White River bridge closing changed for December

Damage to the White River bridge was found Saturday

All might agree the White River Bridge needs timely and permanent repair, but the state of the Plateau economy took precedence.

When the state Department of Transportation recently announced work on the steel span between Enumclaw and Buckley would necessitate a complete bridge closure for three consecutive December weekends, governments in the two Plateau cities objected. And the DOT, along with its project contractor, quickly altered the work schedule.

Enumclaw City Administrator Chris Searcy and his Buckley counterpart, Dave Schmidt, made it clear to the state agency that weekend closures on the three weekends prior to Christmas would have a significant impact on local commerce.

In an Oct. 20 email to the DOT, Searcy noted original plans called for four weekend closures of the bridge, on nonconsecutive weekends, to be scattered between October and December. When an updated schedule was provided, it called for the bridge to be shut down three weekends in a row.

“This is not acceptable to either Enumclaw or Buckley businesses that rely on weekend traffic across the White River during this important season for retail sales,” Searcy wrote to the DOT. “The City of Enumclaw requests you delay the December full weekend closures to January 2016 to avoid these adverse economic impacts. The residents and businesses of our two communities should not be adversely impacted by this repair work.”

By the following day, a compromise had been reached. Searcy received and email from a DOT representative stating, in part: “We received many concerns about the schedule and its effect on local businesses during the peak of the holiday shopping season. As a result, we went back to the contractor and worked closely with them to reduce the number of weekends in December.”

Now, there is just one full weekend closure in December.

The new schedule will still impact those leaving the area for shopping, as well as those heading to Mount Rainier and the Crystal Mountain ski area. The bridge will be closed from 10 p.m. Friday until 5 a.m. Monday the weekends of Nov. 20-23 and Dec. 11-14; a shorter closure is planned for 10 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18, until 10 the following morning.

There will also be up to two weekend closures in January, according to the DOT. Those dates have not been determined and could be on consecutive weekends.

“There is never a good time for full closures of the SR 410 White River Bridge, as it’s a vital lifeline connecting local communities,” the DOT’s email acknowledges. “We’re pleased that people shared their concerns and suggested alternates and we were able to revise the schedule.”

In addition to weekend work, the contractor may close one lane across the bridge from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Monday through Thursday nights, as well as Sunday nights, the DOT’s email noted. Those overnight closures are anticipated between Nov. 9 and Jan. 15.