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Deception Pass Bridge work continues

Dangling in mid air 180 feet above the torrid waters of Deception Pass, the two people below are calm, cool and collected.

They have a job to do.

A team of Washington State Department of Transportation employees has been busy inspecting and making repairs to the Deception Pass bridge this week. Next week, they will move on to the Canoe Pass bridge. The annual inspection is one the team will perform on more than 1,000 bridges in the region, said John Weida, DOT lead bridge technician.

So far, the inspection has yielded only the expected pack rust. The rust, which forms between pieces of steel that has not been shielded from the elements by paint, can corrode the integrity of structural pieces of the bridge’s belly.

Wieda’s crew makes the repairs to the areas of rust that a duo of inspectors locates and notes.

“With that work done, we’re making sure the bridge will last for a long time,” DOT bridge inspector George Comstock said.

Comstock and his partner, David Golden, analyzed the steel with an ultrasonic testing machine. By shooting sound waves through the steel, weaknesses would appear on the device’s screen.

Hanging in a basket almost 200 feet above the water is nothing new to people like Weida. He has worked with the bridge crew for the last 17 years. He said the height doesn’t bother him.

“That’s the best part,” he said.

The inspection hasn’t turned up anything out of the ordinary. Some of the angle iron pieces below the bridge will need to be replaced over the summer.

“There’s not really any cracks or anything,” DOT bridge engineer Mike Lupton said. “The main thing we look at are the fracture-critical members.”

Those are the pieces of steel that are most likely to fail because they bear the most stress.

Of interest, Lupton said that the bridge deck would likely need to be replaced in the near future. But officials from DOT tell a different story.

“There are no plans to replace the deck in the near future,” DOT communications officer Dustin Terpening said.

Traffic will continue to be slow on the bridge through Wednesday, Terpening said.

You can reach News-Times reporter Eric Berto at eberto@whidbeynewstimes.com

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