Bridge work heats up

Activity is stepping up near the existing Tacoma Narrows Bridge as a flag pole and trees are removed and the first big piece of the new bridge is scheduled to arrive next week.

Susan Reams, Washington State Department of Transportation’s communications manager for the bridge project, said a 130- by 80-foot cutting shoe will be travelling by barge from Todd Pacific Shipyards in Seattle and is expected to arrive at the Port of Tacoma on Tuesday.

The cutting shoe is the bottom of the caisson, or foundation footing, designed to cut into soil. The caissons will later hold the towers and the superstructure (deck and cables).

Last Thursday, workers removed the 75-foot-tall flag pole from War Memorial Park and placed it in storage to await relocation. Crews are also removing contaminated soil from the area.

The entire park will be relocated farther east along Highway 16 at Jackson Avenue, making room for the anchorage of the new Narrows bridge.

Several acres of trees have been removed from the vicinity of 24th Street, and from uplands south of the existing bridge, where the approach to the new bridge will be built.

Reams said work is also continuing on a concrete batch plant at 14th Street and Stone Drive, which is expected to be completed by late April or early May.

Reams said the plant is being brought in temporarily to provide the concrete for the new bridge’s two caissons and four towers.

“This way they can pump concrete out underneath the bridge, rather than trucks having to drive back and forth across bridge delivering it,” Reams said.

To help reduce the noise of the plant’s operation, Reams said a 16-foot wall is being built around it.

“Even without the wall,” Reams said, “the noise level of the plant, if you were standing 50 feet away, would be as loud as a lawn mower.”

After the temporary batch plant is no longer needed to produce project concrete — in about mid-2005 — the area will become a permanent water containment area.

Traffic changes this week include:

n Last Monday, temporary on- and off-ramps at Stone Drive, near the old Span Deli, were scheduled to open to eastbound traffic. At the same time, access to eastbound Highway 16 from 24th Street in Gig Harbor will be closed for at least six months.

Access to westbound Highway 16 already has been cut off at 24th Street, clearing the way for crews to begin building a new overpass and interchange that will span the highway at that point.

A new interchange for eastbound traffic also will be constructed at 36th Street. The 24th Street overpass and the 36th Street interchange both are scheduled to open this fall.

Bicyclists will be detoured from the construction zone on the Gig Harbor side of the bridge starting Monday. Tacoma-bound bikers will be directed off Highway 16 at the Olympic Drive interchange and then back on via the new, temporary access at Stone Drive.

Barges and tugs will be in the Narrows on Monday so crews from Tacoma Narrows Constructors can conduct more tests of the anchoring system for the new bridge caissons.

The public is invited to two Open Houses where project staff, bridge constructors and the design-builder will be on hand to answer project questions.

The first in Tacoma, on Wednesday, March 26 at 6 p.m, to be held at Hunt Middle School, 6501 South 10th, Tacoma, in the multi-purpose room.

The second is planned in Gig Harbor on Wednesday, April 9, at 6 p.m. at Gig Harbor High School, 5101 Rosedale Street NW, Gig Harbor, in the gym.

Regular open houses will be planned during construction. To schedule a meeting for your community group, contact Susan Reams, WSDOT TNB communications manager at, (253) 534-4640, 1-877-7Narrows (toll free).

For more information:

For those living close to the construction area, WSDOT is providing a monthly nighttime construction activity report. Weekly reports will be used as needed to update residents of schedule changes. To be added to the nighttime construction mailing list, send a request e-mail to, or call (253) 534-4640, toll free at 1-877-7Narrows.

n For the most up-to-date project nighttime construction work activities, the project website at, or call the 24-hour nighttime construction telephone line at (253) 620-4440.

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