The bulk of the construction work for the Donkey Creek bridge is expected to be completed sometime in October, significantly ahead of the original March 2014 projected completion date, Gig Harbor senior engineer Emily Appleton said.
“We’ve been able to push up the schedule,” Appleton said. “We re-sequenced a bunch of activities and did more things at the same time instead of doing them one after the other.”
Most of the work will be done sometime this fall.
“We should be substantially complete sometime in October, and then it finishes up after that,” Appleton said. “The paving and the opening up the creek and the estuary should be done by the end of September, and then there’s just landscaping and cleanup work left after that.”
It should help to relieve traffic issues on North Harborview Drive. Where the used to be a right-turn lane and a through lane, there is only one lane now, and that creates traffic jams during the peak afternoon and evening hours each day.
“That’s caused some queueing in the afternoon,” Appleton said. “It gets better and worse. Fridays are typically the longest queue. We tried an experiment last Friday by putting an officer out there just to wave people through that stop sign. We thought that might help, but it didn’t seem to have much of an impact at all.”
Appleton said she hopes people continue to be patient with the traffic inconveniences. She believes the reward will be worthwhile in the end.
“I think it’s going to be about a month before we get the final paving done and we’ll be able to put traffic on the bridge,” she said. “So I think it’s probably just going to be, tough it out for another month, and it’ll be all better.”
The city hopes the restored estuary will improve the fish habitat, particularly salmon. The finished product will feature a wide estuary, whereas the salmon previously had to swim through a very narrow pipe to get to the creek.
“That pipe had several bends in it,” Appleton said. “There were a couple of manholes where the pipe would come in, there would be a deep manhole, and the pipe would come out. So the salmon would have to find the pipe, swim up through the pipe, get through those manholes, and find the right pipe to go up the stream.”
As a result, many salmon got stuck in the structures. Apart from being problematic for the fish, it created a maintenance headache for the city as well.
“The stream flow was being clogged up by a lot of salmon, and other debris too from storms would get stuck in those manholes,” Appleton said. “They’d have to go down and clean them out. We’ll eliminate that, and the fish will have a lot easier of a time swimming up an open channel than trying to figure out which pipe to get through.”
The project will improve connectivity and offer people a close view of the salmon, and it will continue to improve the area that surrounds the Harbor History Museum.
“The path through there will be a really nice amenity,” Appleton said. “It’ll connect the little Austin Park that we did a couple years ago with Donkey Creek Park, walking around the estuary behind the museum there and under the bridge. It’s a good opportunity to see the salmon; you can get really close to them and see what’s happening.
“The educational opportunities with the museum right there and the historical implications of everything — it’s just a nice convergence of all those things,” she said.