Thursday, August 11, 2022

Night groovin’ with accordions on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge

By Jamison Murphy

When you think of the word accordion, you might think of your favorite polka hit, or maybe even the brilliance of Weird Al Yankovic. And while those things are great, when I hear accordion, I think of bridges.

Say what?

No, we don’t regularly have accordion concerts on our bridges. Instead, our bridges rely on a type of expansion joint called accordion joints to be safe and functioning.

What are accordion joints? They are special devices that allow bridges to expand and contract with weather changes and seismic activity. The series of joints open and close in a similar fashion as their namesake accordion. They are vital to keeping the bridge operating safely.

We used vactor trucks to essentially vacuum up debris from the accordion joints to clean them up.

And that means it’s vital for our bridge crews to maintain those joints. Keeping these joints clean means they will function properly when they are needed and prolong the bridge’s lifespan.

Tuning the accordions at night

Our crews recently worked on maintaining accordion joints on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.To minimize traffic interference, they took to the nightshift for the cleaning and inspection, first closing two right lanes and then closing two left lanes to at least keep some traffic moving.

Besides the larger attachment on the vactor truck, our crews used other attachments to get into tighter spaces on the accordion joints.

A vactor truck – a truck with a giant vacuum attached – with two different attachments was used. One attachment had a wide cone-style opening to suck up larger debris. The other divides into two smaller hoses so two people can vacuum finer debris in separate spots at the same time.

In the end, we wound up with some very clean accordion joints and overall, a very clean Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

A look at a nice, newly cleaned up accordion joint.

Well, while we’re out here...

Taking advantage of the lane closures, the crew did some additional work that is much easier without traffic.

They did some deck patching of the old bridge and removed debris that had gathered in the towers and between guardrail posts. On another night, they returned to paint the towers on the north strut.

By working at night, our crews were able to minimize the traffic disruption on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

In all, it was great work by our team safely bunching up several pieces of work into a couple overnights when traffic was lighter. Thanks to all our workers and to drivers for being safe and alert around our crews. Getting projects done – especially at night – can be a challenge so whenever things go smoothly and safely, it’s (accordion) music to my ears.