Port of Tacoma commission approves funding to help replace Puyallup River Bridge

Port of Tacoma Commissioners Thursday approved a plan to offer $500,000 originally set aside for the Hylebos Bridge Rehabilitation Project to the City of Tacoma in its effort to replace a large portion of the aging Puyallup River Bridge. The action directs Port staff to send a letter of intent to City Hall outlining the offer and some contingencies.

The 84-year-old, 2,453-foot-long Puyallup River Bridge is comprised of six connecting segments that stretch from Portland Avenue, across railroad tracks and the Puyallup River, and into Fife. In 2008, City staff reported two bridge sections needed the most attention because of major structural deficiencies such as failed columns supported by wood and steel shoring. A recent report shows one segment of the bridge has a sufficiency rating of seven; another segment has a sufficiency rating of 20 (a brand-new bridge would have a sufficiency rating of 100).

The Port’s contribution won’t close the gap on funding for the project. To date, the City has raised approximately $25 million of the $38.7 million needed to replace the crumbling structure with a modern cable-stay bridge. But the Port’s contribution could foster more partnerships and open doors to more funding. On Thursday, Evette Mason, the Port’s government affairs manager, told commissioners the City recently applied for — but did not receive — a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant from the United States Department of Transportation. Although the Port wrote letters support for the TIGER grant, “the feedback [the City] received was that local funding partners would strengthen their application and leverage more dollars,” said Mason. The City is once again applying for a TIGER grant and has approached the City of Fife and Burlington Northern Santa Fe for support, in addition to the Port.

City engineer Kurtis Kingsolver told commissioners the City is also applying for a $13.7 million grant from the Puget Sound Regional Council. The City has also received $12.6 million in Federal highway bridge funds; $1.4 million in local Tacoma funds; $6 million in Federal Surface Transportation funds; and $5 million from the Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board. Earlier this month, the City applied for $19.7 million from the Transportation Coordinating Committee — $6 million more than is needed because the City is at risk of losing $6 million received from the Puget Sound Regional Council two years ago if the money isn’t used by the end of this year, according to Public Works staff.

“It’s difficult for us to fund anything of this magnitude with one round,” Kingsolver told commissioners.

In a March 6 memo to Port commissioners, Port CEO John Wolfe outlined a variety of reasons for funding the project, including the bridge’s key role serving Port operations (citing a 2006 study, Wolfe notes 800 of the 16,000 vehicles that cross the bridge daily are destined for or departing from Port of Tacoma facilities; he also notes the bridge is located midway along the five-mile Puyallup Avenue/Pacific Highway corridor, which serves over 100 manufacturing businesses and a major commercial sector in the Tacoma/Fife/Port of Tacoma region); the Port’s contribution could leverage partnership dollars with the City of Fife and Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railroad; and the new cable-stay bridge could expand future rail operations in the area.

Wolfe also listed several contingencies tied to the $500,000 contribution, such as the money “would be a credit with the City of Tacoma for future right-of-way purchases by the Port of Tacoma,” and the Hylebos Bridge must be open to vessel and vehicle traffic. That bridge is scheduled to open in May after being closed for more than a decade.

The new Puyallup River Bridge would replace two full segments and a portion of a third segment on the bridge’s west side with a new structure offering four lanes of traffic, eight-foot-wide sidewalks, and the vertical clearance for BNSF’s double-stack rail cars. Design work on the project is 90 percent complete, and the environmental phase is nearly complete. The City will spend the rest of this year securing right-of-way rights from BNSF, Union Pacific Railroad, the Puyallup Tribe and a private property owner.

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Port of Tacoma could direct $500K toward City’s Puyallup River Bridge project (03/14/12) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=2130679&more=0

City Council OKs more funding for Puyallup River Bridge design (01/20/12) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=2102547&more=0

More funding needed for Puyallup River Bridge design (01/13/12) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=2098963&more=0

More money needed for $32.5M Puyallup River Bridge replacement (04/27/11) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1965734&more=0

Broken Link: Partnership sought for Puyallup River Bridge replacement (11/06/08)