The new Elwha bridge won’t be as pleasing to the eye, as the 92-year-old structure, but it will be anchored in bedrock. Steve Roark, Assistant Regional Administrator, provided updated information on the work that has occurred both behind the scenes and in the field over the last year at two meetings last Wednesday in Forks.
Roark told members of the West End Business and Professional Association at their 7:30 a.m. meeting that the project is moving along, with the design process 100 percent complete in several areas. Completed so far are geo-tech borings, roadway alignment, roadway profile and a preliminary bridge plan.
While those tasks have been undertaken the current bridge has received ongoing monitoring for any movement. A real-time alarm stands ready to notify those in charge if any activity were to take place. LiDAR imaging shows that for now the five-thousand tons of rip-rap has stabilized the ongoing erosion that began after the removal of the Elwha Dam.
With the new bridge will come a more sweeping corner, the realigned roadway that will be a softer turn than the sharply angled highway that now connects 101 with the existing span.
The plan for the intersection at the Olympic Hot Spring Road will also be updated with a new Transit Stop, and a parking lot at the new bridge and a possible river-viewing area for sightseers but probably no bathroom facilities. Roark said they are looking for feedback from the public with regard to recreational access.
The new span would be slightly longer than the existing 380-foot structure and have two 12-foot lanes and two shoulders, each 6-feet-to-8-feet wide, for pedestrians and cyclists. The cost for removing the old bridge and building the new one is estimated at $27-29 million.
Still to be completed are the relocation of utilities plan, drainage design, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process and to secure property. Roark said the last two items, NEPA and the needed property acquisition will be pushed through as fast as possible, but that the NEPA makes sure all things have been addressed such as endangered species, vegetation, historical and cultural resources and the process can sometimes slow up a project.
Raork believes NEPA will be completed by November or December of this year. The project will go out to bid in spring 2019 and construction should begin in summer 2019, with completion estimated for the fall of 2020.
Meanwhile if more erosion should occur they are prepared to throw in more rip-rap. If something catestrophic were to happen to the current bridge, WSDOT says that in the name of public safety they would choose the most expediant passage across the Elwha river, which might mean a change in bridge design and/or location.
The condition of Highway 112 was also discussed, as it is the alternate route used as the Lake Crescent road work will resume in about a month. As Highway 112 continues to slowly sink the plans at this time are a maintenance operation.
Raork said, “It’s a big fix, the money is not there for a complete fix, we will continue to maintain it at this time.”
The good news, if any, is it is a slow moving slide.