If you like to climb poles suspended 150 feet above a narrow bridge deck, then work for three hours in late fall winds, the Washington State Department of Transportation might have a job for you.
The American flag hasn't flown above the blue bridge since crews discovered a severed cable on its flagpole in late August. Inspectors found that all the working parts of the flagpole need to be replaced.
WSDOT is looking for $7,500 to $10,000 to repair the flagpole and for someone brave and skilled enough to climb to the top. The money will likely come from its budget.
"It really depends on the availability of a climber and the fees allocated with that," WSDOT spokeswoman Summer Derrey said about the cost of the repairs.
The flag was placed above the Highway 395 bridge over the Columbia River between Kennewick and Pasco in 1986. The flagpole was paid for by the Columbia Basin Shrine Club. The flags are maintained by WSDOT and the American Legion.
Once the flags become tattered, they are replaced three or four times a year, according to Herald archives.
The top of the flagpole stands 150 feet above the bridge deck, Derrey said. Climbers are hard to find, and fixing the pole could get more difficult as winter approaches, but WSDOT officials hope it can be replaced within two to three months.
"There are a limited number of pole climbers in the nation," she said.
WSDOT found one climber who could repair the pole, but he was injured on an unrelated job. Derrey said the agency is now looking for other climbers but might have to wait until the first one recovers.
"It's absolutely a priority to us to get the iconic flag back above the blue bridge," she said.
The 60-year-old bridge, which is crossed by 59,000 vehicles a day, will need to be closed for about three hours when the flagpole is repaired, for the safety of the climber and the drivers below. Derrey said the work would be done during the week.
"Probably in the early afternoon before the rush hour," she said.
Joe Winters, commander of American Legion Post 34, expects the flagpole will get fixed.
"We always look forward to seeing the flag up," he said.
-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom