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

Project success, and way too many people to thank

The bridge is open and as usual, there are about 10,000 people to thank (now where is my list?). I'll group them to keep things simple.

First and foremost, thanks to everyone who stuck it out throughout the project, taking on everything from longer commutes, too much time away from their families, weather-related water shuttle delays and the like for weeks on end. Let's face it, it pretty much stunk.

But it's over now and think of all the interesting experiences you had that no one anywhere else -- on the planet, mind you -- had this past month. Years from now, you can bore your great grandkids with tales of the May-June 2009 bridge closure. So much to look forward to.

So much has ended.

This project was years in the making, and everyone from the engineers who designed it, to the construction managers and crews who put it together, to the people who tracked thousands of change orders, materials documents and fiscal transfers, those who developed the water shuttle/transit plan and made it work, office staff who coordinated events and made sure things went smoothly, and everyone else who participated in what truly was a team project, is to thank. (I'm sure I'm missing more than a few, but they know who they are.)

We had quite a cast and everyone played a vital role.

This blog (my first) was so much fun, I had to make sure I was still getting paid for it. In the end, all jokes -- and bikini carwashes -- aside, I'd like to say thanks again for sticking with us.

It was a bumpy ride at times, slow at others, but as the opening approached (5, 10, 15, 20) this was where people came for their information, updates and to cheer the progress on. The excitement, the anticipation, the relief provided the gas that fueled this blog and made it go.

My sincerest thanks to one and all.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

You hit the jackpot...it's open...eight days early

The world's longest floating bridge over saltwater is open to traffic once again...even eight days earlier than scheduled...well actually 11 days if you count in those nasty weather days when we couldn't work.

We hope you enjoy the wider shoulders and smoother ride. Drive on!

Draw span passed the test...just a few things left

For most of the afternoon, I have been literally sitting on the edge of my chair, waiting for this bridge to open. Many of my colleagues have left, their jobs done, but I am staying until we open. Do I have to? Well, yes but I want to also.

All day the memories of opening the bridge to traffic back in August 2005 have been flooding back. The one rising to the top is the moment we opened and the first cars went rolling by with horns honking and hands waving. Since that time, four years ago, I have been waiting for this night. So in a few hours, after we move the last of the draw span testing equipment out of the way, I will be standing at the bridge trailer, waving to you all as you go by, enjoying the moment and basking in the knowledge that somehow what I do makes a difference for you.

Look for another update shortly!

- Becky Hixson

Count is up to 15

Lucky number 13 came and went and crews pressed on to test number 15. All is still going well. Stay tuned as we get closer to that magic number 20. Are you enjoying the suspense yet? It is almost as good as a movie...well, almost.

p.s. - If things continue to go well, be ready for a morning commute across the new bridge.

Ten down, ten to go

Eric Soderquist, former Hood Canal Bridge Project Director and the greatest mentor I ever have had in life, said often about work planning and execution, "Go slow so you can go fast." Obviously the team listened. The hard work from yesterday is paying off today. We took time to get draw span adjustments completed on Monday and Tuesday in order to help ensure the 20 cycle tests would go well once we started today.

Completing 10 cycles is great news but there is still a chance we have to start back at zero. When we did this same test in Seattle, we completed 12 cycles then had to start back at the beginning so don't hold your breath yet...

- Becky Hixson

First Five Down, 15 to go

The first five draw span tests are complete and all five were keepers. The east control tower housed engineers, electricians and bridge maintenance staff, all watching the progress intently.

Each cycle brings its own excitement - Lights on, roadway gates down, barrier gates down, center locks up, end locks up, all three lift spans up, draw span engines start, gears move, draw span starts going back (slowly at first and then more quickly), roller guides rumble, control tower floor vibrates, draw span slows and stops, then it all happens again in reverse until one cycle is complete.

Although you can't feel the control tower floor vibrate from your house, you can watch the work on our bridge traffic camera.

The tests are expected to take anywhere from 8-10 hours, but this timeframe is wholly dependent on how things go. If test No. 7, or 12 or 19 raises serious concerns or fails, we're back at square one. Stay tuned!

Draw span tests get green light

We finished functional testing of the bridge about 10:45 p.m. last night, checked the last box on the 93-page, 1,400-item check list (whew!) and started the 20 consecutive draw span tests around 2 p.m. today. You can watch the progress on our bridge traffic camera. We'll provide updates every two hours.

There are still a few punch list items we're working through, but nothing that will affect or delay the "20-cycle" tests.

That's the latest from the hardworking engineers technicians and construction workers who have brought us so much success and removed half of the world's longest floating bridge over saltwater and replacing it, along with two trusses, in a little over a month. My hat's off to these guys.

We're almost there.

The tests are expected to take anywhere from 8-10 hours, but this timeframe is wholly dependent on how things go. If test No. 2, or 12 or 19 raises serious concerns or fails, we're back at square one.

We don't want to have this happen anymore than people who have added hours to their daily commutes. However, it is a condition -- that means almost isn't good enough -- that must be met before we can reopen the bridge.

We'll do our best to keep everyone posted as things progress.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Draw span testing moved to Wednesday

The exact SR 104 Hood Canal Bridge opening time is still unknown because, as we experienced today, testing work is unpredictable. I know that wasn't what you wanted to hear. Believe me, I feel your pain. With seemingly the whole peninsula having my cell phone number saved as a speed dial, I am as anxious as you are to know when the bridge is opening.

What I do know is that the crews are working long hours, focused on opening the bridge as soon as possible by completing draw span adjustments now in order to help ensure the 20 cycle tests will go well once we start.

I spent most of the morning out on the draw span myself, watching crews work through the draw span check list’s 1,400 electrical, mechanical and hydraulic items. The primary challenge today was aligning the pontoons ends correctly each time.

According to Scott Ireland, Hood Canal Bridge Contruction Manager and expert, joining the new bridge components to the existing west half adds another set of challenges to completing this very technical bridge that requires extensive checks and adjustments to ensure its safe and reliable operation.

So now draw span testing is now scheduled for Wednesday. Another update will be provided Wednesday evening so check back then.

-Becky Hixson

What happens after the bridge reopens

A few days from now, the bridge will reopen to travelers. And when people are done dancing in the streets, high-fiving and enjoying the direct link across the Hood Canal... you might start wondering, "How the heck do I get to my car?"

Answers to this and other noodle scratchers are provided below. As usual, questions and comments are appreciated and anticipated.

WSDOT will continue to provide transportation services for the day the bridge reopens and one day after to help travelers return to their normal commute. Security will remain at the park and rides until the Sunday following the opening.

Drivers are encouraged to plan ahead. Bridge opening and get around information will be posted on the water shuttle, busses and transit stops prior to the reopening. For more information, call 1-877-595-4222.

Transportation details for night opening and day opening

Scenario One: Bridge opens at night

DAY ONE

- Water shuttle service will end.
- Transit connections between the park and rides would be by bus (instead of bus-boat-bus) every 30 minutes starting at 4 a.m.
- Clallam Transit’s express route will run to and from the Port Gamble Park and Ride.
- Jefferson Transit Route #7 will return to normal operations
- Starline Kitsap county-based service will continue per the established schedule
- The Port Townsend to Edmonds car ferry will end or be rerouted to Kingston as appropriate.
- Medical bus services will be provided Paratransit Services, Starline and Dungeness Line.
- Marine traffic restrictions will change. Check the notices to mariners.

DAY TWO

- Transit connections between the park and rides would be by bus every 30 minutes or as needed instead of bus-boat-bus starting at 4 a.m.
- Clallam Transit’s express route will run to and from the Port Gamble Park and Ride.
- Starline Kitsap county-based service will continue on an “as needed schedule.”
- Medical bus services will be provided by Paratransit Services, Starline and Dungeness Line.
- Marine traffic restrictions will change. Check the notices to mariners.

Scenario Two: Bridge opens during the day

DAY ONE

The existing transportation system would stay in place until the next day.
Marine traffic restrictions will change. Check the notices to mariners.

DAY TWO

- Water shuttle service will end.
- Transit connections between the park and rides would be by bus (instead of bus-boat-bus) every 30 minutes starting at 4 a.m.
- Clallam Transit’s express route will run to and from the Port Gamble Park and Ride.
- Jefferson Transit Route #7 will return to normal operations. Starline Kitsap county-based service will continue on an “as needed schedule.”
- The Port Townsend to Edmonds car ferry will end or be rerouted to Kingston as appropriate.
- Medical bus services will be provided Paratransit Services, Starline and Dungeness Line. Marine traffic restrictions will change.
- Check the notices to mariners.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Draw span tests scheduled to proceed Tuesday

Fine-tuning work continues as WSDOT and Kiewit-General prepare to run 20 perfect openings of the bridge tomorrow, Tuesday, June 2. These tests are required to show that the bridge meets the operational standards for providing a safe and reliable draw span.

It's very important to note that these tests are scheduled to run tomorrow, the operative word being "scheduled." As with any major construction project, there are some unexpected kinks. This project is no different and given the electrical, mechanical and hydraulic components that must work in sync perfectly, right now we've got our best irons out.

Adjustments are still being made that will determine whether we can proceed as planned tomorrow. Your safety is our number one priority, and we're not going to open a bridge that isn't reliable.

All that said, the successful 20 cycle tests are one of the last things we have to do to reopen and give you back your bridge. We thank you again for your patience.

And now, with out further delay... your 'Sunday' update

Hello all,

Our apologies for not providing you the progress report as promised on Sunday. We blew it big time and are truly sorry about that because we know how trying the closure has been on everyone.

We're in the final stages of the project now and are scheduled to complete 20 perfect openings of the bridge tomorrow, Tuesday, June 2. These tests are required to show that the bridge meets the operational standards for providing a safe and reliable draw span.

When the tests are done, we'll have an extremely clear idea on when the bridge will be ready for 16,000 vehicles that cross it daily.

Over the weekend, crews from contractor Kiewit-General and WSDOT completed the following operations:

• Pulled together or “tensioned” the majority of the pontoon UVWX/RST joint
• Started Truss and transition span expansion joints
• Continued electrical wire installation and connecting and final ballasting
• Completed bolting started final tensioning

The exact opening time is still unknown because the testing work is unpredictable. Even if the crews have 19 successful tests and then the draw span doesn’t work on the twentieth test, they must begin the testing sequence with a count of zero once again.

An update on draw span work and testing progress will be provided on Monday afternoon (We'll make certain of it).

After the bridge is open, WSDOT will continue to provide transportation services for the day the bridge opens and one day after to help travelers return to their normal commute. Drivers are encouraged to plan ahead by visiting www.HoodCanalBridge.com or by calling 1-877-595-4222.