Friday, May 29, 2009

Still on track for first week of June

Just a quick update that we are still on track to open the bridge to traffic the first week of June.

Crews today focused on testing the new drawspan, which is why the center channel was closed for several hours during the middle of the day.

The project team is also focusing on important but not-so-visible tasks that must be completed before the bridge is safe for people to drive across.

We sent out a press release today to update the media, and the principal project engineer had a quote that I think makes the bridge construction relatable to a lot of people who have built or remodeled a home.

Dave Ziegler said: "Like when building a new house, even though it might look ready from the outside, there is lots of interior work to do before move-in day arrives."

But we're getting really close. We'll provide an update Sunday afternoon describing how the remaining work is progressing. Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

There's more to the milestone list than just milestones

While no major milestones were checked off the extensive Hood Canal Bridge Project to-do list yesterday, work continues to move forward and toward an early-June reopening.

Achieving some construction milestones takes more time than others, so if you're hanging your hat on our online list, consider another hook. There's much more going on than just what's on the list after all.

And construction, I'm finding, is a series of tiny steps that eventually lead up to a finished product. We're taking these steps now as we head into the final days of the project.

We're taking core samples, checking psi readings, tensioning bolts, placing polymer concrete, stripping pourback forms, adjusting the bridge alignment and meggering cables (whatever that is) among numerous other tasks. And while these steps are fairly unremarkable on their own -- and even confusing -- they're all part of the process that will bring us a wider, safer, more reliable bridge.

So, I encourage you to read between the lines on this list, because these milestones are achieved by tiny steps that are all too easily missed when the focus is solely on huge leaps and bounds alone.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Are we there yet? No. Are we there yet? No. Are we...

... there yet? No, but we're getting closer.

We've been swamped of late with people asking us when we're going to open. Exactly. To the day. To the hour, even.

The stream of questions is understandable. People are getting anxious to reclaim their bridge and, in some cases, their lives as they shave hours off their commutes and travels to and from the Olympic Peninsula.

For the past few years, we expected to deliver the new bridge and two trusses in six weeks. Mother Nature threw a tantrum for a few days, made a mess, put us behind schedule, and we got stuck cleaning up. More than three days were added to the schedule due to weather delays.

It was ShamWow time. Our construction crews and team members made us proud as they took advantage of the weather, bringing the east and west draw spans together for the first time since May 1, placing transition span and roadway spans and completing Q/R pontoon joint grouting.

Doing so, they cleaned a week off extended schedule. Putting the expected reopening date at June 8. They soaked up three more days like cola off a shag carpet. Putting their collective nose to the grindstone and the expected reopening date at June 5.

So, what's the exact date now? Our latest schedule shows us reopening during the first week of June. Does this mean June 1? No. June 2? No. June 3? No, it means the first week of June.

We're not trying to be difficult here. Just accurate. Very accurate. So accurate that when we have the definite opening date, we'll be as sure as we can be that the date will stick. We'll have a better idea about where we stand this Friday, May 29.

Thanks for staying with us. And rest assured that we'll let you know the opening date as soon as we can.

Until then, thank you. We deeply appreciate your patience, questions and comments. Your participation and support has been astounding. Keep it up, just a few more days to go.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

No wind, no problem

With the absence of wind, construction on the SR 104 Hood Canal Bridge blew forward this weekend.

Mild weather -- well mild compared to what we saw a little earlier this month -- allowed crews to line up the east and west draw spans this weekend and mark spots that will be drilled out so WSDOT can bolt huge rubber bumpers on the ends of the draw span pontoons.

These bumpers not only prevent damage when the two pontoons come together, but they also help align the sections when they do.

The connection and grouting between draw span assembly pontoon Q and the retrofitted pontoon section RST is complete and transition spans, which bridge gaps in the bridge, providing addition flex between the pontoons, the trusses and the fixed roadway approaches in Kitsap and Jefferson county.

Post-tensioning strands between pontoon sections RST and UVWX were stressed, or pulled together, to about 50 percent. Crews are bolting the expansion joints and pulling wire through conduit -- this electrical work is expected to wrap up this weekend.

Let's hope this break from Mother Nature's tantrums continues.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Weekend work brings Hood Canal Bridge reopening closer

While most people were playing during the holiday weekend, Hood Canal Bridge construction crews were working hard. I had move fast all day to keep up. The crews teased me about my new "employee wellness program" as I trooped up and down stairs, out and back the bridge twice to see both roadway span sets and clear down 3/4 of a mile to the center of the bridge. My only break time was "riding" the draw span out as the team pressed the east and west ends together for the first time.

The last hike from the draw span was certainly worth the effort. I stood under the new east truss and looked down the bridge - a bridge without big gaps - stretching from Kitsap to Jefferson County.

The bridge can support worker foot traffic (a few short hops still required), but it is not ready for the public to use by foot or by car. But, accomplishing several milestones this weekend did move the scheduled bridge reopening closer by three days, possibly as early as June 5.

Plan ahead for busy travel on alternate routes

Heading out the door today on your way to or from the Olympic Peninsula, please use extra care when you hit the roads.

It's Memorial Day and that usually means traffic jams. Roads to and from the peninsula (US 101, SR 3 and SR 16) have been busier than usual with the bridge closure, and will experience even higher volumes throughout the day as people head home.

Aside from gassing up the car, and making sure you have snacks and water on hand, there are a few other things you can do before you go:

* Call 1-877-595-4222 for trip-planning help
* View Hood Canal area traffic cameras
* Download the transportation options map at www.HoodCanalBridge.com
* Subscribe to e-mail updates and text messaging updates at www.HoodCanalBridge.com

On the road:

* Tune to the following stations for Highway Advisory Radio

Kitsap County * SR 104 Hood Canal Bridge – 530 AM
* SR 104 Kingston – 1610 AM

Jefferson County * SR 104 Hood Canal Bridge – 530 AM
* US 101/SR 20 – 1580 AM

Clallam County * US 101/SR 113 – 1580 AM
* US 101/SR 112 – 1580 AM

Thurston County * US 101/Mud Bay Road – 530 AM

* Pay attention to electronic readerboard signs
* Call 511 for traffic information

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Testing new draw span requires noon to 4 p.m. closure of marine channel today (May 24)

Attention marine travelers: Boaters will NOT be able to travel through the channel between noon and 4 p.m. today, May 24. Crews working on the SR 104 Hood Canal Bridge project are testing the new draw span. (More information for mariners)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

What do you mean the bridge is closed?

Memorial Day weekend brings a wave of people to the Olympic Peninsula. People who visit just once a year, or just once, period. People who for 364 days a year have no need to know the Hood Canal Bridge is closed.

We met many of those people today.

My assignment this morning was to stand at the corner of SR 3 and SR 104 and be the bearer of bad news for motorists who approached without any idea the bridge is closed.

Doesn’t sound too challenging, but the task ended up testing the limits of my skill-set. As a public relations professional, I’m comfortable talking to people – and taking verbal abuse from frustrated commuters is just part of my job.

However, as car after car hesitated on the high-speed highway, or pulled past the orange barrels positioned to keep cars off the bridge, it instantly occurred to me that my job today was not to be a smiling ambassador for the state of Washington. I had to communicate quickly, give directions as succinctly as possible, and then sternly send people on their way. If I didn’t, the cars would back up on to the highway and create a dangerous situation for everyone.

I learned today how stressful controlling traffic can be. At one point there were seven or eight cars, all parked and pointed the wrong way on a section of pavement big enough for about 12 cars. I found myself doing more yelling than talking as I directed the vehicles away from the bridge: STOP, NO, GO BACK, WATCH OUT, HANG ON ONE SECOND, WRONG WAY, KEEP MOVING, YOU CAN’T STOP THERE.

Even in such a high-stress situation, I did a lot of smiling and met a lot of nice people – and no shortage of frustrated people. I heard the standard four-letter words from several people upon telling them they have to drive around the canal.

I was called partner, mate, boss, and Mr. Direction Guy. I was told that our Web site says the bridge is open (It does not.) and I was told the TV news said the bridge is open (haven’t confirmed this).

No less than two people tried to sweet-talk me into letting them cross the bridge (despite the fact their cars would have ended up in the deep water of the Hood Canal had they tried to cross). One guy seemed convinced, if given a proper runway, he could jump the canal in his Lincoln Navigator. I think (hope) he was kidding.

Maybe the most surprising interactions I had today were with the people who live in Tacoma or Seattle or Olympia. So many people said, “I saw the signs saying the bridge is closed, but it just didn’t click … It didn’t register.”

There was also an international flavor to my day as befuddled foreign tourists in GPS-guided rental cars destined for the scenic Olympic Peninsula hit a dead end at the closed bridge. One man simply pointed at his GPS screen with an incredulous look on his face that made me second-guess myself for a moment. "The bridge is closed, right?"

(As a sidenote, we did contact the GPS companies several months ago, but they don't make adjustments to the software for short-term traffic revisons.)

The folks we redirected hail from all over the world. We've talked to people from Austria, Australia, Germany, several Asian nations. This wasn't completely unexpected. Despite our best outreach efforts, and the numerous signs and warnings along the routes that led people to the bridge, we're going to miss some people.

A man from Germany took the news in stride.

"Time is on our side," he said as he recalibrated the rental car GPS.

Crews focus on small but important tasks

Electrical wires, hydraulic pipes and steel post tensioning strands run from one end of the bridge to the other. It is amazing to me how all the ducts, holes and pipes on each pontoon section line up perfectly so connections can be made.

Each connecting task completed allows the next task to begin. As soon as the grout is hard enough in the pontoon UVWX/RST joint, crews started stressing, or tightening, the permanent post tensioning strands. As soon as the pontoon UVWX/RST joint post tensioning is 25 percent complete, grout can be poured for the Q/R joint. As soon as...well, you get the picture. It all has to go in a pre-determined order.

So all last night and into today crews are working above and inside the pontoons. Electricians are pulling wires through conduit to restore the bridge's power. Crews are pushing post tensioning strands from one pontoon into another and tightening them in order to add strength to the grouted joint. Another team is focused on connecting hydraulic piping.

Those hundreds of connections, all done in a specific order, one at a time, are the small tasks that make a big difference.

Friday, May 22, 2009

An eye on transition span setting

Saturday, May 23, the west transition spans on either side of the new west truss were set into place. These solid steel roadway sections are approximately 39 feet wide and 50 feet long.

They may seem small when compared to the 280-feet-long, 1.6 million pounds trusses, but they perform a vital role.

The transition spans link the unmovable approach spans to the moveable trusses on one side and the moving pontoons to the large trusses on the other side. They are designed to soften the angle points on the driving surface as the pontoons move up and down with the 16.5-foot tidal swngs.

With these parts in place, only two spans between the roadway pontoons must be installed before the bridge will be one long piece again.

What is the Q/R joint?

Imagine what a dinosaur's hip socket looks like, then increase the size by four and you might be getting close to what the Q/R joint looks like. If you brain just can't get there, here is a photo of two crew members standing in front of the R end of the joint.

This custom-made connection, like any joint, allows movement. In this case, the Q/R joint allows the draw span to rotate with wind and wave actions independent of the roadway pontoon RST.

The joint creation took care and creativity. Each wood form placed before the concrete form had to be hand cut and inlaid in a circle, the concrete place carefully around it and custom seals added. A special wooden cover was created for the Q side of the joint to protect it from when it was constructed in 2006 until today's joining operation.

All the Q/R joining work must be completed when winds are 15 mph or less. Sunny days over the weekend really helped more the work forward. Q/R were "fit up" together on Friday, May 22. Temporary restraints were placed and grouting was completed on Saturday, May 23. After 12 hours of grout curing time, crews started permanent post tensioning operations on Sunday.

Hood Canal Bridge may open a week earlier than anticipated

Good things are everywhere. The sun is shining, the long holiday weekend is starting and the Hood Canal Bridge may open a week earlier than anticipated. After four years of being asked "Do you think you will get the work done early?" it feels really good to finally be able to say "yes".

We don't know exactly when the bridge will re-open yet because there are several critical, weather-dependant work elements we need to still accomplish, including the Q/R joining operations this weekend. On Monday will we take another look at the work accomplished and what is left to do and share another "re-opening date" update. For now, my advice is this: If you have an appointment across Hood Canal on or after June 8, check your route before you go.

So get out there and enjoy the sunny water shuttle ride across the canal, knowing that this too will not last forever (or even six weeks).


-Becky Hixson

Signs, signs...

...Everywhere there's signs
For our Jefferson Transit riders who use the water shuttle and are confused by signs that say the buses will not run on Memorial Day, Monday, May 25, please note that these only apply to regular Jefferson Transit routes. They do not apply to the buses that provide service to and from the water shuttle dock at South Point or the Shine Pit park and ride lot. Those will be offered every day throughout the closure.

West truss removal...

Joe, Becky and staff have been providing you updates on the bridge construction and shuttle traffic from their temporary offices near the Hood Canal bridge. I, like you, have been enjoying watching and reading the updates from afar. I ran across something on Flickr today that was so cool I had to share it. Although the West truss was removed on May 8 this footage is too good to pass up:



The original footage of this was very slow, so we sped it up for the sake of time. If I was moving a million pound truss on a barge, over water I would probably take it slow too!

If you haven't already, be sure to follow along via the photo sharing site Flickr. New photos of the construction progress are uploaded daily.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pontoon joining for RST and UVWX underway

This fine, fine weather has brought more than the first sunburns of the season to the Northwest, it's also allowed WSDOT to begin major pontoon joining operations on the Hood Canal Bridge.

Work started yesterday to join pontoon sections RST and UVWX, as strands have been installed so post-tensioning work can begin. Post-tensioning is basically adding tension to these strands to compress the structure, and pulling the two sections together tightly.

We're also doing some electrical work and installing anchor cables.

I heard a great analogy about the construction going on at the bridge. It's kind of like a new house, most of the exterior's done but now we're finishing the interior. Soon enough, we'll put out the "Welcome" mat for everyone.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Blows, barks and bikes

Blows
With the winds knocking through Hood Canal, sensitive internal joining operations are on hold and other work is progressing. Some of the joining work requires winds of less than 15 mph for as long as a day and a half, so when the wind blows, the work progress slows.

Barks

If you've been noticing some furry, four-legged friends joining you on the bus and water shuttle lately, it's because we've revised our pet policy. Dogs are allowed on both now, but must be well-mannered, on a leash and under control at all times. Unsafe animals will not be allowed -- and disruptive pets will be banned from using the services.

If Spot makes a "spot" on the water shuttle or transit, owners are wholly responsible for cleaning up.

Pets must ride on the outside decks on the water shuttle and owners will be asked to board first and ride in the rear of buses. If an allergic passenger is on board either a bus or water shuttle, pet owners might have to wait for the next departure.

Pet owners can also be banned if their animal is disruptive.

Bikes

Bicyclists can now travel straight to water shuttle docks in Lofall and South Point but must walk their bikes in designated areas. Bike riders also must load and unload as directed by WSF and transit supervisors. On the Jefferson County side, cyclists are encouraged to continue to use the park and rides at Port Gamble and the Gateway Visitors Center.

Water shuttles can still only accommodate five bicycles per sailing. WSDOT reserves the right to revoke access at any time.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Second truss set, final pontoon section placed

WSDOT reached two huge milestones today on SR 104 Hood Canal Bridge Project, floating in the draw span pontoons and setting the east truss. The construction completes placement of major bridge components for the project.

The 596-foot-long draw span assembly is scheduled to be joined with pontoon RST on Tuesday, May 19, completing the placement of the three new east-half pontoon sections.

Three derrick barges lifted the 280-foot-long, 70-foot-wide, 40-foot-tall truss off a nearby barge and moved it into place. Setting the massive truss, which tips the scales at 1.6 million pounds, took about three hours to complete.

One question we're getting now is, "With all the main pieces in place, will the bridge open early?"

It's tough to say one way or the other, because while it is true most of the major components are now at the bridge site, some very unique technical and engineering challenges still must be overcome before we reopen.

Crews still have complex pontoon joint operations ahead, which include work that is dependent on having winds less than 15 miles per hour. WSDOT also must set drop-in spans and connect them to the pontoons, and post-tension the pontoons – pulling them together – to stabilize and strengthen the east half as a whole.

In a nutshell, there's a lot to be done inside the pontoons.

It's kind of like driving a car without tightening the lug nuts on the wheels... everything is there, but try to drive and you're not going to get very far. Pretty much everything is at the construction site, but it all still needs to be fastened into place so we can assure that the bridge will function properly.

See the latest project photos including the east truss set at Flickr.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Pontoon RST Returns Home

Three refurbished concrete Hood Canal Bridge pontoons, named R, S and T, were brought to Hood Canal, positioned and anchored in place today, making them part of this 1.5 mile floating bridge for the second time in their history.

The story behind R, S and T started back in the 1980s. The pontoons were first used to decrease the amount of time the bridge was out of service after the 1979 storm that destroyed the bridge’s west half. By putting R, S and T in the place of the current west-half draw span, engineers opened the bridge to traffic a year before the draw span was completed. Once the west-half draw span was completed, R, S and T were moved to Port Gamble Bay and stored until towed to Seattle for refurbishing in January 2007.

Retrofitting these pontoons helped the Hood Canal Bridge project meet its May-June 2009 float-in date and saved tax payers both time and money through refurbishing pontoons rather than building three new ones.

The work required to refurbish R, S and T was completed in only nine months. Crews removed the old roadway and constructed a new, taller, wider roadway on top of the 60-foot wide pontoons so the pontoons match the widened west-half pontoons. Minor structural modifications were also made, a leak detection system was added and lighting systems were updated.

The 900-foot pontoons were then returned to Kitsap Peninsula’s Port Gamble Bay on October 1, 2007, awaiting today’s event.

Friday, May 15, 2009

West truss removed May 15

WSDOT set the 1.6-million pound west truss in place today and connected the Jefferson County approach spans with the west pontoons.

Three derrick barges – including the largest one on the West Coast – hoisted the 280-foot-long, 70-foot-wide, 40-foot-tall truss off a nearby barge and moved it into place. The operation is scheduled to be repeated Monday, May 18 for the east truss placement.

The new trusses are huge and were quite the spectacle, even for those viewing from across the Hood Canal in Kitsap County.

The trusses are 30-feet wider than old roadway and are designed to match the approach spans at the Hood Canal Bridge, which were expanded in 2005. The wider construction not only improves the overall safety of the bridge today, but it also allows WSDOT to double capacity from two to four lanes in the future without having to build new trusses. We're planning ahead for expansion.

It's interesting that two pieces of the bridge that showed this sort of foresight are being installed within days of one another.

With the west truss in place, operations at the bridge site will shift back to east-half replacement work Saturday, May 16 when the 900-foot-long RST pontoon is scheduled to be installed. The recently retrofitted pontoon section was once part of the west half. It was removed and stored in Port Gamble Bay when the west-half draw span assembly was installed early 1980s.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Big project, big numbers

Blog posts are usually focused on words – not numbers – but we thought we’d change it up a bit and offer you a statistical look at the first two weeks of the closure.

Based on numbers, water-shuttle ridership can be described as consistent. Take out the two rough-weather days that disrupted service, and we had an average daily ridership of nearly 2,100. The busiest day was Friday, May 8, with 2,509 passengers, and the lightest day not affected by weather was Sunday, May 2, with 1,428 passengers.

The numbers also suggest that Olympic and Kitsap peninsula residents are using the water shuttle for more than just getting to work. The boats have been busy on the weekends, too. In fact, Friday through Sunday, May 8, 9 and 10, accumulated the highest total ridership of any three days since the bridge closed.

The Starline and Jefferson Transit shuttles to and from the park and rides have experience the most use, with transit service to Bainbridge Island Ferry Terminal coming in third.

Just as predicted, early numbers show that more people are using the alternate driving routes of US 101, SR 3 and SR 106. The increases vary greatly based on where you’re counting, but on average the number of cars using highways to get around the canal is up 20 to 30 percent.

We also learned how many people are going to www.hoodcanalbridge.com for information or are calling our project assistance line at 1-877-595-4222.

Our Web site is averaging 12,000 page views per day, with the spike coming on day one of the closure, with nearly 24,000 views. Coming in second and third place were May 5 and May 11, each with more than 15,000 views. On those two days, water-shuttle service was disrupted by the nasty weather.

Those were challenging days for commuters, and the WSDOT folks who fielded more than 1,200 calls during those two days.

On the construction front, the project has accomplished 10 of the 24 major milestones. People are visiting our Flickr site in droves, with more than 37,000 views so far to read daily construction and “get around” updates, view the project’s latest construction photos and watch great video clips.

If you are really a numbers fan, be sure to visit our Hood Canal Bridge “By the Numbers” web page.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

First new pontoon section installed

Jefferson and Kitsap counties took a 943-foot step closer to being reconnected today as WSDOT installed the first of three new SR 104 Hood Canal Bridge east-half pontoon sections.

Pontoon UVWX – the longest of the new east-half sections – was towed out of nearby Port Gamble Bay early this morning. It was in place about 5 a.m. amidst a flurry of construction workers and derrick barges that have been a constant presence on Hood Canal since May 1.

Weather pending, pontoon RST is scheduled to join UVWX in Hood Canal later this week. Once the pontoons are in place, work will be taking place inside the pontoons – securing them in place and connecting the electrical and mechanical systems.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Early morning water shuttle out of South Point now even earlier

Responding to travelers' requests and suggestions, WSDOT changed the departure time for the first boat out of South Point from 4:25 a.m. to 4:20 a.m.

The new 4:20 a.m. service out of South Point, which started Tuesday, May 12, provides commuters more time to catch the Bainbridge Island-Seattle ferry. Traffic had resulted in some connnection problems for buses traveling to meet early morning departures from the ferry terminals in Kingston and Bainbridge Island.

New schedules indicating the change are available on the water shuttles and at www.HoodCanalBridge.com.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Project focus shifts to reassembly work

The old east half of the Hood Canal Bridge is gone and WSDOT is ready to bring in the new east half.

Tugs departed Hood Canal just prior to noon today, May 11 with the final piece of the old east half in tow. The 770-foot roadway section will be replaced early Tuesday morning with a 943-foot-long pontoon section that is currently moored in Port Gamble Bay.

Due to weather delays, crews are now scheduled to get a jump early Wednesday morning to move the new three-football-fields-long section from Port Gamble. This is occurring for a couple of reasons, both related to tidal conditions.

Port Gamble is a shallow channel, so setting sea at high tide is ideal. The early morning move also allows tugs to escort the new pontoon section into the canal with the help of an incoming tide.

So, it's out with the old and in with the new. You should get your first view of the first installed section of the new bridge tomorrow morning. Stay tuned.

See the latest project photos at Flickr.

Water-shuttle service resumes at 6 p.m., May 11

About noon today (Monday), water-shuttle service across the Hood Canal was suspended due to high winds and rough seas.

These winds could persist into the early evening, according to weather forecasts. Drivers are advised to watch the weather reports, plan ahead and consider other travel options.

Thanks for your patience.

Water shuttle service is now scheduled to resume at 6 p.m., May 11.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Crew boats put workers on the right island

The Hood Canal Bridge isn't really a bridge during most of this construction project.

It's much more like a group of disconnected islands with various work activities happening on each one.



As you can imagine, this situation creates some challenges - especially in terms of getting workers to the right "island."

We manage this challenge with crew boats. These boats pick workers up and take them from location to location.

I hitched a ride on the Swift Arrow crew boat during the float-out of the draw span assembly known as NOP. I got a close-up view that resulted in some great photos of the milestone.



The crew-boat crew on this day was made up of Phil and Bud, who have the best seat in the house for watching the transformation of the bridge.

However, there's not a lot of time to kick back in the boat and watch workers renovate the bridge. Phil and Bud were busy the entire time, moving from spot to spot, picking up workers who had finished their shifts, dropping them off, then picking up workers for the next shift.

Besides the photos, I also picked up a few pieces of wisdom from Phil and Bud, who have many years of experience on the water.

This from Bud: If you want to determine the direction from which a storm is approaching, face the prevailing wind, then turn clockwise about 120 degrees ... that's where it's coming from.

Thanks for the ride, guys.

One down, one to go

WSDOT successfully floated out the first of two east-half roadway pontoon sections today, leaving just one to go before we can switch gears and focus wholly on replacement work.

After unfastening 80 bolts and cutting through 24 steel tendons, crews removed the 720-foot-long roadway pontoons Q and R on Saturday, May, 9. It's been pretty cool to see the sections removed and floated out, but the real excitment will begin when new pontoons and bridge parts start arriving at the construction site and are installed.

The longest of the massive new pontoon sections -- pontoon UVWX -- is scheduled to be towed from nearby Port Gamble Bay and installed on the Kitsap County side next week. With 943-feet of roadway and superstructure, pontoon UVWX is longer than three football fields and weighs more than 60 million pounds.

Here are the project’s next major milestones:
• Set new west A-frame
• Remove pontoon STUV
• Install pontoon UVWX

Stay tuned to Flickr for the latest project photos and videos.

Friday, May 8, 2009

WSDOT removes west truss

The D.B. General – the largest derrick barge on the West Coast – came through big for the SR 104 Hood Canal Bridge Project today when it removed the nearly 1 million-pound section west truss.

Like the east truss, which was removed May 4, the west truss cannot be reused due to its age and size. It will be salvaged by contractor Kiewit-General and recycled.

Both bridge sections will be replaced later this month with new trusses that measure approximately 280-feet long, 70-feet wide and 40-feet tall. The new trusses are 30-feet wider than the existing sections, and will allow WSDOT to increase capacity on the bridge from two to four lanes in the future.

Here are the project’s next major milestones:

• Removal of west A-frame (May 9)
• Removal of the 720-foot roadway pontoons Q and R (May 9)
• Set new west A-frame

Watch video of the truss removal on Flickr.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Picking up steam after stormy couple of days

The project bounced back in a big way today after a couple of rough weather days.

Three tugs pulled away this afternoon with the 929-foot-long, and nearly 50-year-old, draw span assembly.

That means the "bulge" that Hood Canal Brige drivers know so well is officially gone.

Also today, the transition spans on the west end were removed, setting the stage for tomorrow morning, when crews plan to remove the truss on the west end.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Weather taking toll on commuters and workers


Get ready for another windy night on Hood Canal.

If the wind kicks up and the seas become unsafe for the water shuttles, the service wil be delayed or canceled.

Watch the weather reports and plan ahead, and explore other options for getting around. We'll let you know right away if the weather forces disruptions to the water-shuttle service.

Poor weather is also affecting work activities on the bridge project. The wind and choppy seas make the work more dangerous, and the workers more cautious.

The rain is also playing a role, as WSDOT maintenance crews pumped 60,000 gallons of standing water out of the Port Gamble park and ride and into trucks that took it off site.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Informing travelers during the May 4-5 storm

We've had some crazy weather come through in the last 24 hours with high winds, causing large swells and crashing waves in the canal.

The combination of wind and waves caused construction work on the SR 104 Hood Canal Bridge to temporarily shut down and forced us to cancel sailings on the water shuttle between Lofall and South Point. Sailings were cancelled starting at about 10 p.m. Monday and until 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Immediately following the first dicey forecast, our operations teams began setting into motion contingency plans in the event we had to shut down the water shuttle service. Our first priority was to immediately notify the public that we could be looking at a cancellation.

Even before the call was made to cancel, we knew it was important to get the word out that it might be in the cards. We wanted people to have as much time as possible to make alternate travel plans or delay their trips. This ended up being a good strategy because we had just a few people who needed to be put on busses and transported around.

Anytime we have information that needs to get out to a lot of people in a short amount of time we get the information up on our Web site, we alert people via text messaging and we post the data so it can be heard when people call 5-1-1.

http://www.hoodcanalbridge.com/ - This site is the hub of what's going on. It has shuttle service updates, traffic updates, a link to our blog, and a link to photos that are constantly being uploaded to our Hood Canal Bridge Flickr site.

GovDelivery - This is WSDOT's system that sends traffic alerts in the form of text messages to those that subscribe to GovDelivery. It's free. Sign up for traffic alerts by selecting e-mail updates in the top right hand corner of Web site's home page. GovDelivery has delivered more than 2.7 million WSDOT messages and the number grows every hour.

511 Travel Info – Real-time traffic and weather information is available by simply dialing 5-1-1 from most phones. Updated every few minutes, 511 allows callers to immediately know about traffic congestion, road closures, ferry delays and mountain pass conditions. For the Hood Canal Bridge closure, you'll hear a message helping you navigate for more information about the closure.

If you have travel plans in and around the bridge during this closure, these are the tools you want to be linked into.

Water shuttle/transit services resume

TRAVEL ALERT, 6 a.m., May 6: Service is operating on the Lofall-South Point water shuttle route across the Hood Canal and on connecting transit runs. Please call 5-1-1 for updates.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Crews preparing for windy night, morning

It was a productive day on the bridge, with the removal of the east truss and the cutting or "unjoining" of two pontoons - a step toward floating them away.

Crews spent much of the second part of the day getting ready for the forecasted high winds, ensuring the pontoons were secure and moving equipment off the decks.

At this hour, weather reports suggest there is a strong likelihood that water-shuttle service between Lofall and South Point could be suspended as early as 9 tonight. If that happens, there's a plan in place to put people on buses and drive them around the canal.

We're also thinking about tomorrow morning. High winds could force us to delay the transit/water-shuttle service. We plan to make the call at 4 a.m. If the boats aren't allowed to run due to the rough weather, we'll re-evaluate every hour, then start the bus and water-shuttle service when it's safe to run the shuttles.

However, there are potential problems with that, too. Will the roads be open or will fallen trees block US 101 and SR 3? WSDOT is preparing for that, too, with several maintenance trucks roving both highways to help clear roads quickly.

East truss removed today

Crews made a big job look easy this morning and the strongest derrick barge on the West Coast showed off its muscle as it lifted the one million-pound Hood Canal Bridge truss and lowered it onto a barge.



Check out photos from the truss pick at our Flickr site.

The truss is resting on a barge right now on the south side of the bridge. The truss will be shipped to Seattle, where it will be recycled.

Bonding on the boat

My name is Jennifer Caldwell and I work for the Hood Canal Bridge team as a document control specialist, but over the past few days I’ve been riding the water shuttle across the canal.

My assignment: answer questions people have about the bridge closure, transit and water schedules and other issues.

Some people have said they prefer the water shuttle to their normal commute. The shuttle provides amazing views. If you watch closely, you might even see some porpoises swimming around in the water.

Some people have suggested ways to improve our services, while others have commented about the inconvenience.

All of this, I expected. But one thing has stood out, and that’s the conversations people strike up on the water shuttle rides. They are sharing this challenge, and they have more in common than they knew.

They start talking and realize they are neighbors, know the same people, work at the same companies. It’s neat to watch and listen.

This is a small thing, I understand … but even during this time when people are faced with a challenge, there is good coming out of it.

So keep talking, keep getting to know one another, and keep asking me questions. We’ll get through this together.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Weather, time, safety factors push truss pick to tomorrow

Crews had plans to remove the truss on the east half of the bridge today, but the weather got rough, it started getting late and project decision-makers decided to err on the side of safety and live to fight another day.

Tomorrow morning they'll start the process again if the weather allows.

We'll keep you posted.

Keeping an eye on construction

Walking the Hood Canal Bridge this morning, I knew I had to be on high alert at all times ... eyes wide open and head on a swivel.

There are workers and machinery everywhere, everyone focused on different tasks that lead to the same goal - completing this project on time.

The beeping of a fork-lift in reverse, the reverberation of jack-hammers pounding away at concrete, and the whir of the cable saws unjoining the pontoons are just a few of the sights and sounds that not-so subtly assault your senses.

Even with all of these sounds, the workers maintain an uncanny, singular concentration on their own individual tasks. I couldn't help but notice yesterday, when a crane pulled the transition span out, raised it into the sky, and lowered it onto a barge - very few workers stopped to admire the impressive power of the crane and skill of the crane operator.

They had work to do and they are on a tight schedule.


Jamie Swift
WSDOT Communications

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Day 2 work sets stage for truss removal

The plan today is to continue removing structural steel and the second of two transition spans on the east end. Watch the transition span removal at Flickr...

Removing the transition spans sets the stage for cranes to remove the east truss tomorrow (May 3).

However, as you can imagine, the truss removal is a delicate job and weather dependant.

That's why crews are closely monitoring the weather forecast for tomorrow. If the wind is blowing too hard, the truss removal will be delayed.

We'll keep you posted, and if the truss removal does happen tomorrow, we'll post photos and video on Flickr.

Friday, May 1, 2009

WSDOT reaches first construction milestone on Day 1

The long wait is over and years of planning and construction started the short road to fruition today at 12:01 a.m. when the Hood Canal Bridge closed for six weeks. WSDOT is now working at the bridge site to replace the east half and the east and west trusses.

We didn’t wait long to reach our first major constrution milestone, either. Before 7 a.m. today – roughly seven hours after the bridge closed to traffic – crews successfully removed the east half draw pontoon. The 471-foot section is currently on its way to Sidney, B.C., where it will be used as a part of a pier for a new marina.

Removal of the section keeps the construction work on schedule and allows crews to immediately begin operations to replace the existing east-half draw span assembly. The draw span assembly, which features the bridge’s “bulge,” is scheduled to be removed next week. The existing draw span assembly measures about 928-feet from end to end – that’s more than three football fields.

See photos of the pontoon being floated out at Flickr or get more information about this project at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/sr104hoodcanalbridgeeast/.

Stay tuned, we'll be providing daily construction updates here as well as keeping the dialogue on "getting around" during the closure going. Have a question? Comment? Let us know.