Council vote ahead for Murray Morgan Bridge loan

Tacoma City Council is expected to vote Tuesday on a resolution that will go a long way toward rehabilitating the 97-year-old Murray Morgan Bridge.

Last year, Tacoma City Council approved a resolution that reverted ownership of the bridge from the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) back to the City of Tacoma. WSDOT took responsibility of the bridge in the mid-1990s while it constructed a portion of 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 last year, Washington State has agreed to provide the City approximately $10.8 million dollars in state funds, and $26.2 million in Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) 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.

City Council’s action next week would confirm the federal funding planned for the bridge rehabilitation. According to the resolution request prepared Sept. 1 by Public Works Director Richard E. McKinley, the city is poised to enter into a local agency agreement with WSDOT and accept approximately $46.2 million in federal funds to be paid between 2011 and 2013. The amount includes 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. The loan is from unobligated WSDOT local Surface Transportation Program funds. Of the remaining $26.2 million FHWA funds, $7.5 million is to be paid in 2011, $12.5 million in 2012, and approximately $6.2 million in 2013.

Last month, Public Works engineer Kurtis Kingsolver told councilmembers that a WSDOT engineer contacted him regarding the interest-free loan. In order to take advantage of the loan, the City would have to agree to it by Oct. 1. If that happens, the City would begin the bid process in October. Construction would begin next year and be completed by the end of 2012.

“On the street level, this [loan] will take care of the whole deal,” said Kingsolver during Tacoma City Council’s study session on Aug. 31. “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 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.

The resolution is scheduled to be introduced during Tacoma City Council’s meeting Tues., Sept. 14 at 5 p.m. at the Tacoma Municipal Building, Council Chambers, 747 Market St. For a copy of the agenda, click here — .

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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:

$20M WSDOT loan would complete Murray Morgan Bridge rehab (09/01/10) —

Bicyclists, pedestrians return to Murray Morgan Bridge (03/31/10) —

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)