Wire thieves, vandals hit historic Murray Morgan Bridge

Sometime between Nov. 22 and Dec. 8, copper wire thieves broke into the mechanical room on the Murray Morgan Bridge and stole all of the wiring in the power and control panel that is used to raise and lower the bridge, according to City of Tacoma officials. As a result of this theft and extensive damage to the motors and controls used to move the bridge, the bridge currently cannot be raised to allow ships to pass underneath. City engineers have notified the United States Coast Guard, Martinac Shipbuilding and the Foss Waterway Development Authority, as well as local marine users, about the inability to open the bridge.

The bridge control equipment and motors are so badly damaged and so old that repair parts are no longer available, so the equipment will need to be replaced. The estimated replacement cost is between $250,000 and $300,000. City staff is investigating interim means to raise the bridge for marine traffic to pass underneath. The bridge is typically opened two or three times per month during the winter months and between 10 and 12 times per month during the peak summer boating season.

Planning for the rehabilitation of the Murray Morgan Bridge is under way, and the City just announced that it has selected PCL Construction Services, Inc. of Bellevue, Wash. to rehabilitate the bridge. Phase 1 of the repair, which will allow the historic bridge to re-open to vehicle traffic with one lane in each direction, is projected to be complete by the end of 2012.