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Truck hauling bridge joint cleared for (slow) takeoff

A 100-ton piece of the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge stranded at the state border for three weeks is finally making its escape from Spokane — albeit a slow one.

Hitting speeds of 12 mph, the 16-foot-wide, 210-ton load will need two highway lanes and several days to reach its new home spanning the Tacoma Narrows.

Now hauled by the Tacoma-based Omega-Morgan Rigging & Industrial Contracting, the steel-and-neoprene expansion joint was issued an “oversize-load permit” Tuesday and left its temporary home at the Washington/Idaho border shortly before noon the following day, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

WSDOT spokeswoman Jamie Swift said Thursday morning the new truck and 17-axle trailer hauling the expansion joint reached the Ryegrass Rest Area near Vantage by Wednesday night during its first day of travel in nearly a month.

Swift said the load was expected to reach Snoqualmie Pass — and likely North Bend — by Thursday evening.

Each day, she said, the driver expects to travel about 70 miles, completing the 300-mile trip to Tacoma in approximately five days.

He is joined in the journey by “pilot cars,” which include Washington State Patrol troopers.

To allow the public to track the progress of its “superload,” the WSDOT installed a GPS unit on the truck, which will offer updates at the agency’s Web site, www.tacomanarrowsbridge.com.

Swift said there were problems with the tracking Wednesday as the system lost contact with the truck near Ritzville.

However, she said “the tracking system on the truck has been reset, and WSDOT anticipates tracking can resume when cellular coverage improves near Ellensburg.”

The expansion joint consist of rows of steel joined with neoprene strip seals that according to the WSDOT will act like an accordion, absorbing up to 56 inches of deck expansion and contraction on the new bridge that can be caused by thermal changes, wind forces, traffic movement or seismic motion.

The first joint, and the second joint waiting to be picked-up in Minnesota, was created specifically for this bridge by the D.S. Brown Co.

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