We've compiled a list of the most frequently asked Hood Canal Bridge closure questions. If you don't see an answer you need, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-360-357-2703. You can also follow construction work that may affect bridge travel by checking out the Olympic Region Construction Report.
How do I find out whether the bridge is closed to traffic?
Travelers can sign up to receive text messages to ensure they’ll know whenever there is a bridge opening in progress or an incident is affecting traffic on the Olympic and Kitsap peninsulas. Sign up now. Drivers can also find out about non-marine vessel and scheduled openings by calling 5-1-1.
How do boaters contact the bridge tower to schedule a marine opening?
If it is imperative that the bridge be opened for your vessel, call on VHF 13 or call (360) 779-3233. Please give at least one hour of notice for the bridge crew to arrive.
What are the clearances under the trusses?
Most smaller boats can pass under the trusses at either end of the bridge where, depending on the tides, vertical clearance is 31.4 feet at the west end and 50.7 feet at the east end (both are calculated at a MHHW of 7.0).
Shoals exist around the bridge and strong currents are often present. Because of the shoals, the eastern span is the recommended passage (see above). The vicinity of Sisters Rocks, south of the bridge and off the west shore, is extremely hazardous. These two rocks are dry at half tide. A large lighted beacon is on the southernmost rock, however, its neighbor is unmarked.
If traveling south along the west side of the canal, turn east immediately after passing under the bridge and hug the bridge until mid-span before turning south again. If traveling north, aim for mid-span until very close to the bridge, turn west and hug the bridge until turning north to go under the span.
How long do bridge openings take?
Typical bridge openings take approximately 30 minutes. This allows bridge crews to retract one or both of the draw spans (depending on the size of the vessel) between 300 and 600 feet. Navy crossings and those involving slower moving or multiple vessels may take longer.
It is important to note that car traffic can take much longer to clear, especially when SR 104 and connecting routes are already busy.
Can I walk across the bridge?
Pedestrians can walk across the Hood Canal Bridge but are encouraged to be extremely cautious in doing so. The bridge is used by up to 20,000 vehicles daily and is frequented by many bicyclists as well. Pedestrians must follow the rules of the road, use crosswalks and stay out of restricted areas on the bridge.
In what types of weather does WSDOT close the SR 104 Hood Canal Bridge to traffic?
During inclement weather, WSDOT may close the bridge to traffic when there is water over the roadway or when high winds are sustained. The decision to close the bridge is based on strength, intensity and direction of the wind as well as the tidal conditions. Closing the Hood Canal Bridge to traffic in such instances helps reduce the potential for hazards.
Why does WSDOT open the draw spans during high winds?
Opening the bridge reduces wear and tear on bridge components that are locked together when the draw span is closed. It also creates a 600-foot channel in the middle of the canal, reducing the amount of the bridge buffeted by wind and waves and allowing logs and other debris to clear.
What is WSDOT’s protocol for monitoring the bridge during a storm?
Currently, our protocol dictates that when winds of 35 mph or greater are registered for 15 minutes, the Traffic Management Center will dispatch a wind watch to the bridge. This means that a senior bridge crew member is dispatched to the bridge to personally observe the conditions and reaction of the structure and how traffic is handling the weather impacts. Within 30 minutes of arriving at the bridge, the senior crew member will determine if in fact a wind watch is warranted and if so will call out the HCB standby crew to monitor the conditions at the bridge.
The actions the bridge crew takes once on site ultimately are impacted by a variety of factors including the strength and intensity of the wind, the direction of the wind, the tidal conditions and time of day. Despite what might be thought, there is no magical “wind speed” at which the bridge will be ordered to be opened, it is all based on observations and reactions of the bridge.
How can I see weather near the bridge?
Traffic cameras placed on and near the Hood Canal Bridge aren't just limited to informing motorists about current road conditions, they also provide a good look at what type of Northwest weather is passing through the region.
Why does the bridge sometimes close to traffic?
There are three reasons the Hood Canal Bridge closes to traffic: inclement weather, marine traffic and maintenance.
- Weather -- During inclement weather, WSDOT may close the bridge to traffic when there is water over the roadway or when high winds are sustained. The decision to close the bridge is based on strength, intensity and direction of the wind as well as the tidal conditions. Closing the Hood Canal Bridge to traffic in such instances helps WSDOT ensure driver safety.
- Marine Traffic -- For security reasons, WSDOT cannot give advance notice of these openings. The bridge is usually closed to traffic for about 30 minutes. Traffic delays may be longer.
- Maintenance -- The bridge is occasionally closed to traffic for maintenance. Inspections, testing, repairs and other activities are scheduled in advance and closure information is posted on signs near the bridge, Highway Advisory Radio, the WSDOT Web site, and is available by calling 511 or by signing up for text message alerts.
Why wasn’t the bridge widened to four lanes?
The project to replace the Hood Canal Bridge was funded only to preserve and maintain the existing structure not to provide capacity improvements. However, this project made it possible for the bridge to accommodate four lanes in the future by adding wider transition spans, truss and roadway.
How does the bridge open and close?
We have two video clips of the draw span opening on this site as well as an in-depth description of the process. See the differences from the newer west-half and the older east-half in how they open.
How many people drive across the bridge each day?
During the weekdays, about 16,000 vehicles per day cross the bridge. During the weekends that number rises to 20,000 vehicles per day.
Construction and Bridge Information
Why did WSDOT retrofit the west half of the bridge?
In May-June 2009, WSDOT replaced the aging east half of the SR 104 Hood Canal Bridge, which was nearing the end of its useful life. In March 2010, WSDOT completed upgrading mechanical, electrical and hydraulic systems on the west half to ensure the two halves work together properly.
What is ballasting and how does it affect the bridge?
The roadway for the SR 104 Hood Canal Bridge is comprised of huge, hollowed-out concrete pontoons that float. Each pontoon has about 40 individual cells – kind of like an enormous covered ice tray. To make sure the pontoons float correctly in relation to each other, material is added to or removed from these cells – which lowers or raises the corners, sides or ends. Proper floatation of the pontoons in key in that it affects everything from the levelness of the roadway to whether or not the draw spans function as designed.
What did WSDOT do to address the new sound made by the bridge?
The thudding sound some waterfront residents in Kitsap County noticed was caused by a steel plate at one of the expansion joints on the draw span. While westbound traffic was able to traverse the joint quietly, eastbound vehicles caused the plate to depress slightly and come in contact with the bridge -- this contact created the sound. WSDOT adjusted the plates in early 2010, reducing the thudding sound.
What work is WSDOT doing to the bridge's drive systems?
In late 2009, WSDOT Bridge Preservation engineers began reviewing the bridge's new drive systems, which extend and retract the draw span pontoons. In 2010, crews will be fine tuning the four motors on each draw span to eliminate vibrations that are occurring when the bridge is opened and closed. The tuning is aimed at eliminating or reducing the vibrations, allowing the bridge to open and close more fluidly and without unnecessary wear on the components.
WSDOT hired a Drive Specialist in December of 2009 and the Engineer of Record earlier his year to assist with the drive tuning. Notable improvements to the operation of the Drives were accomplished, but were not eliminated.
The fix is not easily accomplished due to the complexity and sheer size of the system. The first efforts next week will be to reset the power output from the motors to reduce wear and tear on the machinery. After adjusting the power output, time will be spent performing measurements and adjusting how the four motors on each draw span work together in an effort to reduce the vibrations. The final cost will be determined when work is complete, but is primarily labor costs.
Components were installed as per the design and WSDOT is currently working hard to isolate and dial-out the vibrations and assure the bridge is in optimal condition to serve motor vehicle and marine vessel traffic.
How does a concrete bridge float?
A floating bridge floats on the surface of the water and is held in place by anchors. The flat, floating portion of the bridge is made up of pontoons. The superstructure and roadway are built on top of the pontoons. To float, a structure needs buoyancy. The rule of buoyancy is that anything that weighs less than the water it displaces will float. Pontoons are large, concrete structures that are made up of hollow cells that act like the hull of a ship. Because the pontoon’s immense weight is spread out over a very broad area, it floats.
Why build a floating bridge?
While a floating bridge might seem pretty exotic, it’s really the only cost-effective solution that works for spanning Hood Canal. The bridge is located at one of the narrowest points of the canal, but the channel is still about 1.5 miles wide and up to 340 feet deep, with several hundred feet of mud below that before hitting bedrock. If a suspension bridge like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge were built here instead of a floating bridge, its towers would have to extend 810 feet above the bedrock (500+ feet below the water surface). That’s taller than the Columbia Tower in Seattle. Total cost would be about $4 billion – four times the cost of this project.
How many floating bridges exist?
There are only 11 permanent floating bridges in the world, and four of them are in the Puget Sound region. The Washington State Department of Transportation is a pioneer in designing and building floating bridges and holds the record for the first and the longest floating bridges.
How can I get more information about this project?
WSDOT is working hard to provide timely, useful information to the public. Checking this Web site periodically is just one way to stay in touch. The project also publishes a monthly project status report. View past monthly reports...
What did WSDOT do with the old pontoons?
WSDOT sold the pontoons to Marker Development (B.C. Ltd.) in Canada for use as a pier and boat marina in Sidney, Victoria, B.C. More information...
What did WSDOT do with the old trusses?
The old east and west trusses were salvaged and sold for scrap as part of the contract with Kiewit-General. The old trusses, due to their age, location and size, could not be reused within the state transportation system.