Even though the northern border of Mason County is more than 40 miles from the Hood Canal Bridge, Mason County drivers will feel the effect of having the bridge closed.
That’s because a convoy of commuters is headed Mason County’s way in May-June 2009, when the Hood Canal Bridge closes for up to six weeks.
Based on traffic statistics from past closures of the Hood Canal Bridge, Mason County will see a significant spike in the number of vehicles on US 101, SR 3 and SR 106.
Highways running through Hoodsport, Union, Shelton and Belfair are going to be heavily traveled during the closure. Essentially, Mason County is the Hood Canal Bridge for six weeks in the spring.
During two weekend bridge closures in 2005, daily traffic on US 101 near Shelton surged by about 1,700 vehicles, a 75 percent increase. Traffic counts taken during the 2005 closures also show a 25 percent increase on SR 106 and increases ranging from 5 to 15 percent along SR 3.
The 2005 closures were short term, allowing many commuters to delay their trips until the bridge reopened. Average daily traffic on the Hood Canal Bridge is 16,000 - 20,000 vehicles, but during the 2005 closures, 80 percent of the normal Hood Canal Bridge trips were deferred. Considering the duration of the May-June closure, deferring trips is less realistic for people who need to get to work, transport goods, or seek medical care.
Mason County drivers can help by traveling at off-peak times, allowing for extra drive time, and by driving alertly and cautiously. The influx of traffic brings many drivers who are unfamiliar with the curves, speed-limit changes, crossroads and driveways on US 101, SR 3 and SR 106.
For more information, visit http://www.hoodcanalbridge.com/.