Enumclaw Chamber leads effort to get DOT to revise schedule for bridge work

The White River Bridge was closed April 4 for about a week when an inspection found the overhead structural damage.

The Washington State Department of Transportation has again revised the closure schedule for the White River bridge.

The bridge is now set to be closed sometime in the spring, possibly in April, although the department has reopened discussions with school districts about the closure schedule.

It is currently unknown whether the bridge will be closed during the week or weekends, although business owners at a Nov. 5 meeting overwhelming supported closing the bridge during the week.

WSDOT’s decision to re-revise the closure schedule came after the meeting between the department, Enumclaw’s Chamber of Commerce, local business owners and Sen. Pam Roach (R-Auburn) at the Enumclaw library.

Business owners on the Plateau complained to WSDOT after the first closure schedule was published, which called for three consecutive weekend closures in December.

WSDOT Northwest Region Administrator Lorena Eng told the crowd of 80 the first schedule was published as the department was talking with the chamber and other businesses. The closure schedule was released to the public before it went through a department review process.

After receiving complaints from the public, the schedule was revised with one weekend closure at the end of November, another in December and two in January.

Still, many business owners argued they would lose much-needed business if the bridge was closed at all during the holiday season

Businesses like the Crystal Mountain Resort were especially vocal at the meeting, saying they couldn’t survive another financial hit like last year, which was the worst ski season on record due to minimal snowfall in the mountains.

Pressure from chamber members for a re-revised schedule prompted Chambers Director Troy Couch to call Roach and arrange the meeting.

Safety risks

While the bridge is completely safe to drive on and its condition is not currently deteriorating, there are still risks to postponing the repairs, said Travis Phelps, WSDOT communications manager.

One risk to postponing the repairs is there are more potential days when the bridge could sustain damage, Phelps said. Damage risks include the Plateau’s infamous east wind, he said, as strong gusts could potentially damage the bridge.

While the bridge is not being repaired, WSDOT will continue to conduct monthly inspections on the bridge. Phelps said it is unlikely the bridge will be closed during these inspections, but the DOT may have to reduce traffic to one lane.

Economic impact

Postponing the repairs also means footing a heftier bill, Phelps said.

Between the costs of sending teams out monthly to inspect the bridge, WSDOT is discussing how much it will cost to postpone the repairs with the contractor.

In total, the bill may increase somewhere in the ballpark of $200,000 and $250,000 dollars. This cost could be cut if the contractor is allowed to work during the week, Phelps said, instead of having to set up and take down equipment over multiple weekends.

However, a quarter of a million is small change, local business owners said, compared to how much money they would lose if the bridge was closed during the holiday season.

Couch estimated the Plateau business community stood to lose around $1 million in various revenue streams, although he said his estimate was conservative.