Bicyclists, pedestrians return to Murray Morgan Bridge

The Murray Morgan Bridge re-opened this morning to pedestrians and bicyclists during a ceremony that marked the first phase of a plan to rehabilitate the nearly-century-old bridge.

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.

Last month, 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.

On Dec. 1, 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.

During today’s ceremony, Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, who wore a special Murray Morgan Bridge tiara (designed by LeRoy Jewelers downtown), called the bridge “a very special place, and a part of our history. She also thanked the citizens of Tacoma “who made phone calls and made this an issue.”

For additional photos from today’s event, visit the Index’s blog at

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For earlier Index coverage of the Murray Morgan Bridge, click on the following links:

Murray Morgan Bridge ribbon-cutting March 31 (03/18/10) —

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) —