Work on Puyallup River bridge in Tacoma to take longer than first anticipated

Q: When is the construction expected to be completed on the bridge between Fife and Tacoma over the Puyallup River? — J.S.

A: Short answer: Not soon. In fact, later than first anticipated.

First, some background.

The bridge J.S. speaks of is not the state-owned Interstate 5 bridge over the Puyallup River but rather the span owned by the city of Tacoma that crosses the river just east of Portland Avenue East and Puyallup Avenue.

Maps show the stretch of pavement serviced by that bridge as East Eells Street, which might have been named for the Eells family, which played a role in Tacoma’s early history. Members included Cushing Eells, a Congregational missionary who spent the latter years of his life on the Puyallup Tribe’s reservation, according to some online outfit called Wikipedia, and Edwin Eells, an Indian agent for the federal government in the late 1800s.

That street’s name might change soon as part of Tacoma’s commitment to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, but we digress.

As former News Tribune scribe Candice Ruud first reported, city crews closed the bridge in May for some badly need repairs. We here at Traffic Q&A headquarters applaud the work as the bridge was looking a little worse for wear.

The nearly $42 million project includes replacing three of the span’s seven segments and giving the bridge, opened in 1927, a more modern look, project manager Chris Storey told Ruud.

Meanwhile, traffic has been re-routed. We suspect J.S. would like that re-routing to end.

On Friday, we asked city spokeswoman Stacy Ellifritt for an update.

“The project is approximately 50 percent complete at this time,” she said. “Completion is expected in spring 2019, weather dependent. Demolition continues on the western side of the bridge, and new bridge deck placement is underway on the east side.”

Spring of 2019? Now hold on a second. The city originally estimated the completion date as February 2019.

What gives?

Ellifritt again: “Public Works said that weather can cause some delays and with this project about to go through the winter season, the Public Works Engineering Department wanted to be a little more conservative with an anticipated end date.”

Another reason to dislike winter.

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644, @TNTadam