Community government transport
It will take them some time to have all the answers, but Pierce County Planning and Public Works officials provided all the information they could about the Fox Island Bridge replacement or renovation at a community meeting Wednesday night at Goodman Middle School.
Staff members quickly discussed a repair project to come in late fall before moving on to the topic that drew most of the island’s 77 residents to the auditorium and another 93 to their screens. A panel shared the county’s plans to conduct a comprehensive type, size and location study to replace the bridge. This is a first step in a multi-year venture, but many wanted to look further into funding.
Before funds can be sought, however, the $1.8 million study must be completed. It will be included in next year’s annual report Transportation Improvement Program update. If approved, the county will hire a consultant to refine designs and estimate costs for the project, which would take about 18 months. It would be paid for by county road funds. The study would be followed by at least five years of environmental work and then two to three years of construction, said Kraig Shaner, field engineering manager for the bridge replacement.
A preliminary analysis has already been carried out
A preliminary analysis on type, size and location by consultants InfraStrategies LLC was released in October 2019. It priced a new bridge at $168.1 million, excluding financing, with construction taking place in 2025 and 2026 and the bridge opening in 2027. Per Shaner’s timeline, that won’t happen any time soon. On Wednesday, he pegged the total cost of the project at $180 million.
Preliminary analysis estimated the price of the rehabilitation and modernization of the bridge at $79.5 million, but projected that the expected fixes over the first 15 years would push the cost beyond that of a new one. bridge. The county requests that the new study be conducted on the replacement option.
“It’s the most economical long-term solution,” Shaner said. “Renovating is cheaper, but in 15 to 20 years you will have to do this and this and that.”
The replacement discussion began after a 2012 inspection discovered deterioration of the bridge footings. A 2017 inspection said no immediate action was needed, but recommended planning begin for future repairs. The substructure is rated 4 out of 7 by the National Bridge Inventory Code, which is considered poor. The 1,950ft two-lane bridge, which opened in 1954, is old and in need of work, but is not at risk of collapse. It is the only connection to the mainland for around 4,000 inhabitants and carries around 6,000 vehicles per day.
The preliminary analysis explored an assortment of financing options. Most favorable was a combination of property tax increases, grants, county road funds, and bridge tolls. Two of these “balanced scenarios” presented in the report included tolls ranging from $6 to $8.50 per round trip, an average annual property tax increase of $353 for island residents, $23 million federal, state and local grant dollars, and either $3.4 million or $1. million a year for 30 years from the county road fund.
Residents weigh on the new compared to the renovated
The high price tag left some residents on Wednesday leaning towards the rehabilitation/renovation option.
“When I first saw the $180 million cost, I almost fell off my chair,” said Steve Kasal. “I calculated between 30 and 40 million dollars. That’s an astronomical amount to expect 4,000 people to pay.
“Why are we talking about replacement rather than repair? Look long term, but I won’t be here long term. I think we should consider upgrading this bridge to last another 50 to 100 years.
Heidi Avak thanked the panel for a great start to the process, saying it’s hard to know what islanders are thinking. Its Fox Island Bridge focus group conducted a survey showing that around one-third of respondents are in favor of rehabilitation/renovation, one-third want a new bridge, and one-third don’t have enough information to choose.
“It’s really about cost,” she said. “You ask a lot of us. It’s a big burden to ask us to pay and say you’re going to spend it on the most expensive.
Jean Burns said many islanders would rather just keep the existing bridge as is and not replace or upgrade it.
“The county should fix the road, maintain it,” she said. “We are part of the county. It is a public road. The bridge is fine. It’s not flashy or fancy, but it works.
Planning and Public Works Director Jen Tetatzin, who had never heard that view, said residents will have plenty of opportunities to participate in decision-making.
“It’s not a foregone conclusion, we will replace the bridge,” she said. “Are you suggesting that we do nothing?” We want to keep everyone safe. We don’t want to reach the point of deterioration.
Panel members did not know the expected life of the existing bridge, but said they would find out and post it on the websiteas well as a video of Wednesday’s meeting and background information.
The discussion continued throughout a 75-minute question and answer period, and comments continued to pour in when room time ran out. They ranged from pontoon bridges and causeways to ferries and tidal generators that could sell electricity to pay for the project, and just about every other source of funding imaginable.
Letticia Neal, transportation improvement manager of planning and public works, responded that there is a lot of competition for transportation dollars, which most federal government funds Infrastructure Investment and Employment Act has to be forced too soon, by 2025, that it’s hard to get funding for something that wasn’t designed when it’s competing against shovel-ready projects, and that Fox Island is too remote to benefit from numerous subsidies.
“It’s a dead end,” she said. “It doesn’t connect to other parts of the county. The grants available are rare and do not require you to connect to a major corridor or business center. Fox Island is none of these.
But the county was successful in securing grants and will pursue all available funding options, she said.
Repair project to impact traffic
Shaner described a repair project that will impact traffic in late fall.
Degraded bearings were found on piers 17 and 20 at the mainland end of the bridge during an inspection in August. Temporary repairs were carried out in October, but three supports on each pier need to be replaced and the deteriorated concrete at the ends of the beams supported by the supports replaced with material that protects the beams from the weather. Bearings are steel plates that slide past each other as the bridge expands and contracts. The estimated cost is $600,000 to $900,000.
Design and environmental permits have been completed. Once a contractor is selected, a construction schedule will be developed. The project is expected to start in late fall and continue for approximately 1.5 months (30 business days, not including weekends, holidays, and weather days). Electronic bulletin boards will be set up the week before the work begins.
The bridge will be reduced to one lane with flaggers alternately directing traffic as needed during working hours. It could be fully closed for short periods at night. Notice will be provided. Emergency vehicles will have access.