Posted by: wadahp | December 14, 2009

CITY OF TACOMA NEW OWNER OF THE MURRAY MORGAN BRIDGE

From the Tacoma Daily Index, by Todd Matthews.  For the full article, click here.

Tacoma City Council’s decision Tuesday, December 1, to accept ownership of the Murray Morgan Bridge from the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) was an important milestone for the nearly century-old historic landmark.

That doesn’t mean the bridge has been saved. To be sure, there is still plenty of heavy lifting ahead: wire lift cables need to be replaced, the center truss span needs attention (as well as both approaches to the bridge), and seismic enhancements are also on the to-do list.

But an entity — the City of Tacoma — that truly cares about the bridge now owns it.

WSDOT took responsibility of the bridge in the mid-1990s while it constructed State Route 509 from Interstate 705 to Milwaukee Avenue. According to an earlier agreement, the State agreed to return the bridge back to the City once SR 509 was completed. However, the bridge has suffered from years of deferred maintenance and neglect at the hands of WSDOT. This came despite agreements between the City and the State that WSDOT would either rehabilitate or replace the bridge before returning it to Tacoma.

The original agreement, dated March 23, 1995, indicates the “State shall retain ownership and maintenance of the existing Thea Foss Waterway [Murray Morgan] Bridge until the state completes the rehabilitation of the bridge. Upon the completion of the rehabilitation, the City shall accept said [bridge].”

Similarly, a supplement to the agreement, dated Jan. 26, 1998, states, “The State shall retain ownership and maintenance of the existing Murray Morgan Bridge . . . until the State replaces the existing bridge with a new bridge. The new bridge will be either a replica of the existing bridge or of a alternative design developed through a public process including consultation with the Tacoma City Council. Upon completion of the replacement of the existing bridge, the City shall accept said [bridge].”

WSDOT’s failure to maintain the bridge led to some sad decisions and designations: the bridge, which was built in 1913, was closed to vehicular traffic Oct. 23, 2007, due to safety concerns that arose after weeks of inspections by WSDOT engineers; in 2008, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation included the bridge on its annual list of Most Endangered Properties; the bridge was also included on Historic Tacoma’s ‘watch list’ of endangered properties.

According to the new agreement approved this week, WSDOT will provide the City approximately $10.8 million in state funds, and $26.2 million in Federal Highway Administration funds toward the bridge’s rehabilitation; and WSDOT will support the City in its effort to secure additional federal funds to rehabilitate the bridge.

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