A pier supporting the middle of the Spiketon Bridge has sunk into the ground, changing the overall distribution of stress around the entire bridge, prompting it to close permanently. File image by Kevin Hanson

A pier supporting the middle of the Spiketon Bridge has sunk into the ground, changing the overall distribution of stress around the entire bridge, prompting it to close permanently. File image by Kevin Hanson

Buckley-South Prairie bridge closed permanently

A settled pier has changed how weight is distributed on the bridge.

What started as a minor headache for Buckley residents and area commuters turned into a full-on migraine as the often traveled Spiketon Creek Bridge was closed permanently last weekend.

On Aug. 8, the state Department of Transportation announced the bridge‚ which spans the Spiketon Creek along state Route 162 south of Buckley, will be closed Aug. 20 for work crews to repair the driving surface.

However, during a pre-work inspection, the DOT found one of the bridge’s piers had settled, and the bridge was suddenly closed Aug. 16.

According to DOT spokeswoman Claudia Bingham Baker, a pier near the middle of the bridge has settled, or sunk into the ground, an additional five inches.

This “doesn’t mean it’s sinking,” but although the other piers are O.K., the settling pier changes “the distribution of the load and the stresses on the remaining piers and the rest of the structure,” Baker added.

“We know this closure is occurring a few days earlier than announced and that it will cause inconvenience to drivers,” WSDOT Operations Engineer Chris Keegan said in a press release. “But we need to know how the pier settlement is affecting the structure before we reopen it. Safety is always our primary focus and we feel closing the bridge today is the prudent and correct action.”

On Aug. 31, the DOT announced the bridge was no longer safe to drive over, and the bridge will remain closed, affecting Buckley and South Prairie commuters and the White River High School community for the foreseeable future.

“This was not a decision we made lightly,” DOT Olympic Region Administrator John Wynands said in a press release. “We knew the bridge was reaching the end of its useful life and had already scheduled construction of a replacement bridge to begin in four years. Our goal with the deck repairs was to keep the bridge functional until then. Unfortunately the discovery of the pier settlement changed that.”

The cause of the pier settlement remains unknown.

The DOT estimates repairs to the bridge would be more than $2 million.

“It’s clear that it’s not a good use of public funds to make that kind of investment in an 82-year-old structure,” said Wynands. “We do understand how inconvenient this bridge closure is, especially with the school season starting. We’ve begun discussions on moving forward and will engage the community as we develop solutions to the unanticipated closure of this structure.”

A detour route around the closed bridge uses Mundy Loss Road, SR 410 and SR 165, and it will be in place until further notice. The Foothills Trail directly under the bridge remains open for public use.

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