DOT says trucks can cross Chehalis Bridge

The regional head of the state Department of Transportation says that heavy trucks will be allowed to use the Chehalis River Bridge so long as they straddle the lanes and get permission ahead of time.

DOT regional administrator Kevin Dayton says that the Wishkah River Bridge will also be analyzed to see if heavy trucks can use that bridge, as well.

Dayton met with truckers and industry officials on Thursday at Aberdeen City Hall to brainstorm more ways that the department can help the trucking industry.

Last month, Dayton found out that the State Patrol was issuing fines up to $17,000 for extra heavy trucks crossing the bridges. The problem is that trucks are only allowed 19,000 pounds per axle across both the Chehalis and Wishkah River bridges. That poses a huge problem for companies like Snell Crane, which has no choice but to send one of its cranes into the city at 21,500 pounds per axle and risk getting a hefty fine because of it.

Until six months ago, trucks also used to be able to take Highway 107 outside Montesano, but two wooden bridges were recently downgraded to only accept 18,000 pounds per axle.

“We’re trying to accommodate your needs until a repair is in place,” Bridge Preservation Engineer Harvey Coffman told a few dozen attendees at Thursday’s gathering. “We’re trying to get you some routes you can drive.”

Aberdeen City Council President Kathi Hoder said she’s enthusiastic that the state Department of Transportation has heard the concerns she and others have raised in recent weeks.

State Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen, asked Coffman for a guestimate on what it would cost to repair some of the more “wobbly” areas of the Chehalis River Bridge.

Coffman took a random guess that it could be anywhere from $1 million to $4 million.

Dayton noted that he would really like to see the bridges replaced with longer-spanning bridges that raise to a higher elevation so boats can go underneath without the need for opening.

“But that’s going to cost a whole lot of dollar signs probably with a B for Billion that come after it,” he said.

Dayton said that this is the third meeting he’s attended on the issue on the Harbor and he’s pleased to be able to find solutions to help out.

“We’ve been able to focus our department’s needs on user input,” Dayton said.