In 2005, the City of Puyallup annexed 1.1 acres known as the Neeley Annexation Area that included the Milwaukee Bridge located on Milwaukee Avenue Northeast and 5th Street Northeast.
The bridge, which Pierce County Public Works built in 1961, has been rendered structurally deficient, according to a 2011 rating that put the structure’s integrity at 15.32 out of 100.
Bridge expectations performed every two years by Sergeant Engineering estimates the life of the bridge is 10 years or less. The price tag to build a replacement is $12.5 million, according to a city staff report.
“(The city) essentially annexed a $12.5 million liability,” City council member John Hopkins said.
Council members had an opportunity during the Feb. 5 meeting to accept a $10 million Federal Highway Administration Bridge Replacement Advisory Committee grant that would pay for 80 percent of a replacement structure. As part of accepting the grant, the city would be responsible for coming up with the balance of $2,580,000. The balance could be supported with state grants and raised throughout the life of the replacement project between 2013 and ’17, city Public Works Director Rob Andreotti said.
Council member John Palmer made a motion to approve and accept the grant, but it died for lack of additional support.
Palmer said he was shocked there was no decision on the floor to discuss the grant, and more particularly, strategies to come up with $2.5 million.
“I don’t think we should be turning down a $10 million grant for a bridge that needs to be replaced that costs us $12.5 million,” Palmer said in a later interview. “To me, it’s a no-brainer. The life of that bridge is about 10 years, and the way I look at it, the federal government is offering to pay for 80 percent of that bridge. I would take it.”
Palmer believes a majority of council members did not vote to accept the grant because there was not enough detail in the staff report that outlined the deadline for the $2.5 million and how the city could come up with that money.
“I’m hopeful the city manager comes back with a memo to describe options on the $10 million grant,” Palmer said.
Andreotti said his staff members are putting together a detailed report on the history of the bridge and its condition. As of press time, he said council members would soon have the report.
Andreotti said the grant will be put back on the agenda later this year for a council vote.
To mitigate strain on the bridge, weight restrictions were put in place in 2008. A posted load for a single-axle truck is the standard 25 tons, Andreotti said. Posted limits for a truck and trailer and a truck and double trailer are 32 tons and 33 tons, respectively, compared to legal limits of 44 tons and 54 tons, respectively.
Further inspection tests also have determined the bridge to be functionally obsolete based on modern-day standards. For example, the deck width of the bridge is 26 feet. Current standards are 50 feet.
A replacement project would bring everything up to code, Andreotti said.
According to city documents, the bridge replacement project was listed in the Transportation Improvement Plan 2013-18, which was approved by the city council last August and incorporated into the capital budget beginning in 2014.
Andreotti said the city is evaluating which state grants are available to help supplement the balance of $2.5 million.
“The Transportation Improvement Board is the most promising state grant,” Andreotti said.
June is the application deadline for the competitive grant.Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.