Special Reports

DOT says winch repair unlikely to stall bridge

Replacing a broken winch line on the ship loaded with the second batch of deck sections for the new Tacoma Narrows bridge will not delay the overall deck-lifting schedule, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Tacoma Narrows Constructors crews spent Monday in Commencement Bay, testing the winch system aboard the delivery vessel Teal and are expected to have repairs completed as early as today, said Claudia Cornish, a transportation department spokeswoman.

“I don’t expect it will affect the overall schedule,” Cornish said. “I’m not sure when it (the Teal) will come back out, but it’s going to be soon; if not Tuesday, then later in the week.”

The short delay will not be significant, Cornish said, because crews still will have plenty of time to unload the Teal before the third shipment of deck sections arrives from South Korea.

The 2.5-inch woven steel cable, one of four used to maneuver the delivery vessels into position during unloading, broke Friday as crews tried to moor the Teal under the bridge’s west side span.

The problem prompted crews to send the Teal back to Commencement Bay to await repairs.

The broken winch line was the latest in a series of mishaps and equipment failures that has slowed the deck-lifting operation.

Problems getting the first shipment of 16 sections off the Swan, the Teal’s sister ship, and onto the main cables kept the Teal waiting in Commencement Bay for more than two months.

Tacoma Narrows Constructors had hoped to finish lifting all 46 deck sections into place this month. Instead, the Swan, which delivered the first 16 sections, is only now headed back to South Korea for the final load of 15 sections and is not expected to return to Tacoma until November.

Even so, Tacoma Narrows Constructors is shooting for a July 2007 completion of the bridge.

Cornish said crews discovered the break in the winch line about 6:30 p.m. Friday as they tested the cables by applying tension.

Cornish said it has not been determined what caused the winch line to break.

The winch cables move the ship back and forth beneath the gantry cranes that lift the sections vertically off the ships. The sections then are loaded onto a barge that moves them to their appropriate places beneath the main suspension cables.

Meanwhile, Tacoma Narrows Constructors has temporarily solved a problem caused by a suspender cable that fell from the main cables near the Tacoma anchorage last week. A shorter suspender cable, intended to be used for another section, has been spliced and substituted for the damaged cable until a replacement arrives, Cornish said.

Rob Carson: 253-597-8693