, with the new bridges expected to open on Nov. 1, 2008.

Port Angeles Police Sgt. Jack Lowell said drivers seemed to be figuring out new travel routes by Tuesday and realizing they must deal with the congestion.

“Most drivers are being patient, although some are not,” he said.

“But the accidents we’ve had weren’t in any of the construction zones.”

Gallagher emphasized the need for drivers to exercise patience.

“Things just aren’t going to flow as smoothly as they once did,” he said.

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