Tag Archives: Hood Canal

Reader wonders about payment for bridge accident search

The in basket: Michael J. Feely wonders about the expense of the search for and recovery of the state bridge worker who evidently drove through a chain on the Hood Canal Bridge’s lower level and went into the water. His car and body were later recovered.

“Who pays for the recovery efforts?” he asked. “I know an unmanned sonar was used and a recovery team that recovered the vehicle and the victim’s body was used. Is that something the highway department pays for, the person’s vehicle insurance company or does the family have to pay for it?

“If the family has to pay for it, is there somewhere people can donate to help the family?”

The out basket: Claudia Bingham-Baker, spokeswoman for the Olympic Region of state highways, replies, “Our WSDOT Hood Canal Bridge employee was on the bridge, and in WSDOT’s employ, at the time of the accident. WSDOT is responsible for the recovery of our coworker and his vehicle.

“We’re touched that your reader asked if he could contribute funds to the family. One avenue we can offer is the WSDOT Memorial Foundation, which is a non-profit organization designed to provide assistance to WSDOT employees and their families in times of need (http://www.wsdotmf.org/) .

More on vessel speeds at Hood Canal Bridge

The in basket: Back in June when Trish Olson complained about speeds of Navy and Coast Guard vessels under the transition spans of the Hood Canal Bridge, the official response generally minimizing the problem brought me an anonymous voice mail that said the following:

“Fishing as I do,” said a woman’s voice, “and listening to the marine band, the workers on the Hood Canal Bridge are always telling the Coast Guard,  the ones in the white boats, to slow down because of the waves that mess up not only the new bridge but the old one too.

“I have witnessed some of those waves on the Kitsap side,” she said, “and you can surf on those suckers. The new gray (Coast Guard) boats are not too bad but the other ones just haul ass and a lot of people on the Kitsap side are pretty upset with it.”

I asked Lt. Regina Caffrey of the Coast Guard in Seattle and the state Department of Transportation to comment on the allegations.

The out basket: Lisa Copeland, spokesman for WSDOT, says “(Bridge Superintendent) Dean Crawford tells me that when passing through the center opening section of the bridge, this is the only time we have issues with the speed.

“On occasion, speeds are above the 7 knots we like to see.” Dean said, “but we understand that steerage is the main issue here and each vessel requires a different minimum speed to maximize the ability to maintain a true course.

“The most important part of the process is that the bridge is not struck and damaged,” he continued. “The second issue is when the speeds of the ships are above that speed and tidal influences are working against the bridge, it will delay the time it takes to get the two ends of the floating structures to ‘settle down”’ and realign the centers so they will fit and lock.”

Regina of the Coast Guard replied, “While I understand your reader/source has concerns; I have not heard of any similar concerns or issues.  The Coast Guard has highly trained, professional mariners that follow commandant policy as well as applicable navigation rules.  Our vessels may operate at higher speeds in support of missions or training.

“If there are further questions or concerns from your readers,” she said, “you can provide the contact information for the District 13 Coast Guard Public Affairs Office; 206-220-7237.”


No boat speed limits at Hood Canal Bridge, but….

The in basket: Trish Olson says, “When we moved to property out by the Hood Canal Bridge, we were told that Navy/government marine traffic, when going under the bridge (transfer spans) versus through the bridge, had to maintain a speed which would not cause excessive waves.

“Is that accurate?” she asks. “I have noticed in the past few years that government vessels (mostly Coast Guard) go quite fast and the subsequent waves are substantial.

“I’m not sure if that’s damaging our oyster beds, but will check that out as well,” she said.

The out basket: The state and Coast Guard both say they impose no boat speed limits there or elsewhere.

Deputy Scott Wilson of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office said, “There are some areas in the county where boating speed is regulated by county code.  Most are on lakes and involve the type of motor that can be used.

“From time to time the county commissioners may pass a temporary ordinance restricting wake speed or boating activity during specific events or incidents, for example:  hydroplane races on Dyes Inlet or when the Orca whales have appeared in Dyes Inlet.

“There are no speed restrictions or limits for waterborne travel under the spans of the Hood Canal Bridge.

But “Vessels traveling within 150 feet of a shoreline are not supposed to leave a wake,” he said.

I asked if KCSO enforce that and he said yes, that the operator of a motorized boat doing so would be in violation of Kitsap County Code 10.36.130.

“More often, deputies with the sheriff’s marine services unit would rather educate (warn / advise) boaters against creating a wake within 150 feet of shore than issue a notice of infraction, seeking voluntary compliance.”

He provided the phone numbers at which to complain directly to the Navy or Coast Guard about their vessel speeds, which he advised for anyone upset about their vessels.

– Naval Base Kitsap Public Affairs Office:  (360) 627-4030

– U. S. Coast Guard, 13th District Operations Center, Seattle:  (206) 220-7001.

“If one is familiar with the waters around the Hood Canal Bridge,” he added, “the wakes that motorized boats are creating are nothing compared to the normal wear and tear that the winds and the natural movement of the waters create.”

Still waiting for Hood Canal Bridge approach cameras

The in basket: Dan Godecke asks about a series of cameras he understood would be installed along Highway 3 between its interchange with Highway 305 and the Hood Canal Bridge. They were to allow people to go online and see how bad congestion was, particularly during closures of the bridge to vehicle traffic, such as when a ship was passing through the draw span.

The project was done instead of creating a through lane on Highway 3 leading to the bridge that would allow vehicles not heading to the bridge but needing to proceed north a way past all the waiting cars, he said.

Dan still would much prefer an extra lane to get past the bridge closure lineups, but he’d like to access the images from the cameras to see if they will help. He wonders why the images aren’t available online.

The out basket: Kelly Stowe of the state transportation department says the cameras are all installed, but the state is ‘”currently working with local phone companies to establish communications from the highway to our Traffic Management Center (TMC) that is located in Parkland (in Pierce County).” Parkland is where all the cameras in the seven-county Olympic Region, including Kitsap, are managed.

“This communication between the camera on the highway and TMC is necessary for (drivers) to ultimately see the cameras on our Traffic Alerts page,” she said..

“Once the communication issues have been resolved, a field inspection and certification of the system will have to occur so we can ensure the camera images are stable before they are made public via the Web,” Kelly said. “It will still be a few more weeks before these camera images are made available to the public but our technicians are working on it.”

Warren Avenue Bridge railings to be raised, and other jobs

The in basket: While I was visiting with State Project Engineer Jeff Cook and his assistant, Andy Larson recently, researching a column on Manette Bridge access, I learned of a couple of state projects I either had no idea were coming, or about which I lacked the most current information.

The out basket: As early as the week of Oct. 4, drivers on the Warren Avenue Bridge in Bremerton at night will find work under way to raise both the inside and outside railings on the bridge.

The railings will be the same height and both will be taller than they are now when the 42-working-day project is complete, they said.

The work will be done at night, to minimize complications from the fact that the Manette Bridge is subject to intermittent closures while its replacement is built.

“The barrier replacement is part of a larger effort to bring traffic barrier up to current standards,” Jeff said.

He also tells me work is progressing on putting nine cameras and three Highway Advisory Radio systems along Highway 3 between Poulsbo and the Hood Canal Bridge. When finished, people at home or with wi-fi in their vehicle will be able to see or hear whether traffic is backed up and how far should the bridge be closed to traffic.

Lastly, Andy and Jeff filled me in on next year’s cliff stabilization work, which they call “rock scaling,” on Highway 3 between Gorst and Bremerton.

Loose rock will be pried out by pry bars or via big air bags that will push the rock out when inflated, they said. They are similar to the air bags that lift collapsed slabs of buildings to rescue trapped people, Jeff said.

Andy said dowels will be inserted into other more stable rock to hold it in place as well as the metal curtain that will be draped over the cliff to  further prevent falling rock from getting into traffic. Similar screen can be seen on cliffs in Snoqualmie Pass and down by Aberdeen.

Sections of the center concrete barrier dividing the highway below the cliffs  will be removed and traffic moved toward the railroad tracks during the work, Andy said.

Will Hood Canal bridge project change the wind rules?

The in basket: Duane Hogue writes to say, “Now that the Hood Canal bridge replacement is pretty much all done, I’m wondering about how high winds will be affecting the bridge as far as closing it to traffic now. 

“They used to have a limit of sustained wind speed of 45 mph for closing the bridge to auto traffic,” he said. “I’m guessing that they will probably raise the limit on wind speed before closing but kind of wonder as to what the new limit would be.”

The out basket: Well, only the east half is new, and though the whole point of its replacement was to make the bridge less vulnerable to damage or destruction, that isn’t enough to change the rules for wind-caused opening of the center draw spans.

“Our Traffic Management Center monitors the bridge with a system that sends us an alarm on the wind status out there,” says Lisa Copeland, Olympic Region spokeswoman for the state transportation department.

 “When winds are sustained at 35 mph for 15 minutes, the alarm goes off and we alert the bridge crews to monitor conditions at the site. A supervisor at the bridge makes the decision whether or not to open the bridge when those winds are sustained at 40 mph.”

Tony Leingang of the Transportation Management Center adds, “It’s heavily connected to the direction the wind is blowing. Winds from the southwest tie in perpendicular to the structure of the bridge and cause much more concern than winds from other directions.” 

But Lisa said she doesn’t think the official threshold for deciding on opening the draw spans was ever higher than 40 mph.

Noise and traffic stoppages at Hood Canal Bridge


The in basket: Douglas Janachek, who lives near the Hood Canal Bridge, raises one new and one time-honored complaint about it. Larry Hilberg, another resident of the area, joins in the new one, unexpected noise levels.

“The new bridge creates a much louder noise when large trucks go over it than the old bridge did,” Douglas says. “It seems that when trucks hit the grated area on the approach there is a rather loud boom that is very noticeable. Just wondering if that can be addressed by the state highway department.”

Larry describes it as “ thundering and pounding noises being heard 24/7.  Depending

on the vehicle size and volume of traffic, the thundering noise is continuous at varying levels.”

Douglas also raises the historic complaint about delays and confusion over what drivers should do when the bridge’s center span opens and vehicle traffic stops. 

“Are there any plans to widen the road to allow traffic that is not driving over the bridge to proceed through the traffic light and not have to wait in line for drivers that are heading over the bridge?” he asked. “It is frustrating to be only a few cars back in line trying to drive to Port Gamble and be stuck in traffic that is stopped for the bridge opening.”

In the meantime, he said, “A few signs telling people to pull over would help when heading from Port Gamble toward Poulsbo.  Last weekend for instance, all the cars were in the travel lane – so most locals passed on the left onto oncoming traffic (not much because the bridge was closed) and hoped for the best.  This happens all the time.”

The out basket: Yes, the state has “addressed” the added noise at the new bridge, but only to explain it. They say they can’t correct it like they did back in the mid-’90s, when they revised the grates on the eastern transition span so trucks didn’t create such a din crossing onto the bridge.

Now, says Joe Irwin of the bridge staff, “the sound is being caused when vehicles run over the new expansion joints on the east half.  These 3-inch wide, recessed joints play a vital role in maintaining the bridge’s structural integrity.  They allow its concrete roadway sections to expand and contract as the concrete warms and cools. The joints also allow the bridge to move slightly during weather events, ensuring that the concrete roadway sections don’t (damage) one another.

 ‘The expansion joints are rectangular, rubber seals (and) must be slightly recessed in relation to the roadway to make certain they are not torn up by studded tires,” he said. “There simply isn’t a feasible mitigation alternative that can be accomplished in a fiscally reasonable way.”  

As for traffic left waiting when the center span opens, “design, environmental and financial issues” have prevented any highway widening to help those drivers, Joe said.  

 “With this in mind,” he said, the state “has increased its communication efforts in the Kitsap and Jefferson county areas near the bridge, providing better signage and real-time alerts about marine vessel openings that help travelers better prepare their trips.  More than 1,000 people have signed up to receive these alerts.”

 “We have been asked why our text alerts aren’t sent out before the bridge opens instead of after the fact,” he said. “This is tied into security decisions made after 9/11 that help ensure the safety of drivers and boaters. 

 “People are experiencing a higher number of marine vessel openings than usual as (we) and our contractor Kiewit-General of Poulsbo complete ongoing construction efforts at the bridge,” he said.  “We didn’t want to delay the June reopening of the bridge to accomplish these tasks, but they need to continue throughout the summer and into the fall to get the bridge in shape for winter and assure optimal performance in the future.

 “The bridge work is on schedule to conclude by the end of the year and when it does traffic on (highways) 3 and 104 will return to its pre-construction levels.  We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding as we wrap up the final stages of work to ensure the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas have a wider, safer, more reliable bridge for decades to come,” Joe said.

Odds and ends about Hood Canal bridge

The in basket: Jim Hollenback e-mailed to say, “Been meaning to write for a while. During the re-opening ceremonies for the Hood Canal bridge, it was mentioned that Washington state has four floating bridges. I can only think of three, I-90, SR520 and SR104. What is the fourth one?”

While I was asking state officials Jim’s question, I added a few of my own. The new bridge has a two sections of metal grating roadway near its center, separated by a fairly lengthy stretch of concrete driving surface. And it has two control towers, one on each side of where it opens for boat traffic. I couldn’t recall whether the old bridge had two towers. I asked why two are needed and the reason for the grated surface.

Lastly, I asked about a row of yellow floats shaped like oil drums, but much larger, that stretch across Hood Canal a good distance north of the bridge, wondering if they are permanent or somehow related to the bridge job.

The out basket: Becky Hixson and Joe Irwin of the bridge public relations staff provided the answers.

As I suspected, the I-90 bridge comprises two of the four floating bridges, named the Lacey Murrow and Homer Hadley floating bridges. The other two are the 520 bridge further north in Lake Washington and, of course, the one across Hood Canal. 

The grated section of the new Hood Canal bridge make those sections lighter in weight so they can be lifted to allow the intervening concrete sections to retract beneath them, opening the center span. The old bridge did have two control towers. Both are needed, says Joe, because “crews must be able to operate the bridge from either side during storm conditions.”

Lastly, he said, the row of floats are spring buoys “that support an anchor line for one of the derrick barges still working at the bridge site and prevents it from coming into contact with, or damaging a power cable that runs along the floor of the canal.” 

The floats will be removed when all work on the bridge is complete, he said.

Hood Canal Bridge camera isn’t working

The in basket: Fred Ficarra writes, “I wanted to see the work on the Hood Canal Bridge. No way. Cam is dead. I went to the other cams where work is being done such as I-90. All are off! What gives. Is the State afraid of documenting something and losing a claim?

The out basket: Becky Hixson, communications manager for the bridge project, says, “The power and connectivity to the (regular) cameras on the bridge comes from the east side of the bridge and had to be cut during the bridge replacement project. 

“We installed two cameras on the east end of the bridge but there is limited ability to transfer data over the network at the job site.  So instead, we are taking clips from the best part of the work and putting them up on www.HoodCanalBridge.com Flickr pages.” 

I found them by clicking on Construction Photos and Video Clips at that site.

“We are doing our best to share this amazing project with you,” Becky said.

Jamie Swift of the state’s public relations office, said all the I-90 cameras appear to be working normally.

“We are doing our best to share this amazing project with you,” Becky said.

Jamie Swift of the state’s public relations office, said all the I-90 cameras appear to be working normally.