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Hood Canal Bridge closures will be 'catastrophic' for businesses, commissioner says

The vital link is expected to be closed for four entire weekends this summer.

CHIMACUM, Wash. — The Hood Canal Bridge is expected to be closed several weekends this summer, and business owners are worried it could impact the local economy.

"There's going to be a huge economic impact," said Laura Prendergast, marketing director at Finnriver Cidery in Chimacum.

Summertime is the sweet spot at Finnriver Cidery. That's when the now muddy fields are full of families, music and people sipping cider.

But there could be a roadblock this summer.

The Hood Canal Bridge is in need of important repairs that require calm winds and tides. That's because workers will actually be suspended from the edge of the structure.

To minimize the impact on commuters the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is planning to close the bridge for four weekends in July and August.

It's prime time for tourists visiting the Olympic Peninsula.

"You've got 15 weekends of when you make your largest revenue stream and four of those weekends won't be accessible," said Prendergast.

The city of Port Townsend recently sent a letter to WSDOT asking it to compress the four weekends over the summer into a single, week-long closure in June and to augment ferry service between Port Townsend and Coupeville.

Additional ferry service is unlikely because of staffing and vessel shortages.

"These repairs are extremely important," a WSDOT spokesperson said. "Keeping this bridge in good working order is a financial lifeline for the Olympic Peninsula not just in the summer, but for 365 days a year."

"It's going to be pretty catastrophic for a number of our local businesses," countered Jefferson County Commissioner Kate Dean.

Dean believes WSDOT isn't listening to the people impacted.

"When rural communities aren't consulted in decision-making like this they really feel left out of the equation," said Dean. "It contributes to rural communities feeling like they're not part of what happens in Olympia."

Back at the cidery, they're just hoping this summer doesn't turn sour.

"It's not just the bottom line for businesses," said Prendergast, "but how it's going to impact our small, very interdependent economy on the peninsula."

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