Elevator from Foss Waterway to Murray Morgan Bridge deck finally opens

Long-delayed connection is 15 months late

April 30, 2014 

The stairs and elevator on the Murray Morgan Bridge (June, 11, 2013)

DEAN KOEPFLER

The Murray Morgan Bridge celebrated its grand re-opening February 1, 2013 and the elevator was supposed to open about the same time.

But a series of issues involving permitting and concerns by state elevator inspectors led to repeated delays.

This week, however, the long-awaited lift opened for riders.

“It’s long overdue and we thank everyone for their patience,” city Project Manager Tom Rutherford said in a City of Tacoma press release Wednesday. “It took us much longer to obtain the needed permits than expected, yet we hope everyone will now take advantage of the spring weather to get outside and put it to good use.”

The elevator, is required for the handicapped and disabled but is open to everyone. The elevator shaft is wrapped with a stairway and both allow pedestrians to get from Dock Street to the bridge deck. From there, pedestrians can cross the bridge into the Port of Tacoma or walk into downtown.

Here is how News Tribune staff writer John Gillie described the saga in February:

The elevator was scheduled to open early last year, along with the roadway, but its opening was postponed several times because of design and documentation problems.

Installation of the elevator began Dec. 19, 2012, but the company installing the machinery, Olympic Elevator, failed to obtain a permit, said Dana Botka, spokeswoman for the State Department of Labor & Industries. That department inspects elevators.

The company later obtained a permit, but L&I fined the elevator company and its installation mechanic $171.20 each.

The elevator machinery space had to be redesigned because the state said codes required it be reached via a stairwell, not by lifting a repair person with a forklift to a hatch for access to the machinery space.

Other issues involved installing lights at both the bridge deck and Dock Street levels and equipping the elevator with heat sensors designed to prevent the elevator from depositing its passengers on a level engulfed in flames during a fire.

Those issues delayed the elevator's completion until early fall. The state then asked the city whether the elevator complied with the city's own building code requirements.

The elevator originally had been permitted as part of the larger bridge rehab project, but because that project was complete except for the elevator, the city's building department decided it should be covered under a separate permit, said (Tacoma city engineer Tom) Rutherford.

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