Special Reports

New ship will chug beneath bridge

Watch for the old switcheroo under the new Tacoma Narrows bridge in the coming days.

Sometime before the weekend is over – and possibly as early as today – crews will finish unloading from the transport ship Swan the first batch of deck sections that eventually will make up the roadway of the mile-long bridge.

The Swan arrived in Tacoma on June 8 with the first 16 of 46 deck sections. Crews began lifting the sections onto the bridge’s suspender cables Aug. 3.

By Thursday afternoon, only one section remained on the Swan.

Once it’s removed, the semisubmersible vessel will sail into Commencement Bay, where workers will transfer winches and other equipment onto its sister ship, Teal, which carries the next 15 deck sections.

It will take a few days to complete the transfer, said Claudia Cornish, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation’s Tacoma Narrows bridge office.

Then the Swan will head back to South Korea – where the deck pieces were built – to pick up the last load of 15 sections while the Teal motors into place in the Narrows to deliver its cargo.

The Swan is expected back sometime next month. The deck-lifting process is expected to continue through the end of the year.

That process – the last major phase of construction – got off to a rough start.

The Swan attempted to deliver the first load of deck sections June 23, but scaffolding atop the cargo hit the bottom of the existing bridge after someone miscalculated the available space.

Then, winches needed to maneuver the Swan during the unloading process malfunctioned – some mechanics said as a result of sabotage – and new parts had to be ordered and tested.

Since then, the unloading has gone smoothly, Cornish said.

“Tacoma Narrows Constructors is still expecting to open the new bridge in July or late June,” she said Thursday. “A lot will depend on what kind of winter we have. If we have a really wet winter, they may have to re-evaluate the schedule.”

The $849 million project is already three months behind schedule because builders were forced to replace wire used in the suspender cables after it corroded.

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644