Buckley residents and White River School District families must have been excited to hear that the Spiketon Bridge is scheduled to be opened sooner than expected.
The Washington State Department of Transportation announced Dec. 5 that a temporary bridge, which will be laid over the original 82-year bridge, will be ready for traffic by fall 2019.
“We heard from the community, including schools, first responders, local residents, drivers and elected officials, just how important this connection is to local traffic,” WSDOT Olympic Region Administrator John Wynands said in a press release. “The temporary bridge allows us to hold our original bridge replacement schedule while restoring the crossing.”
The Spiketon Bridge, which is located along state Route 162 south of Buckley, was being examined before being closed temporarily for driving surface repairs last August when crews noticed a bridge pier had settled into the ground by four inches, compromising the bridge’s structural integrity.
WDSOT closed the bridge permanently to all traffic Aug. 16, affecting roughly 5,600 drivers every day.
Since the bridge was more than eight decades old, there was a plan already in the works to replace it, but funds were expected to be available in 2023. This was far too long a timeline for some commuters and Sen. Phil Fortunato, who lobbied for funds to be made available for a temporary bridge before a brand new bridge is constructed.
According to WSDOT spokeswoman Claudia Bingham Baker, the temporary bridge will be two lanes wide and will be using its own foundations.
Geographic studies are currently underway to examine the soil conditions in preparation for designing the foundations for the temporary bridge.
Baker said WSDOT expects to go out to bid in spring 2019, award and execute the contract one to two months later, and have the foundations and temporary bridge in place by that fall.
Additionally, “the temporary bridge will raise the profile of the bridge by 3 feet,” she said, “so we have to realign the roadway, or build up the roadway, to match the profile on both sides of the bridge.”
The project is expected to cost around $2 million.
Baker said WSDOT still plans to replace the whole structure in 2023.
While some may welcome the reprieve, Fortunato said he wasn’t happy with WSDOT’s plan.
In a phone interview, Fortunato said he was told much of the work needed for planning the temporary bridge overlapped with work for replacing the bridge, so WSDOT was going to just go ahead with replacing the bridge.
“Then I get this press release saying they’re going to do a temporary bridge and then replace it in 2023,” he said. “Give me the damn engineering and I’ll put the thing out to bid myself.”
If WSDOT has to put in a new support pillar for the temporary bridge, “you might as well just keep going,” Fortunato continued. “Otherwise you’re going to replace the bridge now, shut it down for… six months, eight months, a year, and then shut it down again in 2023.”
Baker said WSDOT was looking at replacing the bridge instead of using a temporary bridge, but decided to stick to the original schedule because the department would have had to sacrifice other work to adjust the timeline.
This plan “is the best of both worlds,” Baker said. “This allows other bridges that need to be worked on in that same time frame to be funded.”