Peninsula businesses react to weekend Hood Canal Bridge shutdowns in summer

Posted 3/2/23

There are few structures as important to Olympic Peninsula residents as the Hood Canal Bridge.

With recent news that the crucial overpass will close down for four weekends this summer, local …

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Peninsula businesses react to weekend Hood Canal Bridge shutdowns in summer


There are few structures as important to Olympic Peninsula residents as the Hood Canal Bridge.

With recent news that the crucial overpass will close down for four weekends this summer, local business owners have voiced frustration with the closures and their potential economic impacts during prime tourism time.

The Washington State Department of Transportation recently announced that the Hood Canal Bridge will be closed from 11 p.m. Friday to 4 a.m. Monday in the last weekend of July as well as the first three weekends of August as transportation crews provide vital repairs to the bridge’s center lock system.

While the bridge repairs are warranted to maintain the overpass for future safety, many local business owners believe the multi-day shutdowns could cripple their ability to remain profitable, especially when tourism is at its typical peak in the July and August months.


“For the Peninsula as a whole, every business is like a farm. You make hay while the sun shines, and that’s the summer for us,” said Sarah Hanke, sales and business director for Puget Sound Express, a Port Townsend-based whale-watching tour business.

“It’s like having a harvest and you can’t cut the grass,” Hanke said.

Considering the seasonal system of Puget Sound Express’ Port Townsend operation, the four weekend closures could have a major impact on the business.

Like some other businesses in Jefferson County, Puget Sound Express heard that bridge repairs were inevitable, but were shocked to learn it would be during two of the busiest months in the year.

“We knew it was coming since last fall, but initial conversations were that it would be in May,” Hanke said. “Now that it’s in July and August, well [expletive], that shoots us in the foot.”

Scrambling for solutions, Hanke and others at the whale-watching business are considering multiple ways to cope with the closures. It will even cause headaches for staff who live south of Hood Canal and in Kitsap County.

“It affects our Port Townsend location and our Port Angeles location,” Hanke said.

“For us, what we’re going to have to do is steer people to our Edmonds location … we’re going to have to help guests get here and we don’t know how yet.”

“It also impacts locals just getting around,” Hanke added.


One local whose business model centers on getting around is Chimacum farmer John Bellow of SpringRain Farm & Orchards.

“The sort of business we run and what we do is already difficult and hard work, and this adds another level of something we didn’t need to deal with,” Bellow said. “That’s very problematic to me because I go across Hood Canal Bridge twice a weekend.”

The farm’s prime money-making time is in the summer, and Bellow visits multiple farmers markets across the region to sell his produce and make wholesale deliveries, including the Ballard Farmers Market.

Bellow also said weekend shutdowns will keep out-of-town visitors from coming to local farmers markets, as well.

“For us and local businesses, when people don’t come to the Peninsula during the weekends, there’s no way to make up those sales at a later time,” he said.

“It’s just one more thing that we don’t need to weather. I’ve had my hands full handling climate change, inflation, and the cost of running a business already,” Bellow added.

Jefferson Healthcare is also looking at the closures and how to handle the impending impacts.

“We are convening the different internal departments that will be impacted the most with these anticipated closures,” said Amy Yaley, hospital spokesperson. “Through these discussions we will get a concrete understanding of the impact it will have on our medical and support staff. Once we identify the scope, we will begin our internal plans to mitigate.”

“This is an opportunity for all of us on the Peninsula to practice and think about how we will handle unforeseen emergencies that reduce our access to the other side,” Yaley added.

Local events and festivals on the summer weekends won’t be safe from consequences of the closure.

“The bridge closure plans really impact our ticket-buyers,” said Centrum executive directer Robert Birman.

With the Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Festival and weekend jazz workshop events occurring during the bridge shutdowns, Centrum staff are looking to shift check-in and check-out dates to make travel easier for potential attendees.

The closures will have major economic impacts on the county, and the dates and timeframe seem like a strange choice to make when peak tourism on the Olympic Peninsula is in July and August, Birman said.


One of the services affected most by the shutdowns could be local shuttle businesses such as A Taxi Cab Company in Port Townsend and Jefferson Transit’s bussing services.

“If WSDOT continues with its plans to close the Hood Canal Bridge on four weekends in August, then Jefferson Transit will be impacted on the Saturdays of those weekends,” said Nicole Gauthier, general manager.

“Jefferson Transit will need to cancel the Kingston Express service and will run the No. 7 Poulsbo route to Port Ludlow and back to Port Townsend,” she said.

The Kingston Express route was launched in 2022 and transports riders from multiple stops in Jefferson County to the Kingston Ferry Terminal.

“The Kingston Express route will be canceled on the Saturdays that the bridge is closed,” Gauthier said.

While the Kingston Express route won’t run during the weekend, no other transit routes will be affected by the closures, Gauthier added.

Taxi services will be impacted by the bridge-closure burdens as well.

“It will definitely affect our business,” owner Jake Ramsey said. “The bridge is a lifeline for Port Townsend, without the bridge, you’re putting hours on travel times.”

“In every aspect of the business we will have to adapt. It is going to affect us in a negative way. That’s not a question now,” Ramsey said.

Considering the closures’ impacts on shipping, even locals looking to send Amazon packages, food supplies, or other goods are likely to be affected, Ramsey said.

“It’s going to hurt us. But if they don’t do it and the bridge breaks, there could be a catastrophic accident,” he said. “It’s going to be tough and it’s not an ideal situation, but Port Townsend has a way of dealing with stuff no matter what. We’ll figure it out.”


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  • TomT

    Adding to our problems, Washington State ferries has announced that the Port Townsend-Coupeville route will remain on only 1-boat service in 2023 instead of the normal 2-boat service that had been in place pre-pandemic.

    Friday, March 3 Report this