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Bridge opening pushed back 3 months

Pointing to both a “difficult” winter season and a recent scramble for more bridge wires, Washington State Department of Transportation officials announced on Friday the opening of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge will be pushed into next summer.

“We have watched the contractor overcome a difficult winter construction season, along with the setback discovered when new cable wire had to be ordered ... because of unexpected corrosion (found on the wire already purchased),” said Linea Laird, WSDOT project manager for the bridge.

While “spinning” wire onto one side of the bridge last fall, crews reportedly discovered corrosion known as “white rust” on several bundles of wire waiting to be used on the span.

A total of 19,000 miles of wire were purchased to construct the main cables of the new bridge, and a few thousand miles were declared unusable.

At the time, WSDOT officials said the discovery was “promptly shared with WSDOT together with the contractor’s plan to redouble its assurance that no out-of-spec wire would be incorporated into the suspension cable.”

Replacement wire was ordered and now reportedly all the cable “spinning” has been completed, although the damaged wire and other problems have delayed the bridge’s completion by three months.

“Only a little ground has been lost, ... (and) in just a few weeks the first of the bridge deck sections will be delivered and we will be turning the corner to home,” Laird said.

She and the TNC’s project manager, Manuel Rondón, will travel to Korea next week to watch the final loading and departure of the vessel that will carry the first completed sections of the bridge deck from their fabrication site at the Samsung Shipyard.

The ship is expected to arrive in the Narrows in mid-June, with two more shipments to follow.

Other bridge news:

• Cable spinning complete: Six months after it began, cable spinning on the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge is complete. In early March, bridge builder Tacoma Narrows Constructors finished spinning and compacting the south suspension cable, while spinning operation on the north cable ended in April. Then permanent steel bands and suspender cables were installed every 40 feet along the south cable, and more are being placed on the north cable. The suspenders, together with the main cable, will support the weight of the deck and the traffic crossing the bridge.

• Final stage begins soon: Crews are now preparing for the final phase of work: deck installation and asphalt placement. In mid-May, the first of 46 deck sections will make their way from Korea to Puget Sound. Three ships will arrive separately in the Narrows channel between June and September.

• War Memorial Park Rededication: Nearly 54 years after the original War Memorial Park opened, a rededication ceremony for the second-generation park will take place at 10 a.m. May 13.

Featuring the Fort Lewis Color Guard and Brass Quintet, the rededication will be on park grounds at the southeast corner of Jackson Avenue NW and State Route 16 in Tacoma.

Event parking will be limited to street parking in the vicinity of 6th Avenue and Skyline Drive N. Starting at 9 a.m. on that day, complimentary express bus service will operate between Tacoma Community College (TCC) and the park. Pierce Transit buses will run every 10 minutes and drop off people on 6th Avenue and Skyline Drive North. The last buses leave the park at 1:30 p.m. for TCC.

Visit www.tacomanarrowsbridge.com for more event information or call 534-4670.

• New 24th Street ramp moves ahead: The new 24th Street NW on-ramp to eastbound SR 16 is officially a ‘go.’ The ramp will open to traffic when the new bridge opens in spring 2007. The ramp will be restricted to motorists who pay tolls electronically, and it will be metered just like the other eastbound on-ramps west of the bridge.

• Lit-up toll plaza: Some SR-16 commuters have asked why the new, toll plaza is lit-up at night though it is not in use. WSDOT said it is for security, as it reports it spent $321,747 on graffiti removal alone, and lights reduce potential acts of graffiti and vandalism to the plaza and equipment.

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