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Seeking Input - Elwha River Bridge Design (WA)

Posted: 03/01/2018
by Thomas O'Keefe

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 present.” (RCW 47.01.500 (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 (2)).
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.
Thomas O'Keefe
3537 NE 87th St.
Seattle, WA 98115
Phone: 425-417-9012

Associated Projects

Elwha Restoration (WA)
The Elwha River will be restored by removing two dams that have blocked salmon and degraded recreational opportunities on one of the Pacific Northwest's most spectacular rivers.

Associated Rivers