$20M WSDOT loan would complete Murray Morgan Bridge rehab

The City of Tacoma announced Tuesday it is pursuing a $20 million loan from the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) that would complete the funding needed to rehabilitate the 97-year-old Murray Morgan Bridge.

According to Public Works engineer Kurtis Kingsolver, a WSDOT engineer contacted him last week regarding the loan, which is interest-free and affords the city 10 years to repay. The City would have to agree to the loan by Oct. 1. If that happens, the City would receive bids from contractors in October. Construction would begin next year and be completed by the end of 2012.

“On the street level, this [money] will take care of the whole deal,” said Kingsolver during Tacoma City Council’s study session on Tuesday. “This is the first I’ve heard of something like this. This is a tremendous opportunity for the city.”

The bridge was closed to motor vehicles Oct. 23, 2007, due to safety concerns that arose after weeks of inspections by Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) engineers. In 2008, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation included the bridge on its annual list of Most Endangered Properties. Also in 2008, the bridge was included on Historic Tacoma’s “Watch List” of historic sites.

Earlier this year, the bridge was closed completely to all traffic, including pedestrians and bicyclists, while contractors replaced the wire lift cables. In addition to this work, the full rehabilitation plan calls for rehabilitating the center truss span, completing both of the bridge approaches, and completing seismic enhancements. The bridge is expected to be fully restored and re-opened to all traffic by 2013.

Last year, Tacoma City Council approved a resolution that reverted ownership of the bridge back to the City of Tacoma. WSDOT took responsibility of the bridge in the mid-1990s while it constructed State Route 509 from Interstate 705 to Milwaukee Avenue. According to an earlier agreement, the State agreed to return the bridge back to the City once SR 509 was completed.

According to the resolution approved by City Council in December, Washington State has agreed to provide the City approximately $10.8 million dollars in state funds, and $26.2 million in Federal Highway Administration funds toward rehabilitation; the City agreed to accept ownership of the bridge in its current condition, “extinguish[ing] any real of implied agreements between Tacoma and Washington State regarding future bridge expenditures”; and WSDOT will support the City in its effort to secure additional federal funds to rehabilitate the bridge.

The Murray Morgan Bridge re-opened March 31 to pedestrians and bicyclists during a ceremony that marked the first phase of a plan to rehabilitate the bridge.

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For earlier Index coverage of the Murray Morgan Bridge, click on the following links or visit the Index’s archives for the following articles:

Bicyclists, pedestrians return to Murray Morgan Bridge (03/31/10) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1743750&more=0

Murray Morgan Bridge ribbon-cutting March 31 (03/18/10) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1735862&more=0

Murray Morgan Makeover (02/09/10)

Steel cables, heavy equipment signal beginning of Murray Morgan Bridge rehab (01/25/10)

Bridge Support: A chorus of praise for saving Murray Morgan Bridge (12/04/09)

Tacoma City Council approves Murray Morgan Bridge agreement (12/02/09)

City Council to vote Dec. 1 on Murray Morgan Bridge agreement (11/25/09)

Tacoma closer to owning Murray Morgan Bridge (11/19/09)

Murray Morgan Bridge rehab delayed (10/08/09)

Contract awarded for Murray Morgan Bridge cable project (06/17/09)

City, State Murray Morgan Bridge funding negotiations will continue (05/06/09)

Murray Morgan Mojo: $3 million project to replace bridge cables ready to begin (12/16/08)

City, State consider innovative financing plan for Murray Morgan Bridge rehab (12/11/08)

2008 Washington State Endangered Historic Properties — Murray Morgan Bridge (06/11/08)

Murray Morgan Bridge’s Endangered Legacy (05/30/08)

Murray Morgan Bridge tops list of Washington Trust’s annual Most Endangered Historic Properties (05/27/08)

Murray Morgan Bridge closure expensive decision (10/31/07)