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Hood Canal Bridge closure just hours away
LOFALL — The single span across the Hood Canal will close at 12:01 a.m. tomorrow for a reconstruction scheduled to last six weeks. The work ends more than a decade of planning and other off-site construction, which has taken place throughout the region in preparation for the bridge shutdown.
At nearly 8,000 feet long, the Hood Canal Bridge is the only over-water connector between the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas. It is the longest floating bridge on salt water in the world.
“We are ready. ... Everything is in line,” reported Washington State Department of Transportation spokeswoman Becky Hixson Wednesday, just two days before the bridge's official closure.
While it is closed to vehicles, crews will replace the bridge's east and west trusses, as well as the rusted east half pontoons.
Crews will begin immediately. They'll remove the trusses and later replace them with new ones weighing 1.6 million pounds each. The existing east half will be removed in three separate pieces, each of which will be floated to a Canadian harbor to become part of a pier. New pontoons will then be floated in and anchored. The operation, WSDOT spokesman Joe Irwin said, will use 200-250 crew members and will run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“The construction workers are going to be like ants on a chocolate bar,” he said.
Project Manager Scott Ireland said construction is a compilation of six years of work.
“This work is scheduled to take place over the next six weeks,” he said. “We have the crews in place and focused to do that.”
Contractor Kiewit-General has the potential to earn an additional $75,000 per day for each day the project is finished in advance of the six week mark, up to eight days. Similarly, $75,000 will be subtracted each day the project goes beyond the six week mark, up to $1 million, Irwin said.
Hixson explained the project is weather dependent: winds up to 30 mph or more, in combination with strong tides, can affect construction, making a target ending date unpredictable. The DOT has created a blog, linked from its project Web site – www.HoodCanalBridge.com – to provide updates as the reopening grows near.
“The whole idea is to get this bridge open as soon as we can,” Irwin said.
Hixson said the project is a chance for those who normally use the bridge to instead shop locally – or spend an extended time on the Olympic Peninsula.
“If you don't have to make a trip, go ahead and stay home,” she said.
The DOT has provided several alternate options for travel, include a Lofall to South Point foot ferry and free transit services to North Kitsap and Jefferson destinations.
Others, Hixson said, have chosen other options, including staying at friends' homes in Kitsap, living in an RV or hotel, going on vacation during the closure or telecommuting.
“There's a lot of creative ideas,” she noted.
Washington State Patrol spokeswoman Krista Hedstrom said officers will monitor congestion along US 101, the drive around option during the closure.
She encouraged drivers to prepare for their trips, as those who are rushed are more prone to aggressive and dangerous driving.
“We're ready for this,” she said. “We hope drivers are ready as well.”
Lieutenant Commander Diana Wickman of the Coast Guard explained marine traffic must heed a 200 yard safety zone around the bridge and machinery on both the north and south sides. Recreational vessels hoping to catch a good view of construction should be aware of possible cables between machines in the waterway as well.