A heavy headache for bridge

March 23, 2007 

COEUR d’ALENE, Idaho – A massive piece of the new Tacoma Narrows bridge remains stranded at the Washington-Idaho state line where officials say it’s too heavy to move across Evergreen State roads.

The 73-foot-long expansion joint, which will be used to connect the bridge to the Gig Harbor side of the Narrows, tipped the scales at 330,000 pounds Saturday when it rolled into the Washington weigh station 20 miles east of Spokane. The weigh-in includes the tonnage of the custom-built trailer carrying the steel-and-neoprene joint.

The piece has been stranded along Interstate 90 at the state line ever since, and weigh station officials say it won’t budge unless the trucking company hired to ship the part makes it right.

“They’re going to have to figure that out,” Nicholas Hopper, spokesman for the Washington State Patrol’s Commercial Vehicle Division, said Thursday.

One solution might be spreading the object’s weight out over more axles, Hopper said. The 130,000-pound trailer already has 21 axles – in trucker speak that makes it an 84-wheeler.

Big Boat Movers, a Texas-based trucking company, is charged with making the Minnesota-to-Tacoma haul. Owner Mike Love said Thursday that adding more axles might not be practical, partly because more trailer means the more weight, but also because a longer load would present traveling problems.

The 15-foot-wide trailer already stretches to 149 feet. An addition to the body would extend that to 200 feet, and push the cost of the trailer to more than $100,000.

The movers headed out from Minnesota on March 1 and made it through five states without being stopped, Love said, and on fewer axles.

They anticipated being asked for more axles in Washington and stopped in Idaho to boost the trailer’s count from 18 to 21. The addition increased the weight of the load by 6,000 to 16,000 pounds, depending on who’s asked.

Love said the load weighed 314,000 pounds when it left the weigh station in Montana. He thinks it weighs 320,000 now, which is 10,000 pounds lighter than portable scales at the state line weigh station reported.

The trailer might have passed muster at scales in other states, said Claudia Cornish, spokeswoman for the state’s Tacoma Narrows project office.

In some states, the weight limits are set on the number of axles on the trailer. A truck might be allowed 22,000 pounds per axle. Were that the case in Washington, Tacoma would have had its bridge piece Monday.

But Washington also considers where the weight is distributed. Too many axles in one area of a trailer can push into the ground like a sharp stiletto heel. State regulations are intended to make the trailer’s footprint much larger.

Love also had to buy a transport permit for each state the bridge traveled through. Like the weight regulations, those vary greatly – from a low of $146 in Idaho to $5,000 in Washington.

The bridge project, now in its 54th month, is running four months behind schedule, so Tacoma Narrows Constructors is in a hurry for the accordion-like expansion joint, which would keep the mile-long bridge grounded in an earthquake or other bridge-moving event.

Another expansion joint has yet to be shipped from Minnesota.

And the one stranded more than 300 miles from Tacoma?

“We’re open to suggestions,” Love said. “What I’ve told them is, ‘We’ll do this anyway we can.’ If it’s impossible, then it’s real easy: Y’all can build the bridge in Idaho.”

The News Tribune is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service