The Simpson Avenue Bridge will be closed for four consecutive weeks starting Oct. 22 when the state Department of Transportation will complete emergency repairs that started last year.
During the repairs and testing activities, the department will close Highway 101 over the bridge and convert the one-way Riverside Bridge to two-way traffic, said a letter from Regional Administrator Kevin J. Dayton.
The bridge closure will not affect marine traffic.
Dayton notified the Hoquiam Business Association by letter of the need for the closure and the department plans a public communications campaign that is expected to start at least five days before the closure. Crews will place message signs at the bridge to provide additional notification, the letter said.
“The main purpose of the closure is to complete work that began with emergency repairs last year. During routine inspections in May 2011, WSDOT inspectors discovered unusual movement of the bridge that prompted underwater inspections,” Dayton said in the letter. “Those inspections revealed severe degradation to the most eastern pier, prompting an extended bridge closure and emergency repairs to that pier.”
Using emergency contracting methods, the department was able to partially repair the bridge’s foundation and reopen the bridge to traffic. The current project will complete the remaining foundation repairs using more cost-effective contracting methods, according to Dayton.
Also, the vertical clearance of the bridge will be permanently raised by replacing four low trusses.
“Over the years, those trusses have been struck numerous times by trucks, and this task will raise the bridge’s vertical clearance from 14 feet to 16 feet, 6 inches,” Dayton explained.
The bridge was damaged again on Sept. 12 when it was hit by a vehicle and a portal truss member sustained significant damage. Under an 11-hour emergency closure at that time, bridge crews removed a section of the old damaged portal truss and installed a new I-beam. During the four-week closure, bridge crews will remove the remaining damaged sections.
Bergerson Construction Inc. was awarded the contract to stabilize the bridge piers with a low bid of $4.2 million.
Department of Transportation Project Engineer Scott Ireland noted the upcoming closure will not be nearly as long as in 2010, when the bridge was closed in late August and didn’t reopen until January 2011.
The current closure will begin the morning of Oct. 22, he said, and the contractor plans to be finished by Thanksgiving.
“When we started the project it was important to us that this work be completed with the bridge closure and the detour be implemented in a period prior to the Thanksgiving-Christmas holiday shopping season,” Ireland said.
The extent of the work involves basically jacking up the bridge, picking up the load from back side of the bridge pier and placing it on new shafts.
“All the work that we have been doing to this point allows us to transfer the load of the bridge onto these new shafts or supports on the exterior of the pier,” Ireland said.
After that is done, the department then has to monitor the bridge for about a week to determine how much settlement there is, and then adjust the movable portions of the span.
“Then we go through operational testing to make sure it is operating safely, because we’re not going to open up the bridge unless it’s safe to do so,” Ireland said. After the testing, the last phase involves taking off an old fender system that protects the pier and replacing it with a new one, located directly under the bridge. New piles will have to be installed, and the work requires an overhead crane directly underneath the bridge.
“So we have to open the bridge and keep it in an upright position in order to perform this work,” Ireland said. “That’s why we have to close down the bridge.”
Ireland recognizes there will be some inconvenience and may be some confusion at first until drivers get used to the detour again.
“Fortunately, the detour we are implementing is the same detour that we did back in 2010. It is the same detour that got implemented in the emergency situation just a couple of weeks ago,” he said. “The people who live in the local communities and conduct business in the local communities, they are used to this, so there shouldn’t be a big change to folks.”
Angelo Bruscas, a Daily World writer, can be reached at 537-3916, or by email at email@example.com