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Winds throw monkey wrench at Hood Canal project

The Hood Canal Bridge is undergoing six weeks of replacement and retrofitting construction. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
The Hood Canal Bridge is undergoing six weeks of replacement and retrofitting construction.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

LOFALL — Gale warnings threw an unexpected glitch into the Washington State Department of Transportation's Hood Canal Bridge project less than a week after it began.

The bridge closed May 1 for six weeks of construction.

Work paused Tuesday when high winds caused large swells and crashing waves in the canal. Foot-ferry sailings between Lofall and South Point were cancelled late Monday night and most of Tuesday, also due to the winds which, as Mark Twain might have written, left the DOT between the devil and the deep sea.

"People really seemed to understand that the cancellations were made as a safety precaution," wrote DOT spokesman Joe Irwin in an e-mail. "Knowing that getting the information out there early was critical to travelers, we sent our first press release about the then-potential cancellations several hours before the storm really picked up."

The DOT provided updates for commuters throughout the day via its Web site, text messaging and 5-1-1.

Rough weather Sunday similarly delayed the removal of a 480-ton east truss. A posting on the project's daily blog reported time and safety factors came into play, so crew leaders decided to push the truss removal to Monday. Crews spent much of Monday afternoon preparing for forecasted high winds, ensuring pontoons were secure and moving equipment from the decks, according to the blog.

DOT spokesman Jamie Swift described the construction scene over the weekend, detailing collected efforts to complete rusted pontoon replacement and road widening within a six-week time slot.

"The beeping of a fork-lift in reverse, the reverberation of jack-hammers pounding away at concrete, and the whir of the cable saws unjoining the pontoons are just a few of the sights and sounds that not-so subtly assault your senses," Swift wrote. "Even with all of these sounds, the workers maintain an uncanny, singular concentration on their own individual tasks. I couldn't help but notice yesterday, when a crane pulled the transition span out, raised it into the sky, and lowered it onto a barge - very few workers stopped to admire the impressive power of the crane and skill of the crane operator.

"They had work to do and they are on a tight schedule."

Before 7 a.m. on May 1, the first day of the closure, crews removed the east half draw pontoon. The 471-foot piece is now on its way to Sidney, B.C., where it will become part of a new marina pier.

To learn more about this project, as well as 'Get Around' transportation options, visit www.HoodCanalBridge.com.

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