Puyallup River bridge to close Friday evening

Bridge to reopen to traffic on Sunday

Special to the HeraldJuly 9, 2014 

Cars and trucks wait in traffic in the southbound roadway of Meridian Avenue east in Puyallup. The bridge over the Puyallup River, pictured in the background, is undergoing a major project.

LEE GILES III/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

The life of the 370-foot steel creature that has connected Puyallup to Fife for the last 89 years will be changed in a couple of days.

The Puyallup River Bridge will close at 9 p.m. Friday as the Washington State Department of Transportation begins the preservation project to bring it up to modern engineering and seismic standards. WSDOT crews will be moving the northbound steel truss bridge onto a temporary alignment and foundation about 60 feet to the east.

Contractor crews will use a complex system of Teflon pads, steel rails and hydraulic jacks designed to slowly raise the bridge, slide it over and lower it into its final position.

The southbound concrete bridge that runs parallel will be re-asphalted during its closure. Both Puyallup River bridges will reopen to traffic at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 13. The old bridge with the temporary alignment will be open for the year that the replacement bridge is being constructed.

The official detour will be Highway 167 to State Route 512 for the Meridian and fairground exits. The route underneath the bridge, N. Levee Rd., will be closed to people during the weekend to protect their safety during construction. People headed to Puyallup Mini Storage will be escorted.

The northbound bridge was found structurally deficient by WSDOT during a biennial routine inspection in 2011. Truck traffic was restricted to the right lane after the results revealed floor beam deterioration, resulting in the addition of supportive steel plates in December 2013.

The inspection results shot the Puyallup project to the top of the funding waiting list, where it received $30 million in federal funds.

While WSDOT typically does its own design and then brings in a contractor to complete the project, this job features an independent designer and contractor, which is unique, according to Brenden Clarke, a project engineer with WSDOT.

Jacobs Engineering will draw up the designs for the bridge and Atkinson Construction will continue work as the builders. The new bridge is scheduled to be completed by October 2015.

A two-lane bridge that brings the structure up to modern standards will replace the old bridge. It’s being built in anticipation of adding more lanes in the future, Clarke said.

The northbound bridge, which was built in 1925, has far exceeded the 75-year lifespan of modern bridges.

“That bridge wasn’t designed for today’s traffic volumes,” Clarke said.

WSDOT is working with both Pierce and King County Public Works to collect funds to refurbish the original frame of the steel truss bridge. The bridge will be moved to the Foothills Trail across the White River to connect Enumclaw and Buckley. Both cities are working together to collect federal grants and state funding.

If the funds are collected, the life of the bridge will be preserved as a historical site that connects the Foothills Trail across the White River.

Elsy Pawelak is a freelance reporter for the Herald.

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