Fife seeks to ban big rigs on Milroy Bridge

City sent request to county, which has often said decades-old span has been studied for replacement

kari.plog@thenewstribune.comDecember 16, 2013 

Tractor trailers soon might be prohibited from crossing a busy bridge that connects Fife and unincorporated Pierce County at a major thoroughfare in the Puyallup Valley.

The Fife City Council unanimously voted last week to request that Pierce County ban large trucks on the George Milroy Bridge over the Puyallup River at 66th Avenue East and River Road.

Fife already restricts large trucks from accessing the span on the North Levee Road side.

The action comes after talks between city and county staff, who came to an agreement that the ban would help curb traffic problems caused by the oversized vehicles occupying the decades-old span.

“It’s our complete expectation that (Pierce County) will go through a process that would see tractor trailers banned from that bridge,” Councilman Glenn Hull told The News Tribune last week.

The Milroy Bridge, built in 1931 and jointly owned by the city and the county, is a highly traveled and low-rated structure. It carries a rating of 37.75 out of 100, is classified functionally obsolete and is “far narrower than would be built today,” according to the resolution passed Tuesday.

The steel-truss bridge – the only one of its kind owned by Pierce County – doesn’t have weight restrictions, but has a height limit of 14 feet, 6 inches.

The Milroy Bridge carries an average of about 10,400 vehicles a day, including many trucks hauling freight to and from the Port of Tacoma through the Puyallup Valley. Commuters have complained about oversized trucks trying to cut across the span.

Katie Bennett of Puyallup says she uses the bridge to get to work in Federal Way, and often watches trucks take up the entire width while attempting to cross.

She’s pleased with the proposed ban.

“I think it’s a smart decision,” Bennett said in an email Wednesday, “especially since I’ve experienced having one of the long loads miss my bumper by inches.”

Language in the resolution approved by the City Council echoes Bennett’s concerns, stating that “the bridge’s narrow lanes make it impossible for tractor trailer trucks to use the bridge without using lanes designated for opposing traffic.”

Replacing the aging bridge is a possibility, but one that is still several years out.

Kraig Shaner, bridge engineering supervisor for Pierce County, has said in previous interviews with The News Tribune that the Milroy Bridge is being studied for possible replacement, though the structural integrity of the span isn’t a safety concern.

Previous estimates pegged replacement costs at $15 million to $20 million.

Russ Blount, Fife’s public works director, said he doesn’t know when the county will pick up the city’s request. But officials are eager for it to happen.

“We have trucks that just continually get stuck,” Blount said.

Kari Plog: 253-597-8682 kari.plog@thenewstribune.com @KariPlog

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