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DOT revs Hood Canal closure awareness

POULSBO — Efforts are shifting into gear to provide drivers alternate modes of transit during the Hood Canal Bridge closure in 2009.

The Department of Transportation is now working to fuel public awareness on the subject. DOT representatives at last week’s Greater Poulsbo Chamber of Commerce luncheon said they’ll focus this spring on informing the public of all their commuting options.

The 1.5-mile floating bridge — the longest of its kind in the world — will be shutdown from May to June next year while crews replace the east half, create new approach sections and build transition trusses on both ends. The west half will also be widened, allowing continuous eight-foot shoulders to span the entire structure.

More than 200 workers will take on the six-week project, during which drivers who normally utilize the bridge to travel between the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas will need to take one of several alternate routes.

Free passenger-only water shuttles, ride-sharing and improvements to roadways including US 101 are all facets of the DOT’s Closure Mitigation Commitment Plan, meant to make the closure, and subsequent bridge improvements feasible.

DOT Communications Manager Theresa Gren said the state agency will also coordinate with state patrols and medical transport services to manage any potential incidents and facilitate emergency medical transport preparedness.

She said the DOT has identified more than 600 businesses and community groups, such as those represented at the chamber luncheon, as avenues of disseminating information on travel options during the bridge closure.

The DOT will in turn keep those businesses in mind when access between the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas becomes temporarily more difficult.

“We will be reminding people that local businesses are open,” she said.

The fare-free water shuttle will transport up to 149 passengers and five bicycles per trip between South Point and Port Gamble during the six-week bridge shutdown. Boats will run every 30 minutes, and park-and-ride lots, as well as bus transit options, will be available near each dock. The water shuttles will provide direct access across the Hood Canal and help to relieve congestion on the main alternate road route, US 101.

The DOT will also provide express transit services during the closure. Clallam, Jefferson and Kitsap transits will all have altered routes and schedules.

Gren recommended rideshareonline.com for commuters looking for assistance in finding carpool opportunities during the closure. The rideshare database system helps to match daily commuters by schedule and location.

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