Bridge piece may hit the road today

April 4, 2007 

Joe Fredregill of Big Boat Movers gives hand instructions Tuesday, as equipment is removed from a truck trailer in Spokane Valley. The trailer is hauling a 73-foot-long, 100-ton expansion joint for the new Tacoma Narrows bridge. The trailer was stopped March 17 at the Washington-Idaho border for being overweight.

J. BART RAYNIAK/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW

The Texas trucking company struggling to get a 100-ton piece of the new Tacoma Narrows bridge across Washington state spent Tuesday trying to rent extra equipment needed for the 300-mile move.

It hasn’t been easy.

Some potential renters in Washington, aware of Big Boat Movers’ predicament, jacked up their prices to exorbitant levels, according to two people with knowledge of the negotiations. And the companies demanded their money up front, worried by media reports that the ill-fated move may drive Big Boat into bankruptcy.

“It seems to me that we here in Washington are trying to take advantage of Big Boat’s unfortunate situation,” said Bill Sinclair, a Shelton-based hauler who is helping Big Boat with local logistics.

Officials with Big Boat didn’t return calls for comment on Tuesday.

Big Boat has the contract to carry two of the expansion joints from Minnesota, where they were made, to the construction site at the Tacoma Narrows.

Washington stopped Big Boat at the Idaho border on March 17 after a weigh-in indicated its load did not meet the state’s weight distribution requirements or the conditions outlined in the company’s hauling permit.

The only way for Big Boat to satisfy this state’s requirements was to turn its 165-foot-long rig into a double-wide configuration. The load will take up two traffic lanes and is likely to take at least four days to crawl across the state on interstate freeways.

On Tuesday, Big Boat managed to rent two extra trailers, or “jeeps,” from a Western Washington company. The jeeps will be hauled to the Department of Transportation yard in Spokane, where the rig and its load are parked.

Restructuring the load into a dual lane configuration is likely to take one or two days. If the new configuration passes muster with the state, Big Boat could be back on the road by late today and in Tacoma by early next week.

The terms of Big Boat’s new permit with the state severely restrict its movement through the heavily congested Seattle-Bellevue area, allowing travel only from 2:30 to 6:30 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

In Pierce County, the conditions are less restrictive. The truck will be allowed to travel between 11:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. any day except Friday and Saturday, accompanied by three pilot cars and the Washington State Patrol.

At the end of the day Tuesday, the State Department of Transportation still hadn’t issued Big Boat a new permit, but agency officials said it would almost certainly be issued today.

“They’ve presented a configuration that we’ve accepted,” said Claudia Cornish, a transportation department spokeswoman. “It’s just a paper thing at this point.”

TRACK THE TRUCK | Once the truck with the Tacoma Narrows bridge part hits the road you can follow its trip across the state. A GPS device on one of the state’s escort vehicles will provide a signal. In the meantime, keep your eye on the truck's holding location with a WSDOT Web cam.

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