DOT: New bridge will have four lanes

Once the second Tacoma Narrows Bridge opens next year, eastbound commuters will have four lanes to choose from instead of three, said Claudia Cornish, spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Transportation.

“This change was based on requests from both the community and local officials,” Cornish said, to the applause of those gathered at the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday afternoon.

Cornish said her agency officially decided to change the configuration of the lanes this week, and the impetus for squeezing in a fourth lane was the addition of a new on-ramp at 24th Street NW.

“Now commuters who live in Gig Harbor will have four on-ramps instead of three,” she said.

Cornish also presented an overview of the entire project, explaining that once complete, the new bridge will become a “regional icon” with many unique features, including two spans of slightly different shades of green.

“Many people ask us, ‘Why will the two bridges be different colors?’ and the reason is two-fold,” she said, explaining that the first reason is because of concerns that duplicating exactly the appearance of the first bridge would dilute its historical significance.

“The second reason (the color won’t be the same) is that the first bridge was built (more than 50 years ago) out of steel, and the second is made of concrete,” Cornish said, explaining that it was much more economical today to build the span out of concrete.

Cornish also addressed another aspect of the project that initially elicited a large public outcry, which was the removal of a significant amount of trees when work began.

“We didn’t do a good job of showing people how big of a footprint this project will have,” she said, explaining that the width of the bridge, once the second span and the six-lane tollbooth section is built, will grow from four lanes to 13.

“That is a big change, and that is why we needed to cut down so many trees,” she said.

Other bridge news:

-- Bridge Progress

Tacoma Narrows Constructors (TNC) have finished compacting the south suspension cable into a 20.5-inch diameter “steel rope,” and continue placing zinc-coated bands — actually two semicircles bolted together — around the cable. The bands are spaced 40 feet apart.

North suspension cable spinning will resume Mar. 13. The project is awaiting the arrival of about 5,000 miles of steel wire, and cable spinning for the north cable is expected to resume by mid-March.

-- Roadway/Roadside Progress

Roadway activities for the month of February included finishing most of the landscaping at Stormwater Pond C on the Gig Harbor side.

At the Toll Plaza, crews are installing equipment in both the manual and express toll lanes that include cameras, lights, sensors and computers. Installation of the equipment in both the manual and express toll lanes should be completed by March, and then preparation for commissioning testing should begin, possibly by mid-April.

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