On Wednesday, Washington State Department of Transportation and Thurston County Public Works crews began installing a temporary Bailey bridge on Littlerock Road Southwest, south of Tumwater.
And if everything goes as planned, it could be open Monday for commuters, according to Thurston County road operations manager Lucy Mills.
“We still have a lot of things to do,” she said.
The 90-foot metal structure spans the county’s paved L-4 Bridge, which was first closed Jan. 27 due to structural deficiencies.
Temporary repairs were made, but the two-lane bridge was closed again Feb. 20, less than 24 hours after it had reopened.
“Engineers found the soil under the center pier of the 1950s vintage bridge had been washed away by scour, making the pier unstable and causing the bridge deck to sag in several places,” stated a county news release. “Engineers determined that the bridge was in danger of collapsing with the weight and stress of continued vehicle traffic, and the bridge was closed to protect the public’s safety.”
The Bailey bridge is on loan to the county from the state, according to Dave Bruce, special structures engineer with the Department of Transportation.
“This is actually mid-1940s, vintage World War II military Bailey bridge material,” he said.
In addition, it’s being installed so that there’s no support from the L-4 bridge, Bruce said.
The structure will be one lane and controlled by portable traffic signals, and will be open to emergency vehicles, buses and passenger vehicle traffic, Mills said.
Commercial trucks and oversized vehicles still need to use the detour, she said.
The Bailey bridge is expected to stay in place until July, when demolition and construction of a $3.9 million replacement for the L-4 is slated to begin.
“We’re planning on (the new bridge) being open by the end of November,” said Brian Meier, a civil engineer with the county.
Closure of the L-4 has been frustrating for commuters, residents and business owners in the area.
In fact, nearly 1,500 people signed a petition that was delivered to county officials March 11, asking for the bridge to be reopened.
Late last week, state and county officials met and signed a memorandum of understanding to install the Bailey bridge.
“Everyone here at the county knew that having the bridge closed was a heavy burden on the residents and businesses in the area,” said Thurston County Commission chairwoman Karen Valenzuela in a news release. “I’m very pleased that our partners at WSDOT were able to offer us this temporary bridge. It will keep traffic flowing for at least a few more months until construction on the permanent bridge begins.”
Littlerock Road resident Dani Bishop said the detour from the bridge closure has cost her a lot of extra time and gas money. She was happy to hear that a temporary fix was on the way.
“Anything is better than it’s been,” Bishop said.Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 firstname.lastname@example.org