Vehicles travel in both directions Thursday evening along the recently completed state Highway 116 bridge between Indian and Marrowstone islands. (Nicholas Johnson/Peninsula Daily News)

Vehicles travel in both directions Thursday evening along the recently completed state Highway 116 bridge between Indian and Marrowstone islands. (Nicholas Johnson/Peninsula Daily News)

Two-way traffic flows between Indian, Marrowstone islands

Highway 116 bridge spanning Kilisut Harbor completed

MARROWSTONE ISLAND – For the first time in over a year, two-way traffic began flowing freely this month between Indian and Marrowstone islands.

A nearly $13 million project to construct a new 440-foot girder bridge spanning Kilisut Harbor along state Highway 116 — the only way to access Marrowstone Island by land — wrapped up Oct. 15.

Flaggers and temporary signals had been used to alternate one-way vehicle traffic between the two islands since August 2019, when Cascade Bridge LLC began construction under contract with the state Department of Transportation (DOT).

As part of DOT’s Fish Passage Barrier Removal Program, the project’s primary goal was to replace a 1940s causeway and two culverts that for decades had blocked tidal channels — and a historic migration route for steelhead and endangered salmon — between Oak Bay and Kilisut Harbor’s Scow Bay, which suffered from elevated temperatures and stagnant, sediment-filled water.

“Work involved replacing two small culverts that were installed in the 1950s,” said Project Engineer Dan McKernan, who called the project’s creation of more than 2,300 acres of productive habitat “a huge win for local salmon and Hood Canal fish.”

The project was largely funded by the North Olympic Salmon Coalition (NOSC), which contributed about $10 million with help from a nearly $8.2 million grant from the state Recreation and Conservation Office in 2014.

The state added $2 million and the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe contributed another $1 million from a NOAA Restoration Center grant.

In lieu of an in-person grand-opening ceremony, DOT produced a video to mark the project’s completion. In that video, NOSC Project Manager Kevin Long describes how water flowing under the bridge for the first time in August diluted a red algae bloom in Kilisut Harbor.

“We know that it’s going to change the temperatures and water quality in Kilisut Harbor and kind of make it better for all the animals and people that use the area,” Long said.

At the same time, paddle-boarders and kayakers flocked to the area to experience the newly opened passage firsthand. The bridge itself, however, remained restricted to one-way traffic as crews constructed approaches on either side.

And while two-way traffic has resumed, motorists may encounter intermittent lane closures through November as crews finish landscaping and install permanent signage, according to DOT.

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Jefferson County senior reporter Nicholas Johnson can be reached by phone at 360-417-3509 or by email at njohnson@peninsuladailynews.com.

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