Tacoma’s East 11th Street Bridge will close Friday

City of Tacoma officials citing safety concerns announced Tuesday they plan to close the 103-year-old East 11th Street Bridge spanning the Puyallup River on Fri., July 18. The bridge will remain closed indefinitely to all vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic.

“This is going to inconvenience some drivers, but our top priority is to keep people safe,” said Tacoma Public Works Director Kurtis Kingsolver earlier this month. “I wish we could say it was going be short-term, but that’s not known and bridge infrastructure costs are difficult for many local communities, not just Tacoma, to absorb.” Kingsolver added deterioration to joints, beams, and trusses on the 103-year-old bridge warranted the bridge closure in the interest of public safety.

The City of Tacoma took ownership of the bridge from the Washington State Department of Transportation in 1995. A previous 10-ton weight limit went into effect in 2005. However, about 2,000 vehicles per day have continued to use the bridge. Drivers may use one of four other Tacoma-area Puyallup River bridge crossings, though similar issues triggered weight restrictions on the Puyallup Avenue area bridge earlier this year.

Long-term, the bridge and viaduct’s replacement would cost an estimated $40 million with a demolition alternative estimated at $10 million, according to Kingsolver.

The East 11th Street Bridge is one of several local bridges that needs or has undergone rehabilitation work. The City is currently accepting bids on a project to rehabilitate the Tacoma Avenue South Bridge. In May, City officials cited safety concerns when they reduced maximum vehicle weight restrictions from 18 tons to 10 tons on the 87-year-old Puyallup River Bridge linking Tacoma to Pacific Highway in Fife; the City previously reduced load limits on the bridge five years ago. The 101-year-old Murray Morgan Bridge re-opened to vehicles and pedestrians last year following a $57 million rehabilitation project. Finally, in May 2012, the Hylebos Bridge spanning Blair Waterway on East 11th Street near the Port of Tacoma tide flats re-opened after a failed drive shaft left the double-bascule bridge platforms upright for more than a decade.