Back In Black? City proposal would paint Murray Morgan Bridge

The City of Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission is scheduled Wednesday to consider a proposal to paint the historic Murray Morgan Bridge one of two colors: black or silver. According to documents prepared for the meeting by city engineer Tom Rutherford, the bridge was last painted in the mid-1970s when the truss spans were colored “space blue” and the girders on the city-side bridge approach were colored “viking grey.” Prior to then, in 1964, the old car ramp from Cliff Street to Dock Street was painted green. Rutherford added that the new paint would serve to further preserve the bridge and increase its life service.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission will discuss the item during its meeting on Weds., March 23 at 5 p.m. at Tacoma Municipal Building North, 728 St. Helens, Room 16. For more information, click here.

The proposal to paint the bridge is part of a larger rehabilitation plan under way for the 98-year-old structure.

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 endangered historic sites. Eventually, the bridge was closed completely to all traffic, including pedestrians and bicyclists, while contractors replaced wire lift cables.

In September of last year, councilmembers approved a resolution to enter into an agreement with WSDOT and accept approximately $46.2 million in federal funds to be paid between 2011 and 2013. The amount included a $20 million interest-free loan, with $7.5 million loaned in 2011 and $12.5 million loaned in 2012. The city has 10 years to repay the loan. Last December, city officials announced thieves broke into the bridge mechanical room, stole copper wires, and damaged the control panel that allows operators to raise and lower the bridge deck. The estimated replacement cost is between $250,000 and $300,000, according to city officials.

In January of this year, Tacoma City Council unanimously approved a purchase resolution that awards a $49.2 million contract to PCL Construction Services of Bellevue, Wash., to fully rehabilitate the Murray Morgan Bridge and restore motor vehicle traffic to the bridge by 2012. According to the purchase resolution and supporting documents, the project includes “structural repairs, painting, deck replacement, mechanical and electrical system repairs and replacement, and superstructure seismic enhancements.”

To read the Tacoma Daily Index‘s complete and comprehensive coverage of the Murray Morgan Bridge rehabilitation, click on the following links: