Construction on state Highway 14 takes a new turn this week with the installation of the first bridge girders that will help elevate the highway through Camas and Washougal.
The work means brief road closures for an area that's already seen major impacts since the project broke ground last year. It also keeps the $50 million effort to expand the highway and improve safety on track for completion in late 2012 or early 2013, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.
"Girder setting is a pretty big milestone, and we're right where we thought we should be at this point in construction," said WSDOT spokeswoman Abbi Russell.
When it's finished, the revamped Highway 14 will pass up and over two streets with which it once intersected: Union Street in Camas, and Second Street in Washougal. Crews will place concrete bridge girders over Union Street this week, prompting overnight closures both tonight and Thursday night. Union will be closed at 8 p.m. each night, opening at 6 a.m. the following morning, according to WSDOT.
Workers plan to use nine girders — each 95 feet long — to create the skeleton of the bridge that will carry Highway 14 over Union Street. Support walls already stand on each side of Union where it passes under the future alignment of the highway.
"Things are really starting to move up," Russell said.
This week's closure won't affect Second Street, where the other bridge is planned. Crews will likely set girders over Second in July, according to WSDOT.
Highway traffic now travels along a frontage road — and two roundabouts — to the south of the old highway alignment. Two other roundabouts to the north complete a split-diamond interchange that planners hope will improve traffic flow and safety through the busy corridor.
After being reduced to gravel earlier in the project, Southeast
Eight Avenue and C Street north of the highway are now paved again. That's welcome news to business owners there who say their bottom line has been hit hard since last year. A final layer of pavement will be applied before the project is done, Russell said.
The entire project will widen Highway 14 to four lanes from the West Camas Slough Bridge to Sixth Street in Washougal. The West Camas Slough Bridge itself won't be four lanes, but it will expand enough to add a median barrier.
"That's something that's been a long time coming," Russell said.