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Puyallup River Bridge moves forward, still seeks full funding

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The effort to replace the Puyallup River Bridge between Tacoma and Fife is inching forward with a land swap between the City of Tacoma and the Puyallup Tribe of Indians.

The Puyallup Avenue Bridge is 87 years old and shows significant deterioration throughout its length. It is in need of replacement. Work to replace the bridge has been years in the making and will lead to a new bridge that will be four lanes instead of the current three if funding can be secured.

The project is within the boundaries of the Puyallup Tribe of Indian reservation and located next to areas where significant events took place during the Fishing Wars of the 1960s and 1970s, and these areas are set to be preserved under the agreement.

The new bridge is expected to cost about $50 million, with all but about $12 million already funded. That gap, however, has city staff looking for state and federal grant dollars to get the project funded. Another option is to redesign the bridge to find a lower-cost option. The bridge is already under a 10-ton weight limit and is inspected ever year for safety conditions. The next inspection will be in June.

“We see a little more deterioration each year,” Project Manager Dan Soderlind said.

The bridge provides a much-used corridor between Tacoma and Fife, but is well past its design life. Replacing the bridge will mean the route will be closed for about two years, but the start date of the work hasn’t yet been determined since funding is still an unanswered question. About 15,000 vehicles pass over the bridge each day and is an alternate route during high-traffic commuter times on Interstate 5.

Construction will hopefully start before the current bridge is deemed unsafe, which could lead to it being closed before the work on the replacement bridge starts.