Partnership sought for Puyallup River Bridge replacement

The 95-year-old Murray Morgan Bridge isn’t Tacoma’s only crumbling span in need of repair.

According to officials in the City of Tacoma’s Public Works department, the 80-year-old Puyallup River Bridge must be replaced, and efforts are under way to identify funding and partnerships to complete the project.

But whereas the Murray Morgan Bridge is owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation and could cost $80 million to rehabilitate or $135 million to replace, the Puyallup River Bridge is city-owned and could be replaced in phases depending on which sections need the most attention and what money is available.

What portion of the 2,453-foot bridge needs immediate attention?

According to project manager Jim Parvey, two bridge sections totalling 800 feet, located just east of Portland Avenue, and spanning a set of railroad tracks operated by Burlington Northern Santa Fe, would be first. The main deficiencies are failed columns supported by wood and steel shoring. Parvey briefed Tacoma City Council’s environment and public works committee on the issue Nov. 4.

Two designs for this section of the bridge have been proposed: a $20 million structure with a steel arch and concrete girder; and a $23 million cable-stayed bridge. However, the steel structure would not provide the vertical clearance needed for track improvements Burlington Northern Santa Fe would like to complete in order to more efficiently move freight in and out of the Port of Tacoma.

According to Parvey, approximately $14 million of the $23 million needed to replace these sections is already available: $12.64 million from the federal government, and $1.4 million from the city’s general fund. So far, the City has met with officials from Burlington Northern Santa Fe, the Port of Tacoma, and Tacoma Rail to gauge their interests in funding the project.

The Puyallup River Bridge stretches from Portland Avenue, across railroad tracks and the Puyallup River, and into Fife.

On Tuesday, the council committee approved a do-pass recommendation for the cable-stay bridge design. It also directed staff to continue to pursue funding partners.