By Ann McCreary
Under the “what next?” category of events, State Highway 153 is closed — again — to through traffic, this time as a result of a crack in a column that supports the bridge over the Methow River just south of Carlton.
Motorists traveling beyond Carlton in either direction will again need to take an alternate route via the Twisp-Carlton Road on the west side of the river, until bridge repairs can be completed — perhaps as early as next week.
That 13-mile detour had been in effect for about seven weeks after flash floods and mudslides on Aug. 21 damaged three sections of Highway 153. The highway was reopened to through traffic on Oct. 13.
The cracked bridge column was discovered on Tuesday (Oct. 21) during a routine inspection of the bridge by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), and the bridge was closed immediately.
“Engineers looked at it and said, ‘Don’t let a truck go over it,’” said WSDOT spokesman Jeff Adamson.
WSDOT bridge engineers are designing the repair and arranging for delivery of needed materials, said Adamson.
“We expect it to take only about two to three days to fix once we get the materials and design plan in place,” Adamson said.
Repairs could be completed as soon as next week, he said.
The bridge closure means that people traveling to Carlton from the south will have to travel up to Twisp and then backtrack on Highway 153 to reach the community.
It’s more bad news for the Carlton General Store, which was hit hard by the detour that diverted motorists after the mudslides, as well as for residents living along the Twisp-Carlton Road.
“All the people who live on the Twisp-Carlton Road, who were so happy not to have semis coming past their homes are going to get them back,” Adamson said.
The cracked bridge column “can happen from an earthquake tremor or a particularly heavy oversize load, in addition to fatigue,” said Adamson.
Most bridges in the state are inspected annually or every other year, he said.