Steve Roark, Asst. Regional Administrator with WSDOT told a packed Forks Chamber of Commerce meeting last week that the Elwha River Bridge project has made a lot of progress in the past year, while the changing river conditions continue to eat away at the bridge foundation.
Roark shared that a “robust” monitoring system keeps tabs on what is going on at the bridge at all times. “We have crack meters, tilt meters, water flow is monitored, we even know when a heavy loaded log truck passes over the bridge,” Roark shared.
Roark said the current bridge alignment with the highway was never a good one, the new bridge will have a wider curve and the bridge supports will be anchored into the bedrock. The two lanes will each be 12 feet wide; a parking lot and path to the river are also to be included.
WSDOT hopes to have the bridge under contract this summer with completion in 2021. Still in progress are the complete environmental process and to secure property rights. He also shared that they don’t have all the permits yet but are not worried.
During the construction of the new bridge, the old bridge will be used and it will take about one week to cut-over to the new bridge when it is completed. During that cut-over Highway 112 will be used as a detour. Concerns about the condition of 112 were raised from the audience and questions about the stability of that road also questioned. “We will be sure 112 is beefed up before we do the detour,” Roark said.
With design and construction cost, the price tag for the new Elwha bridge is $3 million. The old bridge will be scrapped.
Roark shared other projects on the construction schedule for this summer include several culvert replacements south of Forks and ongoing work on the Hood Canal Bridge.
It was asked by an audience member why the Hoh Bridge doesn’t get replaced? Roark described the Hoh Bridge as a functioning obsolete bridge, “it was just built too well,” and suggested for now lower speeds when using the bridge. “For now the Hoh Bridge is still sound.”
Another bridge in question was the Bogachiel Bridge on the La Push Rd. Bill Plumley shared from the audience that it is becoming a safety issue as people try to drive in the middle to miss the potholes. Roark again shared that WSDOT just doesn’t have the money, “we are falling behind on our repairs, we are managing the best we can.”
Concerns about the Calawah Bridge coming into Forks were also raised, one audience member said the deck on the bridge is moving. Roark said they keep a close eye on it and drainage is also an issue with that bridge.
Other concerns from the audience members were a log jam at a bridge on Mora Road, potholes on the Quillayute and La Push Roads and the lack of mowing along the roads in the summer time. Roark’s answer was there just isn’t enough money to take care of it all. “Each year we look at our assets and spend where we think it is most needed, we only have so much money to maintain Washingtons roads, bridges, etc. we have the second highest gas tax and DOT only gets a small amount of it.”