Depression era guardrails replaced

Seventy-two years are enough for many of the rustic guardrails that line Highway 20 leading up to the Deception Pass Bridge.

Workers are busy removing the old timber guardrails and replacing them with newer, sturdier versions that are similar, but different. They were busy this week pouring concrete and installing the new timber guardrails. They are on schedule to complete the project by Memorial Day.

The old rails were handmade of interconnected logs and rock bollards, to help improve safety. The historic guardrail was originally built in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, which was established to put men to work during the Great Depression. According to the Department of Transportation, the barrier is distinct to Deception Pass State Park and is found nowhere else in the state. It’s truly one of a kind; made to enhance the park’s character and natural beauty.

While the old guardrails have to go, care was taken to make sure their replacement fits in with the character of the area.

Work on the $4.5 million project started in September. Project Engineer Dave Crisman said it took several years to design the project.

DOT engineers worked with State Parks and the state Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation to design replacement rails that are consistent with the look of Deception Pass State Park.

Workers are also using the rock that comprised the old bollards in the new ones.

“It will look very similar to what was there before,” Crisman said.

The new guardrail also has a slab buried underneath that helps keep cars on the road should they collide with the barrier, Crisman said. The two-feet-by-six-feet slab runs the length of the guardrail. In addition to the concrete, there will also be a steel plate fitted on the back of the timber barriers.

To ensure the new guardrails are durable enough to handle crashes, the Department of Transportation had them tested at a facility in Texas.

Work on the project resumed Wednesday after construction crews took the time between Christmas and New Year’s off. They had to close one lane of Highway 20 Wednesday and Thursday evening to pour concrete. The lane closures were necessary to make sure there was enough room to work.

“It’s so narrow, they need to close a lane to get a concrete truck in there to do the pouring,” said Dave Chesson, spokesman for the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The work currently done won’t replace all of the CCC guardrails. Crisman said the project will replace between a third and a half of the historic guard rails. He said there isn’t enough money available to replace all of the timber rails nor has a timeline been set as to when the remainder of the work will be complete. But eventually they will all have to go.

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