UPDATE | Locals react to change in plans for Hood Canal Bridge project

State backs off of weekend shutdown plan

Brian Kelly and Cate Winters
Posted 4/14/23

Work on Hood Canal Bridge to be done at night

Many in Jefferson County are breathing a sigh of relief over the upcoming summer tourism season.

There may actually be one, after all.

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UPDATE | Locals react to change in plans for Hood Canal Bridge project

State backs off of weekend shutdown plan


Work on Hood Canal Bridge to be done at night

Many in Jefferson County are breathing a sigh of relief over the upcoming summer tourism season.

There may actually be one, after all.

Crucial work to repair the Hood Canal Bridge has been pushed off to May, June, and September, the Washington State Department of Transportation has announced.

“What can I say, this is public process at it’s finest,” Jefferson County Commissioner Greg Brotherton said.

“I am sure that everyone appreciates WSDOT’s responsiveness to concerns from the Olympic Peninsula. And the work schedule for this necessary work seems much [more] palatable to travel of all sorts, from emergency, to commerce, to commuting and tourism,” he added. “Thanks to the WSDOT for being flexible.”

The state had previously planned four full-weekend shutdowns of the span, during the height of the tourism season on the Olympic Peninsula.

And with that work weather-dependent, some had stressed concerns that the timeframe for repairs would extend from July and August to even later — putting Port Townsend’s Wooden Boat Festival and the three-day music event called THING at risk.

“We are delighted to hear that the Hood Canal Bridge will remain open on weekends this summer and that THING festival attendees can purchase tickets and attend a vibrant, and eclectic weekend in Port Townsend with no concern for travel delays or reroutes,” said Brad Gentry of the Seattle Theatre Group, organizers of the THING festival. 

Others dependent on a robust stream of summertime out-of-county visitors also expressed relief.

“We always understood that the need for repairs to the bridge had to be balanced with business needs,” said Crystie Kisler of Finnriver Farm & Cidery.

“It’s a huge relief, and at the same time we are really grateful that the bridge will be repaired and maintained as needed,” Kisler said.


Repairs on the Hood Canal Bridge are crucial to keeping the floating span intact.

The $1.28 million project includes rehabilitating the center lock system that keeps both halves of the bridge connected. Transportation officials said the center lock is similar to a deadbolt on a door, and the system needs to be strengthened to deal with winter storms and tides.

Another component of the span that needs work are the “pyramids”; twin metallic objects that help guide the span into dual receivers on  one side of the bridge. 

Over the years, the stress and strain of tides in and out, and the strong winds that sweep along the Hood Canal, have taken a toll. 

The state announced earlier this year the bridge would be completely closed from
11 p.m. Fridays to 4 a.m. Mondays for four consecutive weekends starting Friday, July 28. The Hood Canal Bridge is Jefferson County’s main link to Kitsap County and the Seattle area and sees a marked increase of tourist traffic to the Olympic Peninsula every summer. Roughly 12,000 drivers use the bridge on summer days, according to annual average daily traffic figures compiled by the state.


Relief over the change in plans stretched from north to south county on Monday.

“It’s just really great news,” said County Commissioner Heidi Eisenhour. “It seems like that the Department of Transportation got a lot of feedback from the community and has responded.”

“I’m already getting a ton of text messages and emails from local businesses and folks who say this is going to impact their lives directly,” Eisenhour added.

Jefferson County commissioners, along with other community leaders, had talked and met repeatedly with Department of Transportation officials to ask the agency to reconsider the plan for four full weekend closures of the bridge.

County commissioners sent a letter in mid-March to state transportation officials asking the state to move up repair work on the span to prevent impacts to the local economy.

The letter followed a special meeting with state transportation officials where locals aired concerns over the proposed summertime shutdown.


Local officials and business owners have said shutting down the Hood Canal Bridge for four weekends in July and August would be a devastating gut punch to an economy still trying to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Many had called for the closures to be done in June, as there are fewer events in June and less traffic and travel to and from the Olympic Peninsula. County commissioners have also consistently noted that the Department of Transportation’s own data shows traffic on the Hood Canal Bridge is at its highest on weekends in July and August.

Commissioners also asked the state to consider adding more ferry sailings on the Port Townsend-Coupeville route, or adding a Kingston-Edmonds boat to serve Port Townsend given the high volume of summertime travelers on the Kingston-Edmonds route that are destined for the Olympic Peninsula.

Commissioners continued to press their concerns about the proposed closure plan last week.

The board of commissioners agreed to send a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee asking for certainty on the bridge closure dates. The April 5 letter again stressed that the late July-through-August timeframe are the most traveled weeks of the year, and raised concerns that time overruns on the bridge project would be devastating to the THING festival at the end of August and Port Townsend’s Wooden Boat Festival in early September.

“Hundreds of thousands of dollars have already been spent to secure these events,” the commissioners said in the letter. 

“The level of uncertainty around time and mitigation plans is unsettling as we move into our first busy tourism season since 2019,” commissioners continued.

County Commissioner Kate Dean said Monday the change in closure times is welcome relief to local residents and businesses.

“We are thrilled that WSDOT has found a way to get this important work done with less impact to the people and businesses here,” Dean said. 

“I don’t know if our input affected their decision, but it is most welcome news,” she added.

Officials in Port Townsend were also heartened by the change in plans for the bridge repairs.

“WSDOT’s revised closure schedule is a big win for our community,” Port Townsend Mayor David Faber said Monday. 

“I’m particularly proud of the cooperation and coordination between the governments of city of Port Townsend, Jefferson County, East Jefferson Fire & Rescue, and our neighbors in Clallam County, who worked together to petition to state to be mindful of the various impacts the closure will have on the North Olympic Peninsula,” Faber added.

The mayor joined other officials in thanking the Department of Transportation for being responsive to the concerns of the community.


Relief about the shift from weekend closures was also felt by emergency responders in the county.

East Jefferson Fire Rescue Chief Bret Black said the fire department was informed by Steve Roark, Olympic Region Administrator for the Washington State Department of Transportation, of the amended plan Monday afternoon.

“The shorter scheduled closures will provide more opportunities to transport ill and injured patients to higher levels of care across the canal,” Black said. 

Black noted that needed repairs to the Hood Canal Bridge remains a high priority for the community, but urged caution as the project moves forward.

“As with all plans, unseen issues can arise with projects of this magnitude. We need to be prepared for a variety of contingencies during construction that may cause setbacks or delays,” Black said.

East Jefferson Fire Rescue will continue to work with state and county officials on mitigation that could address impacts, he added.

Black sent Roark a letter March 21 that underscored the potential impacts of completely shutting down the bridge during the busy summer season.

Patient transports from Jefferson County by ambulances to hospitals in Kitsap County and beyond would be drastically impacted if the span was shut down for four consecutive weekends, he warned. Black also noted in the letter that East Jefferson Fire Rescue had 4,600 medical-related emergencies last year.

A mitigation plan to deal with extended 911 transportation times was needed, he said in the letter, because medical helicopter lifeflights are dependent on the weather. Taking patients to the hospital via medivac flights would not “fill the gap” during the bridge shutdowns.

Brinnon Fire Chief Tim Manly and Quilcene Fire Chief Tim McKern also sent a joint letter to the Washington Department of Transportation’s administrator for the Olympic Region, warning of weather-related problems with medivac flights and the additional impacts to south county from this summer’s detours on US Highway 101 as state transportation projects are underway to replace outdated culverts.

Manly praised the shift to nighttime closures of the bridge.

“This change in the schedule is a good thing for everyone as it will minimize the impact on traffic and businesses in the surrounding areas. The nighttime closures will also help ease traffic congestion,” Manly said Monday. 

“While we believe these changes will significantly reduce the inconvenience caused by the bridge closure, we understand that some accommodations may still need to be addressed,” he added. “We will be working closely with authorities to mitigate any potential issues caused by the nighttime closures.”


Here’s the new closure schedule for the night work on the bridge: 

10 p.m. Saturday, May 13, to 10 a.m. Sunday, May 14;

11 p.m. Monday, May 15, to 4 a.m. Tuesday, May 16;

11 p.m. Tuesday, May 16, to 4 a.m. Wednesday, May 17;

11 p.m. Wednesday, May 17, to 4 a.m. Thursday, May 18;

10 p.m. Saturday, May 20, to 10 a.m. Sunday, May 21;

11 p.m. Monday, May 22, to 4 a.m. Tuesday, May 23;

11 p.m. Tuesday, May 23, to 4 a.m. Wednesday, May 24;

11 p.m. Wednesday, May 24, to 4 a.m. Thursday, May 25;

10 p.m. Saturday, June 10, to 10 a.m. Sunday, June 11;

11 p.m. Monday, June 12, to 4 a.m. Tuesday, June 13;

11 p.m. Tuesday, June 13, to 4 a.m. Wednesday, June 14;

11 p.m. Wednesday, June 14, to 4 a.m. Thursday, June 15;

10 p.m. Saturday, June 17, to 10 a.m. Sunday, June 18;

11 p.m. Monday, June 19, to 4 a.m. Tuesday, June 20;

11 p.m. Tuesday, June 20, to 4 a.m. Wednesday, June 21; and 11 p.m. Wednesday, June 21, to 4 a.m. Thursday, June 22.

The work in May and June will focus on restoring the pyramids on the bridge that help guide the two halves of the floating bridge together. The draw span will stay open during the work, which will be done using boats and cranes in the water.

Additional work is also planned for September, starting on Sept. 10, as crews will update the mechanism that securely connects both halves of the floating bridge and install new shock absorbers. 

State officials said that work may include both weekday and weekend nighttime closures. The times and dates for that piece of the project will be announced in the summer.

The new plan will mean doing the repairs in three phases. 

The phased approach will allow the project’s contractor to begin making repairs in late spring and early summer when weather conditions should be more favorable and keep the closure hours more manageable.