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Kummer Bridge work started Saturday; completion slated for June

Emergency repair work began Saturday on the Kummer Bridge, the well-traveled span over the Green River Gorge that connects Enumclaw and Black Diamond.

The bridge closed to all traffic on Nov. 18 after geotechnical engineers noticed small, but potentially dangerous movement in the soil that supports the southernmost pier. Paula Hammond, who heads the state’s Department of Transportation, agreed to close the bridge saying driver safety is WSDOT’s first priority.

Since Nov. 18, WSDOT engineers have put together a two-part plan to repair the bridge from the pressure of the landslide.

“A large ancient landslide to the northeast is slowly pushing the ground that supports the southern pier, causing the ground to shift,” said Russ East, assistant regional administrator. “We need to relieve that pressure to stop the slide.”

Phase 1 began at 7 a.m. Saturday when crews started tearing up the asphalt and digging out an area that measures 25 feet deep by 200 feet long by 80 feet wide. Crews were slated to work 10-hour shifts Saturday and Sunday then shift to 20-hour days on Monday. They will work around the clock until Christmas to complete the excavation.

“The work will be noisy and drivers can expect to see 1,500 truckloads of material removed from the area,” said Messay Shiferaw, WSDOT construction engineer. “We will refill the space with lighter material that can better withstand the pressure of the slide.”

Phase 2 begins in February when crews install new walls to protect the south pier.

The DOT expects to reopen the bridge to traffic by June.

While engineers have been watching the area for years, the problem turned into an emergency in early November when heavy rain pummeled the area. Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a disaster declaration Nov. 26 after the storm, which allowed DOT to apply for and receive federal emergency funding from the Federal Highway Administration. The estimated cost for repairs is $15 million.

While drafting a repair plan, WSDOT staff has worked with the King County Roads Division to designate and monitor detour routes.

The impact of the road closure is apparently not lost on DOT officials.

“It’s been very tough for businesses out there,” East said. “The national economy is awful and this closure has made it worse. We really wish there were something more we could do to help folks. We just want to remind drivers that you can really help by visiting those local businesses.”

For the most recent information about the closure, go to: www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/sr169/greenriverrepair.

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