Friday, July 10, 2009

Hood Canal Bridge Blog signing off

Just the other day, I was reading through the Hood Canal Bridge Blog comments posted during 20-cycle tests that eventually led up to the June 3 reopening and – before I knew it – I found my heart racing and an all-too-familiar itch to post an update.

It’s been more than a month since we reopened the bridge and I was quite honestly surprised at my reaction. I was also very encouraged.

The HCB blog was pretty unique because it truly seemed remind people something that many tend to forget – the government is comprised of people just like you. (Gasp!) No, it’s true, really. It allowed us to do away with some of the stodgy overtones and just chat. While this is the nature of blogs, I felt there was a real connection that went beyond cyberspace and the keyboard – for me at least.

More than once, I’d get an update at a meeting or on the phone and say something like, “I’ve got to get this to my people.” “My people” being those who were relying on the blog for the latest project information, and chiming in with questions and comments.

In total, more than 31,000 people – which, according to the 2000 US Census, is roughly the combined populations of Port Angeles and Port Townsend – visited the blog, and posted about 700 comments.

The HCB Blog had a pulse all its own, a true sense of community and real interaction that kept things lively, informative and even entertaining.

When people got upset, others would step in and do something that is pretty much unheard of – defend a state agency. I’d always try to take such negative comments in stride, but admittedly enjoyed seeing the community “police” itself as it were.

Truth be told, I’ve got a pretty thick skin – and a thick skull to match, if you ask my wife – which is the result of more than a decade working at community newspapers. The thick skull is something I was born with, if you ask my mother.

People who have followed the blog likely won’t have to ask either of them.

Our blog has served its purpose and run its course – an obstacle course at times – and is closing up shop on July 17.

And so, as I write my final post here, I’d just like to express my sincerest thanks to all who visited, followed and shared their thoughts on the HCB Blog. I am proud to have been a part of such a grand community, humbled by your praise and honored to have been able to lend a hand.

“Bikini” Joe Irwin
WSDOT Communications

You can still have your questions answered and comments addressed by e-mailing me at irwinj@wsdot.wa.gov or calling 253-305-6412.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Filling the gap for safer bicycle travel across the bridge

We are working hard to address several items communicated to us by the biking community. We are aware of the challenges bicyclists have experienced on the Hood Canal Bridge’s new grated roadway. We are sorry that bicyclists were injured and hope they are better soon.

Although the new Hood Canal Bridge was designed and constructed with bicyclists in mind, the new grated roadway was not created for bicycle travel. The designed and recommended path to travel is along the eight-foot concrete shoulders (as they have ample riding room) and along the shoulder areas on the trusses and draw span as they feature special, solid, non-slip surfaces.

From now through September, bicyclists are unable to access eight feet of the shoulder area on the east truss because concrete barrier lines the roadway to provide safe worker access during anchor cable connection operations. In this situation, we recommend dismounting and walking your bike over the grated roadway.

Some bicyclists who have chosen to ride on the grated roadway to go around the barrier have had trouble navigating a small gap that runs lengthwise down the east truss. We are installing material that will fill this gap in the grated roadway until the shoulders are fully reopened. Even with this fix, we still recommend bicyclists use extra caution and/or other travel options (i.e. walking their bikes) around the concrete barrier.

Additional temporary signage will be added soon on the bridge to alert bicyclists to the roadway conditions. We will keep you posted as we adjust what we can to offer the safest access possible when crossing the bridge.

Why the roadway has a bit of a wave

Over the past few weeks, our crews have been taking a look at exactly why the bridge is a little wavy. They are in the process of determining what will be done to fix it.

Data so far is pointing toward the undulations being a result of building and piecing the bridge together a section at a time. Could we have done the work any differently? Yes, but everything comes with a price.

Option One: Build at the Site

When WSDOT built the new west half in 1978-1982 much of the roadway work was completed at the bridge site. This process could have been used for the east-half replacement. The trade off was that the bridge would have been out of commission for up to three years.

Option Two: Build off site

The biggest goal of the east-half replacement project was to minimize the time the bridge was closed to traffic. This meant matching up sections that were built in different locations.

While each roadway section meets the required specifications of being within 1/8th inch over the length of sections, when connected together the overall roadway is a little wavy.

Many discussions took place, talking through what absolutely had to be done before we could safely open the bridge to traffic and what we could do later during short night time closures. Ultimately, we decided to reopen the bridge as soon as possible and work through the roadway issue later.

Thank you for your patience as we make adjustments to your new bridge.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Hood Canal Bridge closes four times for 90 minutes June 24 and 25

Drivers can expect four 90-minute closures of the Hood Canal Bridge between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. overnight Wednesday, June 24 and Thursday, June 25 while crews adjust the draw span bumpers. The bridge draw spans must be opened to complete the work.

There will be two closures each night. After the first nightly closure, there will be a 15-minute travel window during which drivers can cross the bridge before the second closure begins.

WSDOT completed replacing the Hood Canal Bridge’s east half and east and west trusses June 3, but the project is scheduled to continue through December 2009. For more information on the Hood Canal Bridge Project, please visit www.HoodCanalBridge.com.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What could we have done better?

Hello all,

I figured I'd wait a little while, allowing everyone to get back into their routines and a giving people some time to reflect before asking for some feedback that wasn't influenced by the much appreciated post-opening bliss.

Your bridge is back, but what -- within reason, of course -- could WSDOT have done better to make your life easier during the closure? We all should know by now that car ferries weren't feasible this go-round because there simply weren't enough boats to go around.

WSF did what it could to assist the project but what else could our state agency as a whole have done? Be open, be honest.

Your input good, bad and everything in between is important to us. Thank you for your time and consideration.

One more thing, since so many of you asked, here's the draw span video on Flickr...

Friday, June 5, 2009

Ribbon Cutting Event Icing on the Cake

Today the official SR 104 Hood Canal Bridge Ribbon Cutting event was completed. Even the weather knew better than to be bad. There was no raining on our parade!

Getting everyone and everyting in place was a little hectic but fun. The smell of seawater was in the air, good food lined the tables, dogs joined in the festivities, bicyclists walked around in bright jerseys, vintage cars from the years the bridge was built welcomed attendees and people laughed and smiled. It was good, very good.

The Chimicum band played, Paula Hammond, Washington Transporation Secretary spoke, Dan Mathis from Federal Highway Administration read an original poem about the bridge (with some great rhymes I might add), and there was a feeling of mutual appreciation all the way around.

The best part of the day for me was meeting all of you that tune in here to get information. Thank you for coming to introduce yourselves. I think we should have set Joe up to do autographs the way everyone was asking for him.

The ribbon cutting marks the end of major bridge work for a long time. There is a bit left to do - upgrading the west-half mechanical and electrical systems, connecting the new east-half anchor cables and taking care of small details here and there. The in-water work will continue until October and the retrofit work probably through the end of the year. We will be doing periodic updates on the work so we hope you check back in now and then.

For now, let’s celebrate!!

-Becky Hixson

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Celebrating a world-class accomplishment

By now thousands of drivers are getting back into something they surely missed dearly May 1-June 3 -- their routines.

The daily commute to and from the Olympic Peninsula is suddenly a one-car affair. Much easier than a car-bus-water-shuttle-bus-possibly-another-car-and-maybe-even-a-ferry-ride affair. Much easier.

As if that isn't enough cause to celebrate, you've also got a new Hood Canal Bridge that'll last the next 75 years. The people who put this floating marvel together and those who helped everyone get around during the bridge closure are throwing a party Saturday, June 6 and you're on the invite list.

We'll have a variety of events and venues that will showcase the unique food, maritime flavor, arts and music and outdoor activities that are easily reached by crossing the Hood Canal Bridge.

The beauty of the celebration is that it's actually two (count them two) parties that span Kitsap and Jefferson counties.

Ribbon Cutting Event
Time: 11 a.m.
Place: Salsbury Point County Park
3160 NW Wheeler Street off SR 3
(Just north of the bridge’s east end in Kitsap County)

The official ribbon cutting ceremony will recognize community leaders, the bridge contractor, welcome elected officials from the area, with appreciation extended to all who helped. The Chimacum High School Band will provide music. Please RSVP for this event at 253-305-6400.

Bridge Opening Bash
Time: Noon to 8 p.m.
Place: Port Townsend

Port Townsend will host a party -- and this is a town that knows how to throw a shindig -- to celebrate the completion of the Hood Canal Bridge project. PT welcomes everyone on Saturday, June 6 with free outdoor music, food and special events.

For more information, visit www.EnjoyPT.com