A call for proposals to replace the aging bridge system that spans the Puyallup River between Tacoma and Fife will go out in a few weeks. A review committee will select an option in April or May, with construction to start in early 2018.
The 89-year-old bridge system is an important commercial link between Fife and Tacoma's industrial areas on the tideflats. Construction of the new bridge will force traffic onto Interstate 5 and Highway 509 for up to two years of work.
“There aren’t a lot of detours,” said Project Manager Chris Storey, noting that sections of I-5 will be under construction in the area as well.
Tacoma City Council has approved a $1.4 million contract with Bellevue-based H.W. Lochner Inc. to provide technical review, construction support and to coordinate the selection process for the design-build team to be tasked with actually replacing the aging spans with a four-lane bridge that will also have bike and pedestrian walkways. The design-build construction method was needed so the $30 million project wouldn’t risk losing some $27 million in federal grants if it was delayed.
The bridge was constructed in 1927, and has reached the end of its useful life. It was one of the last bridges of what was Pacific Highway, then State Route 1 then Highway 99 through Puget Sound before I-5 ribboned through the region in 1960. A routine inspection in 2009 concluded that the bridge was failing, so officials limited the bridge for use by only cars and trucks, forcing tractor trailers to use detours or other routes, namely Interstate 5 or routes through the tideflats to the Murray Morgan bridge at 11th Street. A follow-up inspection in 2014 further restricted the bridge to vehicles weighing less than 10 tons, prohibiting most emergency vehicles and buses. The bridge is so "structurally deficient" that it ranks worse than 99.3 percent of all bridges in the state, according to the National Bridge Inventory.
Replacing the bridge has been a long time in coming. The effort to start gathering money started in 2006, some 80 years after the span opened. City, state and federal dollars have now raised $38.8 million to replace approximately 200 feet of the 600-foot long structure. The bridge is made up of six bridge segments, with the proposed project set to replace two segments and part of a third. Future projects will replace the remaining segments since the entire project involves an alphabet soup of agencies as well as a number of local, state and federal governments from the Puyallup Tribe, Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Union Pacific railroads.