Bridge closure caused no crises, businesses say

"Like clockwork," "amazing" and "hallelujah" were the words greeting last week's early reopening of the Hood Canal bridge and the nearly business as usual during its five-week closure.

Vicki Maples, executive director of the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce, said her impression was the closure was very successful.

"Some businesses reported sales increases, and the Irrigation Festival was a huge success. I've heard a lot of people say it gave them an opportunity to see more of the area.

"Some people did have extensive commute times, but everybody showed patience and understanding."

Climax to 6 years

The state Department of Transportation reopened the Hood Canal bridge to vehicle traffic on the night of Wednesday, June 3, culminating the replacement of the bridge's east half and nearly six years of construction work on the $500 million project.

The first car crossed the bridge's new east half at 10:19 p.m. Wednesday June 3.

"It was just fine, no problems. Everything went just like clockwork, just like it was supposed to," said Belinda Dove, co-owner of Mail Boxes Too at 325 E. Washington St.

Sally Heun, business partner at Sequim Wrap Parcel and Post, 609 W. Washington St. No. 11, also said the closure created few problems.

"It was a little bit slow but it seems to be picking up a little bit. There were no problems with shipping or people not knowing about the closure."

Paris Mickle, assistant marketing director at the 7 Cedars Casino, said the Blyn entertainment venue did "amazing" during the closure.

"There was a little bit of juggling with who was going to be playing and a couple of performers at the golf course wanted to reschedule, but other than that everything was fine."

Oasis Sports Bar & Grill, a hot spot for entertainment in Sequim, continued to feature live music on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays during the bridge closure, said co-owner Debbie Seavy.

The closure's last 10 days were pretty slow for her Islanders Pizza and Pasta Shack, though, because most restaurants rely on

tourists, Seavy said.

Cherie Myers, Safeway spokeswoman, said the national grocery store chain had no problems supplying its stores during the closure.

"We had absolutely no problems with deliveries or alternate routes, absolutely none. Everything went as planned."

Kathi Pressley, director of materials management at Olympic Medical Center, said the hospital didn't have any supply problems during the closure either.

"Our regular vendors were well prepared and went the extra mile providing us with our goods and services within our time frames and beyond our expectations," she said.

Craig O'Neil, Kenmore Air's marketing director, said the company's extra flights during the bridge closure went very smoothly.

"We got a lot of very positive feedback. I know we introduced a huge number of people to flying this route that hadn't before.

"We flew twice as many through June 3 compared to last year, that's great. It was a busy month and we enjoyed flying all those folks. The real test is how many of those new folks will come back," he said.

One change the state Department of Transportation made to its original closure plan was adding a late night freight ferry between Port Townsend and Edmonds.

Comments from Nippon and other large industrial companies led the DOT to make the change, and it was well received as was the early reopening.

"Hallelujah, it's an early Christmas for everybody," said Edward Tolan, fiber procurement manager for Nippon Paper Industries USA Co. Ltd.

"There was extra driving time but you deal with it. We knew that was going to happen. I haven't heard of any problems. We're happy it's open, but it was not as bad as it could have been," Tolan said.

Tolan was one who expressed concern prior to the closure since Nippon sends out 30 trucks a day to pick up chemicals for the company's pulp and paper manufacturing processes located in Port Angeles.

"From Nippon's perspective, (the smooth closure period) was the result of excellent planning, getting done early and keeping people informed," he said.

Mindy DeSha from Interfor Pacific said the closure was sometimes frustrating but went a lot smoother than they expected.

Reach Brian Gawley at bgawley@

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