Special Reports

State grants bridge joint permit

A giant bridge deck expansion joint, stranded near landlocked Spokane for more than three weeks because it was so heavy, was granted an oversize load permit Tuesday, clearing the way for a new hauler to take it the remaining 300 miles to Tacoma.

Three cranes were used to hoist the 100-ton steel-and-neoprene deck expansion joint onto a wider trailer at a state Department of Transportation yard along Interstate 90. The truck and trailer rig then will take it to the new Narrows Bridge linking Tacoma and Gig Harbor.

Washington State Patrol officers were weighing each of the trailer’s 17 axles to make sure the load complied with permit requirements, Trooper Nicholas Hopper said Tuesday afternoon.

Hopper’s division was responsible for making sure the load met Transportation Department regulations.

The reconfigured load is 200 feet long. In all, the expansion joint, truck and equipment weigh about 420,000 pounds, the Transportation Department said.

The original tractor-trailer hauling the deck expansion joint was pulled over at the Spokane Port of Entry east of Spokane in mid-March because its weight was not distributed correctly on the trailer’s axles, violating terms of a permit issued by the Transportation Department.

Transportation officials worried the trailer would damage bridges, overpasses and other freeway structures as it made its way on I-90 to Interstate 405 in Bellevue and then I-5.

When installed on each end of the new 1,500-foot-long suspension bridge, the two expansion joints will allow 56 inches of deck expansion and contraction caused by temperature changes, wind, traffic or seismic motion.

The second expansion joint is parked in Sioux Falls, S.D. Plans were being made to move it to Washington state, DOT spokeswoman Kelly Stowe said from Olympia. Both joints were made by D.S. Brown Co. in Minnesota.

After hauling the first joint across five states, Big Boat Movers of Vasalla, Texas, struggled for three weeks to come up with a configuration that would spread the weight and meet Washington standards.

On April 3, the hauler was allowed to move the expansion joint 10 miles west to a Transportation Department maintenance yard so the trailer’s axles could be reconfigured.

Big Boat Movers was not able to find trailers to satisfy the state’s requirements, so D.S. Brown hired Omega-Morgan, a Tacoma heavy equipment moving company, to haul the load the rest of the way.


• Follow the progress of the bridge joint