Monday, December 21, 2020

Starting 2021 off big in Tacoma with record-setting bridge girders

Update: Jan. 6, 2021
Overnight closures:
Full closures of southbound SR 167/Bay Street/River Road at East Grandview Avenue may begin as early as 8:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday nights. Any Friday night closures of southbound SR 167 will start at 10 p.m. The southbound I-5 exit 135 to Portland Avenue and North SR 167 and the Port of Tacoma Road on-ramp to southbound I-5 are now closing each night at 9 p.m.
By Cara Mitchell and Nick VinZant

We, like you, are ready to kick 2020 to the curb. It just so happens that the pandemic delays felt in our construction schedule allows us to start 2021 with a big project milestone. What is happening in January is no small matter. In fact, it is record breaking.

The longest prestressed concrete girder made in North America will soon arrive at its new home on the new southbound Interstate 5 Puyallup River Bridge in Tacoma. At 223 feet long, almost nine feet high and more than 246,500 pounds, it is a record. This mammoth girder, along with 29 others that are almost as big, will complete the backbone of a bridge that will carry southbound I-5 traffic over the Puyallup River and several railroad lines.
Our new 223-foot-long girder stretches all the way across Port of Tacoma Road.

Installing these colossal girders will require some overnight lane and ramp closures. Once installed, we will be one step closer to easing congestion on I-5 near the Puyallup River Bridge and connecting HOV lanes from SR 16 in Gig Harbor to I-5 and across the Puyallup River in Tacoma and into King County.

The girders
Picture a blue whale and a 747 airplane. Your average blue whale weighs around 200,000 pounds. Most 747s have a wingspan of just under 200 feet. That is roughly the same weight and length as each of the 30 girders we are about to install.

Our contractor, Guy F. Atkinson Construction, will begin installing these girders as early as Monday, January 4. Each weeknight through the month of January, construction crews will move the girders from their current home at Concrete Technology Corporation in Tacoma to their new home on the southbound side of the new I-5 Puyallup River bridge. Two cranes will move 3-to-5 girders a night into place. Once installed, this final set of girders – along with 54 others that were installed in February 2020 – will form the backbone of the new bridge.
Overnight closures and detours
Because of the size of the girders and the equipment being used, and to keep drivers and workers safe, some overnight lane and ramp closures will be in place during this work.
This map shows the closures and detours needed to safely install girders on the new southbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge. Not all closures will happen at the same time.

Monday, Jan. 4 through Thursday, Jan. 7
  • One lane of southbound I-5 across the Puyallup River Bridge will close each night from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
  • The Port of Tacoma Road on-ramp to southbound I-5 will close each night from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.
  • The southbound I-5 exit 135 to Portland Avenue and North SR 167 will close each night from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.
  • Southbound SR 167/Bay Street/River Road will close at East Grandview Avenue each night from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.
Monday, Jan. 11 through Thursday, Jan. 14
  • One lane of southbound I-5 across the Puyallup River Bridge will close each night from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
  • The Port of Tacoma Road on-ramp to southbound I-5 will close each night from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.
  • The southbound I-5 exit 135 to Portland Avenue and North SR 167 will close each night from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Monday, Jan. 18 through Thursday, Jan. 20
  • Two lanes of southbound I-5 across the Puyallup River Bridge will close each night from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
  • Southbound SR 167/Bay Street/River Road will close at East Grandview Avenue each night from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.
  • The Port of Tacoma Road on-ramp to southbound I-5 will close each night from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.
  • The southbound I-5 exit 135 to Portland Avenue and North SR 167 will close each night from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Clearly signed detours will be in place for each of the closures. We will share the closure hours and dates on the project website and on the Pierce and Thurston County travel planner one week prior to the closure.

Installing girders this size is weather dependent and brings with it some unique concerns. Construction work will need to be paused to accommodate railroad activity and stopped during periods of high wind. The schedule could change because of these delays. We will keep you updated if anything changes.

Focus on the finish
Seeing these massive girders being installed will be quite a sight but please keep your eyes focused on the road. We will be using drones to capture all the action, so you won't miss a thing.

Once crews are finished installing these girders, we will have completed a major step forward in construction of the new southbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge.

With the bridge's backbone firmly in place, construction crews can continue building the bridge deck and take the next step forward in paving the road. Once this work is complete, the new lanes will open, and you'll be able to say you've driven across the biggest girder of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. That momentous occasion is just as big as finishing construction of the HOV lanes through Fife and Tacoma.

When might travelers be driving across the new southbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge? Given the year we have just had, it's really hard to say. The contractor hopes to have one or two lanes open for southbound travelers exiting to SR 167/Portland Avenue or coming from the Port of Tacoma Road sometime in the summer of 2021. All lanes of the new bridge are tentatively scheduled to open in fall 2021. There is a lot of work left on the project such as finishing the new East L Street overpass, replacing the original roadway surface of I-5, and removing the old 1960s era bridge spans.
A drone's-eye view of the construction site of the southbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge.

We know this has been a long time coming and we are just as eager as you are to finish the job!

Thank you for your continued patience. Please help keep workers safe by paying attention to the road in front of you as your drive through the work zone.

4 comments:

Unknown said...

So which girders are the longest, these ones or the ones at the under construction 70th Ave project? When those were installed you all said they were the longest...just curious at this point.

WSDOT said...

The 223 foot-long prestressed concrete girder being installed on the new southbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge in Tacoma currently holds the record as the longest manufactured in the U.S. It is three feet longer than the girders installed on the 70th Avenue East project.

CM said...

Who fabricating the beams?

WSDOT said...

CM,

Concrete Technology out of Tacoma

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