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DOT: Human error caused malfunction, 7-hour closure of Hood Canal Bridge

SR 104 Hood Canal Bridge closed due to mechanical malfunction on west end of bridge, July 10, 2016. (Photo: WSDOT)

OLYMPIA, Wash. - The state Department of Transportation is apologizing to travelers because of Sunday's lengthy closure of the Hood Canal bridge. Officials admit it was caused by human error. It meant lost business for the tourism industry.

It was an odd sight. The normally level Hood Canal Bridge deck was tilting to one side. WSDOT workers had to scramble from Olympia to crank it by hand. The bridge was closed for seven hours,

"It's human error," said WSDOT's Troy Cowan

The state says two of the workers left one of four hydraulic valves shut, and the bridge went up lopsided. "We're terribly sorry for the significant inconvenience," Cowan said. "This has been a really humbling experience for our maintenance crews."

"Oh, no, that's terrible", said Diane Nichols of the Little City Candy Company when she heard the reason. "It was a big effect on all of us. A lot small businesses here in Kingston suffered yesterday."

Kingston is the ferry terminal for travelers heading to and from the Olympic peninsula. The Hood Canal bridge closure put a halt to all the traffic that would normally be crossing the Kitsap Peninsula and stopping in town.

Andrew Bynum, executive chef at the Kingston Ale House, "We have a pretty captive audience in town and all the businesses benefit from that. Yesterday was a little bit slower than a normal Sunday in the summer."

But just up the road a few minutes from the bridge the closure meant big business for the town of Port Gamble. Instead of sitting and waiting at the bridge travelers bided their time there. Drew Pennington of Olympic Outdoor Center, "It's kind of a little pit stop. People spent the day here. It was a nice day so people took advantage of that. Had a lot more rentals than we normally would have had."

And then Monday there were two more closures. But this time only for maintenance and only for a few minutes each time. People were thankful it wasn't the seven-hour marathon. " Oh, what do people with something like that? I can't figure that out," said Chloe Taylor, who was traveling to Victoria.

"We'd get a hotel or go home," said her husband, Philip Taylor.

To make sure that kind of closure doesn't happen again new checks and balances are in place including signs on all four valves. The state won't say if the workers are facing any disciplinary action for this.

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