Special Reports

5 anchors attached to new bridge's caisson, 27 to go

Crews working on the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge are well on their way to getting the first foundation anchored in the Narrows, engineers reported Tuesday.

As of Tuesday evening, workers had attached five anchors to the 14,000-ton structure and expected to get three more attached today, said Dennis Engel, project engineer for the state Department of Transportation.

"So far, everybody seems to be real happy with the progress," he said.

Two crews are working 12-hour shifts on the job. The construction site will be lighted until the job is finished, said Transportation Department spokeswoman Claudia Cornish.

The structure, which will become the foundation for the tower on the Tacoma end of the bridge, was towed to the site Monday, the first piece of the new bridge to be placed at the site.

Once eight anchors have been attached to the caisson, which TNC expects to accomplish today, the tugboats that have been holding the caisson in place will be released, Engel said.

Eventually, 32 anchors will be attached to the caisson. Sixteen will be attached now and 16 later, when the caisson has been extended farther toward the bottom.

All of the anchors, plus another 32 for the caisson on the Gig Harbor side, were driven into the Narrows floor earlier this year.

Meanwhile, public fascination with the construction process has been causing congestion problems and slowing of bridge traffic, Cornish said.

People driving across the bridge see people standing on the sidewalks, looking over the edge, Cornish said, and they slow to see what everybody's looking at.

The new caisson can't be seen from vehicles on the bridge. But, Cornish said, "of course, you don't know that until you look."

So many people are pulling out of eastbound traffic and parking next to the old toll booth on the Tacoma end of the bridge that the Washington State Patrol has expressed concerns, Engel said.

"They're asking us to get it zoned 'No parking,'" Engel said. "We're looking into it, but it's a process that takes some time. You can't just slap up 'No Parking' signs and start writing tickets."

Most of the problems have been caused by people trying to re-enter eastbound traffic from the shoulder, Engel said.

"You're going from a dead stop to 55, and you've got cars bearing down on you at 55," he said. "It's kind of dangerous."

Cornish said the Transportation Department plans to keep pedestrian access to the bridge open throughout the construction process.

Rob Carson 253-597-8693