PORT ANGELES — The state Department of Transportation is now monitoring several cracks found in the Elwha River bridge on U.S. Highway 101 west of Port Angeles.
Crews determined Tuesday the cracks were old and installed monitors to look for growth, said Claudia Bingham Baker, Transportation spokeswoman.
“What crews found were several old cracks,” she said, adding there weren’t any new cracks in the bridge. “They are located in load-sensitive areas of the bridge like arches and piers.”
Bingham Baker said the cracks are not a concern at the moment but that Transportation crews will continue to monitor them for growth.
While engineers know the cracks aren’t fresh, it wasn’t clear how old they are or how they were caused, she said.
Engineers will continue to monitor the cracks for growth monthly unless it is determined they need to be monitored more often, she said.
Safe for travel
As long as the bridge is open to traffic, Transportation officials believe it is safe for travel, she said.
The state already has installed tilt meters to monitor movement on the bridge and placed large boulders around the bridge piers to prevent further erosion, though that’s only a temporary measure, officials said.
If the tilt meters measure 1 millimeter of movement in the piers, Transportation would close the bridge to traffic, Bingham Baker said.
The state was already working to determine whether it should retrofit or replace the bridge after discovering in October it was built on gravel instead of bedrock. Bingham Baker said a decision should be made by the end of winter.
The now-wild river has continued to eat away at the riverbed under the bridge since the removal of the Elwha Dam in 2012 and the Glines Canyon Dam farther upstream in 2014.
Sediment from the former Lake Aldwell and high water have scoured the riverbed in which the piers sit. Officials have said the riverbed has been washed out 14 feet down since the Elwha Dam was removed in 2012.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.