SUQUAMISH — Drivers going across Agate Pass Bridge can expect long delays in February as the bridge undergoes a deep cleaning.
Travel will be reduced to single-lane, alternating traffic for 21 days between Feb. 9-28 while crews from the Washington state Department of Transportation (WSDOT) clean the bridge. The bridge will be down to a single lane from 8:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 7:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Crews will remove hardened debris and bird feces by hand. After that, a low-pressure, high-volume flushing will be done. The bridge has not been thoroughly cleaned since 1991, according to WSDOT.
Representatives from WSDOT met with leaders of Kitsap on Jan. 20 at Clearwater Casino Resort Hotel to discuss the project. Though there wasn’t voiced disagreement to cleaning the bridge, how WSDOT is going about it is a concern.
The more-than-1,000-foot bridge built in 1950 has a traffic volume of about 22,000 vehicles per day, Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson said. Erickson asked WSDOT representatives to consider doing the work at night from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.
“This road is not something you can play games with,” Erickson said. “It’s the lifeline of North Kitsap.”
The work will be done in February because peregrine falcons that live on the bridge will not be there, according to WSDOT officials. There is also lower traffic volume in February, they said.
“We need to be out of there before the falcon returns,” said Troy Cowan, WSDOT regional maintenance engineer.
The hours reflect times that will least impact commuters and school districts. Working in the day is safer for WSDOT crews, Cowan said, adding that maintenance work such as this is difficult during the day.
Working at night could double the amount of time it takes to finish the project and double the cost. The project will cost an estimated $200,000.
Despite WSDOT’s objection to night work, Erickson still pushed for it to be considered.
“You’re going to inconvenience people for $200,000,” Erickson asked. The amount it costs, she said, is “budget dust.” “That’s not a lot of money,” Erickson said.
“For us it is,” Cowan responded.
Claudia Bingham Baker, WSDOT communications manager, said the department is aware of the traffic on the Highway 305 corridor. She called the project a “one-time shot.”
Erickson said the silver lining to the project, if it proceeds as planned, is it might get the public to support a corridor project to build a new bridge and expand roads. The project will be handled like every other project for emergency personnel. WSDOT crews will open the lanes for law enforcement and fire departments.
The bridge will be inspected after the cleaning. Crews expect to find “some work” that needs to be done, Cowan said. Various work could include repairing and patching the bridge deck and roadway, sealing joints, replacing rivets, repairing damaged rails and maintenance walkways.
Erickson and Bainbridge Island Mayor Anne Blair were concerned about damage that could be found. Erickson asked what happens if crews find a “real problem,” like cracked steel.
“We know we will find things … Hoping we won’t find cracked steel,” said Chris Keegan, WSDOT operations engineer and state bridge maintenance engineer.
The crews cleaning the bridge would also be the crews to do repairs, following solutions by engineers. “If the bridge is in need of repairs, we will do them,” Cowan said.
To drivers that regular travel Highway 305, WSDOT suggests planning extra travel time and to avoid discretionary trips. Avoid the bridge doing work hours if necessary.