Tacoma City Council approves contract to keep Murray Morgan, Hylebos bridges operable

Tacoma City Council approved a purchase resolution Tuesday that provides operation and maintenance services for two key bridges recently re-opened after years of closure: the Hylebos Bridge, which spans the Hylebos Waterway and was closed for more than a decade; and the Murray Morgan Bridge, which spans Thea Foss Waterway and was closed for more than five years.

The resolution revises a contract awarded to Orion Marine Contractors, Inc. of Tacoma one year ago this month. The original agreement awarded a $546,000 contract to operate the Hylebos Bridge 24 hours per day, seven days a week for the first year, and on a reduced schedule for the next four years.

“This [agreement] assumed the City would be successful in petitioning the Coast Guard for a reduced operation schedule,” wrote interim Public Works Director Kurtis D. Kingsolver in a March 6 memo to Tacoma City Manager T. C. Broadnax. “Based on the number and timing of bridge openings for the first six months of operation, the Coast Guard did not approve a reduction in the operating schedule. Therefore, Orion’s contract must be amended to reflect 24 hours a day, seven days a week operations for years two through five of the contract.”

The revised contract also pays to operate and maintain the newly renovated Murray Morgan Bridge.

“Since the Murray Morgan Bridge has a high clearance (approximately 60 feet at high tide), the bridge does not have to be opened as many times as the Hylebos Bridge (approximately 100 times per year versus approximately 350 times per month),” added Kingsolver. “Due to a low number of openings, the Murray Morgan Bridge is operated on an on-call basis with two hours advance notification required for bridge openings.”

The approved purchase resolution adds approximately $2.9 million to the original contract, bringing the total contract value to approximately $3.5 million.

Both bridges were recently re-opened after long periods of closure. The Hylebos Bridge closed in 2001 when a failed drive shaft meant operators could no longer raise and lower the bridge. It was repaired and re-opened last May.

The Murray Morgan Bridge was closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic in November 2007 after a Washington State Department of Transportation inspection deemed the bridge structurally deficient. On Feb. 1, the bridge was re-opened opened to vehicle and pedestrian traffic after a major rehabilition project. A ceremony was held on Feb. 15 to celebrate the bridge’s re-opening.

Last June, representatives from the City of Tacoma and the Port of Tacoma gathered on the west side of the Blair Waterway for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the official re-opening of the Hylebos Bridge. (FILE PHOTOS BY TODD MATTHEWS)