Sumner City Council members embrace design for new bridge

Staff writerMay 18, 2014 

Sumner is closing in on a final design for replacement of an iconic bridge that crosses the White River in the southwest part of the city.

City spokeswoman Carmen Palmer said at a study session last week that the goal is to create a distinct look for the Bridge Street bridge that’s “immediately recognizable” to residents and commuters.

The old steel-truss span connects Sumner’s downtown corridor with the North Puyallup and Edgewood areas.

During the meeting, Sumner City Council members agreed that the bridge, known for its Christmas light display, should be replaced with an open layout.

Council members praised one proposed design for creating a streamlined connection between downtown and The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse, a well-known institution in East Pierce County.

This proposal was one of three options presented by consulting firm BergerABAM and will serve as a template as the city moves forward with more detailed planning.

Dave Radcliffe, CEO of The Old Cannery, has been closely involved with the design and agreed with the council’s favored option.

“This seems to open it up a great deal for us,” Radcliffe said at the meeting.

Early renderings show a concrete-girder structure with a decorative railing and wave-like fixtures. The bridge would have a viewpoint in the middle for pedestrians to stop and clearly see the water.

The Bridge Street bridge is beloved for its holiday displays, provided by The Old Cannery, and the tradition would be incorporated into the new structure year-round.

High-tech LED light fixtures would be timed and programmed in a color-coordinated manner. The city could alternate red and green lights for Christmas and use other colors for events throughout the year.

City staff will work with BergerABAM to narrow down details on the proposal, including types of materials for fixtures and railings. The City Council will then review the details.

Palmer told The News Tribune the city will continue to inform the public and accept feedback as the process continues. But officials will move with speed and efficiency.

“The current bridge isn’t getting any younger,” she said in an email.

The design is estimated to cost $591,000 to $1 million more than the current $12 million covered by grant funding; the extra cost will be covered by the city street fund.

The council’s favored design was the least expensive of the three options. The new bridge wouldn’t require as much maintenance, and city engineer Mike Dahlem said it would be “clear and easy to inspect.”

Sumner’s elected leaders were impressed with its distinct features.

Council member Kathy Hayden said she was pleased to see a proposal that would better connect downtown Sumner with the west side of the river.

Hayden added that she wants to see the bridge’s light fixtures match those that line Main Street so downtown “doesn’t stop at the tracks.”

Council member Nancy Dumas said she likes that the open layout would direct people’s focus to the river rather than the span itself.

“I like the lower profile,” she said. “It opens up the asset of the river.”

The Bridge Street bridge, built in 1920, carries 7,500 vehicles daily. It’s rated 11.3 out of 100 by the state, well below the priority replacement rating of 50.

The bridge is classified as functionally obsolete and structurally deficient, meaning its design is outdated and it requires replacement of some or all of structure. It’s also fracture critical, so failure of one component could cause the entire span to collapse.

Two years ago, the city imposed a weight limit of 12 tons on the bridge, which already had a 14-foot height limit. East Pierce Fire & Rescue had to adjust its response procedures to keep overweight emergency vehicles off the bridge.

Dahlem said construction of the replacement bridge likely will begin in spring 2015 for an estimated fall 2016 completion. The current bridge will remain open while the new bridge is under construction.

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