The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Highway work booming on bridge, along SR 4

SR 4 closures expected Thursday near County Line Park


August 2, 2018

Rick Nelson

A construction crew begins work installing new decking on the Puget Island bridge. The bridge is closed 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday for the work.

Wahkiakum County highways are busy these days with a variety of construction projects.

Tree removal will close SR 4 intermittently today at Milepost 47 for tree removal, travelers are dealing with night time closures of the Puget Island bridge, and Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) began preparations for changing traffic flow on SR 4 in the Cathlamet area.

Highway closure today

A crew today (Thursday) will remove four large leaning trees looming high above the highway at Milepost 47, between County Line Park and Mill Creek in western Cowlitz County.

The highway may be closed as long as an hour for each tree, regional communications officer Tamara Greenwell said Tuesday. The work will occur between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m.

"The crew will have to rappel down a slope to get to them," Greenwell said. "Once they're down, they have to clean up the highway and get ready for the next one.

"The crew thinks they can do it faster than an hour, but we want to give them time for safety."

Bridge closures begin

Meanwhile, travelers between Cathlamet and Puget Island are now working the night time bridge closures into their schedule.

A contractor crew has begun replacing the decking on the bridge. The crew rips up the existing asphalt overlay and underlying timber deck and replaces it with new glue laminated wooden sections. They then cover the new decking with rubber matting to protect it until an asphalt overlay can be applied.

The closures occur 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday nights.

The entire bridge decking and repainting project cost is estimated at $17.2 million, with $5.8 million coming from existing funds and $11.4 million from Connecting Washington, a 16-year program funded primarily by an 11.9-cent gas tax increase that was fully phased-in on July 1, 2016.

Emergency vehicles staged

For public safety, an American Medical Response (AMR) ambulance crew will be on duty on the Island during the night time closures.

The Wahkiakum County Emergency Management Department has set up a fenced staging area not far from the bridge landing. On site will be a local ambulance, Wahkiakum PUD bucket truck, Washington State Patrol car, a Wahkiakum County Sheriff's Department car, and, nightly, the AMR ambulance.

"They [AMR] arrive prior to the closure and leave once the bridge is opened," county Emergency Management Director Beau Renfro said Tuesday. "If there is a problem, and the bridge can't open on time then they will stay."

WSDOT is paying the cost of the AMR service, Renfro said.

A paramedic and additional staff will man the AMR ambulance. Cathlamet ambulance also has trained personnel that live on Puget Island and will respond as needed, Renfro said.

Bridge passage will be accomplished by a ramp already on scene. It has safety ridges along the edges and can be put in place with a fork lift. Renfro required the contractor to demonstrate the efficacy of the ramp before the night time closures could start.

Stella slide removal

Back on SR 4, WSDOT has called for bids for a contract to remove the slide partially blocking the highway at Milepost 50 near Stella in Cowlitz County.

Bids will be opened next Monday, with work to start around August 20, Kelso Area Engineer Joanna Lowrey said Tuesday.

"The slope failure initially occurred in [late] December after several days of heavy precipitation," Lowrey said in an email. "Rock, mud, trees, and other debris slid into the roadway and destroyed an existing rockfall fence.

"Our maintenance crews were able to do the initial clean up, but we began to see signs of additional slope failures. In mid-February, we closed one lane of the highway to put in container boxes and a concrete barrier. This allows us to keep the highway open until the slope can be repaired and the fence replaced.

"An emergency declaration was signed for this event, and WSDOT geotechnical staff assessed the damage and put together recommendations. Engineers in my office put together a bid package with these recommendations and the contract has been sent out for bids.

Fallen trees and boulders blocked traffic last week on SR 4 near County Line Park. Wahkiakum County Sheriff's Office photo.

"We expect the contract to last approximately 70 calendar days and will include removing 8,000 cubic yards of unstable material from the top of the slope, repairing the rockfall fence, and removing loose debris from the slope face."

Left turn lanes coming

Back at Cathlamet, a department crew removed rumble strips along the highway in the vicinity of the Main Street and School Access Road intersections.

As described by WSDOT, later this summer, crews will convert an eastbound lane of SR 4 into a westbound left turn lane at school access road and install a two-way left turn lane between acess road and Columbia Street/Boege Road. The new left turn lanes will improve safety for travelers accessing the high school and local streets.

Crews will also widen the shoulders through this stretch of highway, and the speed limit in the area will be reduced from 50 to 45 mph.


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