There will be two opportunities next week to hear WSDOT representatives update the West End on the Elwha Bridge Replacement project. The update will include information on the design progress of the project and give estimated timelines for moving forward, as well as answer any questions the community may have.
The first meeting will be at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21 at the West End Business and Professional Association meeting held at 411 Tillicum Lane, DNR Conference Room.
Then at noon Wednesday, Feb. 21, the Forks Chamber of Commerce meeting, Blakeslee’s Bar & Grill, 1222 S. Forks Ave., will host the representatives.
Steve Roark, Assistant Regional Administrator, will provide information on the work that has occurred both behind the scenes and in the field over the last year. Roark will go into more detail about the lengthy process WSDOT follows before any project goes to construction and provide more detail about the steps in this particular project.
For those of you who can’t attend either meeting, here are some highlights:
The current Elwha River Bridge remains stable and open to all traffic, with quarterly bridge inspections. WSDOT will continue monitoring the bridge with a robust monitoring plan.
Significant progress has been made over the last year on various discipline reports required for the project to move forward, including hydraulic and geotechnical reports and roadway alignment and intersection plans. In addition, the first stage of bridge design is complete.
Progress is being made with the NEPA environmental process, the project’s effects on air and water quality, noise, wetlands, cultural resources and other environmental elements are analyzed. It is hoped the NEPA process will be completed by December 2018.
Once NEPA is granted, which means the federal government agrees that everything has been sufficiently reviewed, identified and mitigated for any environmental effects, and thus the project can proceed, WSDOT will apply for a Highway Easement Deed from Olympic National Parks to acquire the right to build the bridge on federal land. This is a linear process – land rights cannot be acquired until NEPA is granted.
Finalizing NEPA will also allow the finalization of all design and contract plans, acquire all permits needed for construction, and prepare the contract for advertisement to the contractor community. The current timeline has construction occurring between summer 2019 and fall 2020. That timeline is subject to change, if unforeseen issues arise.