The Lewis and Clark Bridge is closing for vehicles July 16 and could remain that way for up to eight days amid construction.
The Washington State Department of Transportation announced the timeline for the closure and repairs Tuesday. The bridge closure will begin at 8 p.m., hours after participants in the annual Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic travel across the bridge during the two-day event’s final leg.
WSDOT had originally announced the closure would cap out at six days to provide time for the new concrete on the bridge to cure and fully solidify. An additional two days were added to the timeline to replace the damaged floor beam crews discovered earlier this spring.
“It’s a balance of doing the work that we know needs to be done, as well as understanding this is a bistate bridge that is required for the communities,” WSDOT spokeswoman Kelly Hanahan said.
The full closure is part of a $1 million construction project to replace the finger joints at either end of the bridge, which allow the bridge to flex and adapt to traffic. WSDOT Regional Director Carley Francis said the limitations on those joints had likely contributed to the damaged floor beam and other minor issues on the bridge.
“It’s a fundamental component, and we see other issues come up when the bridge doesn’t have that freedom of motion,” Francis said.
Pedestrians and emergency vehicles will be able to cross the bridge during the road closure, except during the beam replacement.
Prior to the closure, drivers will encounter delays and partial closures on the bridge starting the week of June 12. The bridge will have single-lane closures most nights beginning at 8 p.m., during which the bridge will have reduced speed limits and flaggers alternating traffic across the span. The bridge reopens at 7 a.m. weekday mornings and later on weekend mornings.
There will not be any lane closures during the Fourth of July weekend, WSDOT said.
About 19,500 drivers cross the Lewis and Clark Bridge every day. To find an alternate route between Washington and Oregon, most drivers will have to detour more than 50 miles east to the Interstate 5 crossings or west to the Astoria-Megler Bridge.
The Department of Transportation has arranged for the Wahkiakum County Ferry to run twice an hour during the closure and will cover the cost of the ferry fees. Hanahan said the ferry was not an official detour because of its limited capacity and asked drivers to use it for urgent and local travel.
Chuck Beyers, public works director for Wahkiakum County, said the ferry transported about 1,100 people during one of the last road closures.
Once the full closure ends, WSDOT estimates about three more nights of partial closures will be needed to complete the project.
Hanahan said the department will send a round of postcards to residents announcing the construction timeline soon and a second round of reminders before the closure.