Hylebos Bridge rehab project reaches milestone

For the first time in a decade, the Hylebos Bridge is being lowered by its own power, City of Tacoma officials announced today.

In early 2001, a drive shaft on the northeast bascule leaf failed, causing the Bridge to become inoperable. In order to allow ship navigation to continue on the Hylebos Waterway, cables were used to hold the two bascule leaves in the open position. The leaves have remained in the open position since then. A subsequent fire in 2004 inside the northeast bascule pier caused additional damage to the Bridge, including its mechanical and electrical control systems. A bridge inspection conducted in August 2005 noted that the existing bridge approaches, support structure, fender system and electrical system are in poor condition and need to be replaced in addition to the repairs required for the bascule span and drive system.

The City of Tacoma, with funding from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Port of Tacoma, proposed to  rehabilitate the Hylebos Bridge located on the Hylebos Waterway (the Waterway) in Commencement Bay. The purpose of the Project is to rehabilitate the Hylebos Bridge to restore an evacuation route off of the East Blair Peninsula. In 2009, a $15.3 million contract was awarded to Quigg Bros, Inc. to complete the project.

The East Blair Peninsula is an area of intense industrial activity and facilities. Chemical plants, warehouses, ocean container terminals and other manufacturing facilities are located across its 918-acre area. A chemical release or large fire at any of these facilities could require immediate evacuation of the area.

Prior to 2001, the Peninsula was served by three separate routes: Taylor Way, Alexander Avenue and East 11th Street (over the Hylebos Bridge). Since that time, Alexander Avenue was vacated to the Port of Tacoma to allow development of Pierce County Terminal. East 11th Street has been blocked by the non-functioning Hylebos Bridge. Taylor Way is currently the only arterial providing unhindered access to and from the Peninsula. The potential hazards located on the East Blair Peninsula warrant two separate and permanent evacuation routes in case of emergency. If an emergency were to occur on the Peninsula today, the vacated portion of Alexander Avenue would be reopened as an additional evacuation route. Once the Hylebos Bridge is repaired and reopened to traffic, Alexander Avenue will be permanently vacated to the Port of Tacoma for their port expansion projects and the Hylebos Bridge would become that second permanent arterial route to and from the Peninsula.

Starting Aug. 20, the Hylebos Bridge will be in the down position for nine days for the removal and replacement of the deck. The construction contract will be complete and the bridge will be fully operational and open to both vehicular and shipping traffic this fall/winter.

For more information, visit www.cityoftacoma.org/hylebosbridge .