The aging bridges in Aberdeen can’t legally take the weight of trucks heading to the Highway 520 pontoon construction site on the shore of Grays Harbor. Other types of truck traffic around the harbor also are affected. Some drivers have been taking long detours, or were cited by the Washington State Patrol.
A report in The Daily World, called “Tensions brewing over bridge weight limits,” explains the problem. Brundage Bone Concrete Pumping resorted to this solution:
To minimize impact to the bridge, the truck carrying the heavy load must straddle the lane line and take up both lanes in one direction on the four-lane bridge, with no cars being able to pass the truck as it crosses over the bridge.
Kevin Dayton, regional administrator for the State Department of Transportation, told The Seattle Times on Tuesday that as far as he knows, there are no delays to the pontoon construction.
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The Highway 101 bridge — over the Chehalis River from Cosmopolis to Aberdeen — has a steel-grid deck vulnerable to excess loads, said Dayton. Brundage Bone’s truck weights can’t be reduced because its concrete pumpers, at 21,500 pounds per axle, exceed the 19,000-pound limit even when empty. At a meeting Friday, employees from other companies were angry last week they didn’t have the same permits as Brundage Bone, but those can probably be arranged soon, Dayton said.
State Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen, said Tuesday that he’s awaiting technical details about solutions for the heavy trucks. He said the nearby Highway 12 Wishkah River Bridge ought to be a candidate for replacement or major retrofit in the next state transportation-tax package, but the Highway 101 bridge is functional for all but the heaviest loads.
On the $4.65 billion Highway 520 project, the state spent 14 years and $263 million from 1997-2011 on outreach, designs and preliminary engineering. For $263 million, the state could have funded a new bridge in Grays Harbor, with millions left over.
Meanwhile, the Montlaker blog in Seattle sees the truck-weight episode as “hubris” in the state’s attempt to widen highways such as 520.