Special Reports

Last bridge deck piece could be placed today

Work crews building the new Tacoma Narrows bridge raced ahead of schedule Monday, raising the possibility that the entire 5,400-foot bridge deck will be in place as early as today.

Last week, Tacoma Narrows Constructors’ superstructure manager, Dave Climie, estimated it would be Friday before all 46 deck sections were lifted to their proper level and temporarily joined.

But a combination of clear weather and good fortune hurried things along.

“Everything has just gone really well,” Claudia Cornish, a spokeswoman for the State Department of Transportation said Monday afternoon. “They’re ahead of what I think anybody expected.”

Monday night, 45 of the 46 deck sections were in place, leaving just a single 120-foot section hanging slightly below where it needs to be.

That section, about 200 feet east of the Tacoma tower, will be lifted into a gap temp orarily widened 3 feet by pulling nine other sections out of the way.

Today or perhaps tomorrow, those nine sections will be eased back into place, closing the 3-foot gap and completing the continuous 5,400-foot span.

Lately, the bridge builder has been slowed by unusually bad winter weather, including record rainfall in November, windstorms in December and heavy snow this month.

Last week, Climie noted, was the first time since late October that TNC crews have been able to put in a full six-day work week without being forced off the bridge by one type of bad weather or another.

The end of the deck lifting operation will complete the last major phase of the five-year construction project.

But months of work still remain before the bridge will open to traffic.

The deck sections must be permanently bolted and welded together, the deck surface must be waterproofed and paved and the cables must be wrapped and painted.

“This is not like driving the last spike or putting in the last bolt,” Climie said. “The work just keeps going.”

The State Transportation Department is now estimating that the bridge will open sometime in August.

Rob Carson: 253-597-8693