Southbound blue bridge lanes to close Friday through Wednesday

By Paula Horton, Tri-City HeraldNovember 8, 2012 

Traffic is moving again in both directions on the blue bridge from Kennewick to Pasco, but that will change again this weekend.

Delays getting the expansion joints replaced in the northbound lanes has pushed back the closure of the southbound lanes by a day, but contractors still are moving forward with the bridge work.

The southbound Highway 395 lanes on the bridge will be closed beginning at 9 p.m. Friday and are scheduled to be reopened at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, said Moe Davari, project engineer with the state Department of Transportation.

The closure was set to begin tonight, but Davari said the contractor needs an extra day to regroup and get prep work done.

The closure also has been extended from four nights to five, he told the Herald.

"Realistically, we've seen the added work from the unknowns we faced in the northbound directions, so we're giving the contractor additional time to work," Davari said.

Workers my be faced with some new weather-related challenges as temperatures are expected to drop into the 20s on Friday with a slight chance of precipitation -- possibly snow.

The schedule changes were made Wednesday after transportation officials met with the contractor for a debriefing on how the northbound lane closure went.

The northbound lanes were opened about 5 a.m. Wednesday, two days behind schedule.

Challenges replacing the three, 28-year-old expansion joints led to the delays.

"The middle joint up there was the one that definitely gave them the most challenge as far as getting it removed," Davari said. "You don't see it until you start removing and chipping away at the concrete. ... The key reason was all the unknowns."

During the bridge closure, traffic going north on Highway 395 from Kennewick was detoured to Columbia Drive, then over the cable bridge on Highway 397 into Pasco.

It caused heavy traffic on Columbia Drive, especially when there were collisions on the cable bridge.

Washington State Patrol troopers responded to 12 crashes on the cable bridge -- five Friday, one Saturday, four Monday and two Tuesday -- mostly during the commuting times, said Lt. Mike Saunders.

Some of the crashes were rear-end wrecks involving several vehicles. Five caused injuries and seven were property damage-only, he said.

Semi-truck traffic coming off Interstate 82 and going north on Highway 395 also was an issue during the detour. Drivers didn't know until it was too late that they could not go over the bridge, and then they were forced to try to maneuver through the double roundabout at highways 395 and 240.

During the southbound blue bridge closure, detour signs will discourage most traffic -- especially semi-trucks -- from going over the cable bridge, Saunders said.

"Hopefully traffic will never go there," he said. "Hopefully truck traffic will get the message and go around."

Detour signs will direct southbound traffic from Interstate 182 to I-82 where drivers can then go west or east. They could also go I-182 to Highway 240 and then onto south Highway 395 into Kennewick.

Drivers also can go over the cable bridge on Highway 397, continue to Finley and connect to I-82 near Locust Grove Road, Davari said.

Motorists needing to go to Pasco can go on Highway 395 to the Court Street exit, but will then have to exit onto Court Street.

"It will be well signed with detours," Davari said. "It all should go a little smoother since we've already faced some challenges with the northbound side."

Drivers can expect to see single-lane closures on southbound Highway 395 over the blue bridge tonight as the contractor sets up a containment system under the bridge to keep debris from falling into the Columbia River below.

-- Paula Horton: 582-1556; phorton@tricityherald.com

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