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Hood Canal Bridge closure: Short-term pain, long-term gain

SEATTLE — Starting next Friday, Kitsap and Jefferson counties may experience a "couple weeks of pain" for a long-term gain.

That was Washington State Department of Transportation spokeswoman Becky Hixson's message this week, and she's urging those affected by the six-week Hood Canal Bridge Closure to plan ahead.

The closure begins May 1, the same day a surge of busses and ferries will aim to mitigate the travel snag by providing alternative options.

The DOT is estimating one-third of the average 16,000 weekday vehicles and 20,000 weekend vehicles usually crossing the bridge will forego their trip. For those still on the move, other options include:

- A fare-free, passenger-only water shuttle between Jefferson and Kitsap counties with transit connections and park and rides, including those at Lofall and Port Gamble;

- A nighttime Sunday through Thursday reservation-based car ferry between Port Townsend and Edmonds to assist freight haulers and drivers;

- A fare-free, reservation-based medical bus service that will transport people to and from the Olympic Peninsula, Kitsap County and Seattle;

- Driving around on US 101 and State Route 3; or

- Booking flights or rides on local airlines, buses and boats.

The DOT has placed seven additional traffic cameras along US 101 ad SR 3, and has made available a hotline, (877) 595-4222, and a Web site — www.HoodCanalBridge.com — for current information. The Web site offers video, transit schedules and an interactive trip-planning map.

"We want people to know as close to real-time updates as possible," Hixson explained.

Drivers can also call 5-1-1, listen to the DOT's highway advisory radio and receive text message updates. More than $12 million of the project's overall $477.8 million cost has been devoted to closure mitigation.

“People using these resources to plan ahead can determine which of the transportation options make the most sense for them,” said Dave Ziegler, principal project engineer, in a prepared statement. “Traveling to and from the peninsula won’t be easy, but we hope people will be patient and are reassured by the fact that in about six weeks they’ll have a wider, safer, more reliable bridge.”

When the bridge reopens, it will contain 12-foot shoulders, meaning a future expansion to four lanes would be possible without shutting it down.

Visit www.HoodCanalBridge.com for more information.

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