The company building the new Tacoma Narrows bridge plans to put an 8-foot-high chain-link fence along the southern side of the existing bridge to keep debris from falling on its workers.
Tacoma Narrows Constructors will put up two 250-foot sections of fencing next to the bridge's two towers next week, according to the state Department of Transportation.
The massive footings, or caissons, for the new bridge are being constructed at the water level just south of the existing bridge towers.
The fence will remain in place for about two years, said Transportation Department spokeswoman Claudia Cornish.
Caisson workers have on several occasions narrowly missed being hit by bottles, pieces of debris and other items propelled over the side of the bridge by passing vehicles, Cornish said.
Though no one has been hit so far, TNC wants to install the fencing to ensure its crews stay safe.
"Safety is of paramount concern to TNC, and we must take every possible action to prevent that anyone gets injured," said Manuel Rondón, TNC's project manager.
Many commuters, fearing delays caused by drivers distracted by the bridge work, have suggested that the Transportation Department put up an opaque barrier along the southern side of the bridge to hide the construction.
State engineers have looked into that possibility but so for have not found a type of screening that would not put unacceptable wind loads on the bridge, Cornish said.
The chain-link fencing will not add a significant wind load, she said.
Two 250-foot sections of fencing will be installed from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The right lane of eastbound Highway 16 across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge will be closed during those times.