Design for the US 101 Elwha River Bridge replacement project is proceeding forward and the
Washington Department of Transportation is soliciting community feedback.
As part of this process, American Whitewater and our local members have advocated for improved
access on the east side of the bridge (see Elwha River Bridge Case study document linked to the
right of this article). Historically access was available at this site for many years but with
the removal of two dams on the Elwha River the active channel has migrated away from the area and
the steep bank is not conducive to access. In 2016, American Whitewater partnered with Northwest
Marine Trade Association to pass legislation requiring the Washington Department of
Transportation to prepare a feasibility report on public access as part of the design and
construction process for bridges across navigable waterways. This feasibility report “must
include a description of the suitability for public use, implications associated with potential
access, and the availability of alternate public access within a reasonable distance, if
(3)). Additionally, “to the greatest extent practicable, when constructing a
state highway project, including a major improvement project, the department must not adversely
impact preexisting, lawful public access to a waterway.” (RCW 47.01.500
The Elwha River Bridge replacement project offers an opportunity to implement this law and we are
pleased that the Washington Department of Transportation has developed a proposed intersection
connection with Olympic Hot Springs Road that includes a preliminary concept of parking and river
access at the east end of the bridge. This preliminary design is a good start. The details of
access to the water remain undefined. Given ground disturbance that will occur with construction
of the bridge, we are suggesting that final landscaping includes a pathway down to the water
within the bridge alignment. Additional improvements include transit stops, more gentle curvature
of Highway 101, improved sight lines, illumination, turn pockets and acceleration lane, and a
wider bridge that can more safely accommodate pedestrians and cyclists.
The Washington Department of Transportation has not yet finalized the details of the recreational
access but would love to hear comments about the parking and trail concept. The easiest way to
provide comments is to their survey that will remain open through midnight, Wednesday, March 14.
While additional access issues exist on the Elwha River, this project is just focused on the site
at the Highway 101 Bridge.