City Council to vote Dec. 1 on Murray Morgan Bridge agreement

Tacoma City Council is expected Dec. 1 to vote on a resolution to approve a turn-back agreement that would transfer ownership of the Murray Morgan Bridge from Washington State to the City of Tacoma.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) took responsibility of the 96-year-old 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. However, the bridge has suffered from years of deferred maintenance and neglect. It was closed to vehicular traffic Oct. 23, 2007, due to safety concerns that arose after weeks of inspections by WSDOT engineers. In 2008, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation included the bridge on its annual list of Most Endangered Properties. In April 2004, the state offered the city $25 million to take ownership the bridge, but the city rejected the offer because it was insufficient to rehabilitate the bridge. One consultant’s estimate indicated it will cost approximately $65 million to $80 million to fully rehabilitate the bridge.

As the Tacoma Daily Index first reported on Nov. 19 ( ), the council’s environment and public works committee made a “do-pass” recommendation of the turn-back agreement. According to the agreement, the City and WSDOT would agree to the following terms:

— Washington State agrees to provide the City approximately $10.8 million dollars in state funds, and $26.2 million in Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) funds. Approximately $5.04 million in state funds would be paid within 60 days, and the rest would be paid before July 1, 2010. The FHWA funds would be made available through the state’s Highways and Local Programs Division and applied toward a rehabilitation plan for the bridge;

— The City would agree 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”;

— Because State and Federal funds won’t be enough to fully rehabilitate the bridge, the agreement directs WSDOT to support the City in its effort to secure additional federal funds. The rehabilitation calls for replacing the wire lift cables, rehabilitating the center truss span, completing both of the bridge approaches, and completing seismic enhancements.

Legislation required the City and the State come up with a plan to return the bridge to the City by January 2010.

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

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) —