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Brace for lane closures on westbound Narrows bridge starting Sunday

Thinking of changing lanes on the westbound Tacoma Narrows Bridge? Don’t.

A sign on the westbound lanes of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge tells drivers not to change lanes. You should obey that sign, or risk a $136 ticket.
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A sign on the westbound lanes of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge tells drivers not to change lanes. You should obey that sign, or risk a $136 ticket.

The westbound high-occupancy vehicle lane of the 68-year-old Tacoma Narrows Bridge will be closed for about a month, starting Sunday.

Bridge crews for the Washington State Department of Transportation plan to set up a work zone Sunday to start inspecting abut 60 feet of the bridge’s suspension cables.

“On the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, the main cables suspend the bridge deck, which carries most of the bridge’s weight, and all of the vehicles on the bridge,” Olympic Region operations engineer Chris Keegan said in a written statement. “It’s vital to inspect the cables to keep them in a state of good repair and identify any needed preservation work.”

WSDOT said the cables are “compacted and encased strands of parallel wires that are carried back and forth across the bridge span.”

Crews plan to set up an elevated containment system around the cables to keep any debris from falling into the water. Keegan said. They will unwrap and open the cable for the inspection, make any needed repairs and then rewrap the cable.

During the set-up and inspection work, WSDOT said westbound state Route 16 travelers can expect:

From 2 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Sunday, two lanes will be closed starting at Jackson Avenue while crews set up the containment system.

One lane will reopen at 11 a.m., but the westbound HOV lane will remain closed throughout the month-long work.

Westbound Route 16 HOV drivers will use one of the three general purpose lanes over the bridge.

There will be a second double lane closure at the end of the work.

The work, which requires dry weather, is expected to be completed at the end of August.

Traffic on the 2007 Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which carries eastbound Route 16, will not be affected.

WSDOT said the work will be the second time the 68-year-old bridge cables have been inspected. The previous inspection took place in 2000. Cables on the north side of the bridge will be inspected in 2020.

James Drew covers the state Legislature and state government for McClatchy’s Washington papers: The News Tribune, The Olympian, The Bellingham Herald and The Tri-City Herald.
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