WSDOT says replacing Puyallup bridge is necessity

by: Joanna Updated:


PUYALLUP, Wash. - In Pierce County, there was a major detour around the Puyallup River Bridge as crews worked to slide the bridge a few dozen feet to the east while they build a new one in its place-- all for the sake of safety.

The Puyallup River Bridge is 1.5 million pounds of concrete and steel but it's showing its age.

"Absolutely, you could feel it bounce quite a bit," Juris Verzemnieks, a longtime Puyallup resident told us.

"Oh yeah definitely, it was almost beyond repair," agreed Bob Howard.

On Saturday, the Washington State Department of Transportation wouldn't call the 1925-built bridge a safety hazard, but said a rebuild was a necessity.

"During a routine bridge inspection in 2011 we found some deterioration in the floor beams such that we had to limit truck traffic to just one lane so that expedited the funding for the new construction of the new bridge," explained Project Engineer Brenden Clarke.

For several years, WSDOT has been patching the bridge with red steel plates. Those are temporary. Today begins a move toward a permanent solution; crews are lifting the bridge 2 feet in the air, then using a rail like a track and pushing the bridge a few dozen feet to the east.

They'll build a new, wider, $30-million replacement bridge where the old one has sat for nearly 90 years.  WSDOT admits that's too long-- a bridge's lifespan is about 75 years.

"It's fascinating, what they're doing," said Jerry Ledbetter.

He, like many people who grew up in Puyallup-- some who've been here nearly as long as the bridge-- came to watch the big push.

"I come down here every day to watch it," Howard told us.

They say just like people, bridges wear out, and they're glad to see them retired.

"After all that's been happening to the bridges across the country, yeah we are. That's true," Ledbetter concluded.

Cars will be able to drive on the old bridge in its new location by tomorrow at 2 p.m.  It will be dismantled when the new bridge is complete in the fall of 2015.