Nisqually I-5 bridges receiving makeovers

Officials say no lane closures planned during daytime hours

rob.carson@thenewstribune.comJuly 15, 2013 

The Interstate 5 bridges over the Nisqually River are getting new paint jobs, and that could mean delays for drivers traveling between Tacoma and Olympia this summer.

The painting contractor promises there won’t be any lane closures during the daytime, but the novelty of seeing the two bridges wrapped in white nylon is likely to make drivers hit the brakes.

“Just out of the looky-loo factor, they slow down,” said Claudia Bingham Baker, a state Department of Transportation spokeswoman. “We’re choosing the hours we think will have the least impact on traffic, but there still will be some.”

An average of 111,000 vehicles cross the bridges each day, according to Transportation Department counts.

The painting contractor, Intech Contracting, based in Lexington, Ky., is scheduling lane closures from dusk to dawn on the southbound bridge Mondays through Saturdays. Most nights a single lane will be closed, but occasionally the work will require two closed lanes.

The $6.5 million painting work will continue until wet weather returns this fall, Bingham Baker said. Most likely, she said, the southbound bridge will be finished by then, but completing the northbound bridge might have to wait until next summer.

“It’s probably going to be a two-season job because the painting is weather-dependent work,” Bingham Baker said.

Nighttime closures began Monday and, so far, most of the work has been out of sight. Workers have been suspending platforms beneath the bridge and attaching outrigger supports for the containment tents, designed to keep paint and abrasive blasting material out of the air and the Nisqually River.

The work soon will be in public view, said MaryLou Nebergall, the Transportation Department’s construction project engineer for the job.

“They’re planning to have southbound structure ready to start painting in the next couple of weeks,” she said.

The two steel truss bridges haven’t been painted since 1988, Bingham Baker said, and the paint has deteriorated enough for the steel to rust and corrode.

The paint the Transportation Department used on steel 25 years ago typically lasted from 15 to 25 years, she said.

“It’s not out of normal range to wait this long to paint the bridge,” she said, “but it’s at the tail end of the range.”

“The paint we now use on all steel bridges is a moisture-cured urethane that we expect will last up to 40 years,” Bingham Baker said. “As more bridges get painted with the urethane, we will see bridges painted even less frequently because the life of the paint is longer.”

Nebergall said it will take about 3,000 gallons of paint to cover the two Nisqually bridges.

The color?

“A shade of green, very similar to what’s out there now,” Bingham Baker said.

Rob Carson: 253-597-8693 rob.carson@thenewstribune.com

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