Pierce County, Key Peninsula celebrate Vaughn Bay bridge opening

More than 100 people gathered March 25 on Key Peninsula to officially open the new Vaughn Bay Bridge. Key Peninsula residents of all ages enjoyed the perfect spring weather and breathtaking view of Vaughn Bay as county, state, and federal officials discussed the economic and environmental impact of the new bridge.

The completion of this bridge marks the third bridge to span this area. The first was a 14 span timber bridge built in 1925, followed by a five span, 201 foot long concrete bridge in 1966. Today’s bridge is a single span, 219 foot long concrete girder bridge and is six feet higher than the old one. It has two 12 foot lanes, and six foot shoulders. Incorporating the latest in bridge technology, this span is designed to last 75 years or more. In 2002, this bridge was chosen for replacement because it was considered vulnerable to earthquakes.

The $3 million price tag was almost entirely funded with Federal Bridge Replacement Funds administered through the Washington State Department of Transportation Highways and Local Programs Division. Pierce County Public Works and Utilities Director Brian Ziegler said, “This project showed how multiple agencies can partner together to maximize the budget and provide a meaningful and essential service to Pierce County residents.”

“This project put 129 people to work for almost 10,000 hours, which is a huge testament to its economic significance,” said Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy.

To maintain the environmental integrity of Vaughn Creek, the bridge construction overcame significant challenges. Contractors placed large precast girders, which required the use of special cranes that were not readily available, and aspects of the work could only be performed at certain times to keep from disturbing the natural habitat. The project’s single span design also provides environmental benefits by removing 36 concrete poles that affected water flow and debris at the mouth of the creek.

District 7 Councilmember Terry Lee thanked the community for their patience and support throughout the seven month construction. To close the ceremony, Chuck West, division chief for the Key Peninsula Fire Department, commemorated the new bridge with a kiss from the peninsula’s mascot, the geoduck.

Immediately following the ribbon cutting, a Key Peninsula Medic One vehicle, followed by a 1932 Chevrolet coupe owned by local Dave Robertson, officially opened the bridge.

Also in attendance was State Senator Derek Kilmer, Mike English representing Senator Maria Cantwell, Joe Dacca representing Congressman Norm Dicks, and WSDOT Highways and Local Programs Director Kathleen Davis.