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No Light Rail in Plans for Tacoma Avenue Bridge
The Daily Index last week had a nice run-down of a recent Environment and Public Works Committee discussion around rehabbing the Tacoma Avenue South Bridge. Plans for upgrades include widening the bridge, and going from four lanes to two, with bike lanes and a turn lane. They do not currently include considerations for future light rail.
The 80-year old bridge is badly in need of structural improvements. Weight restrictions and lane closures have been forced by the deterioration of the bridge’s beams, guardrails, deck, and sidewalks.
The planned rehabilitation project would put $9 million towards structural fortifications, including widening the replaced bridge deck from 50 to 58 feet. Plans call for concrete guardrails, and narrowing vehicle traffic from four lanes to two, to allow space for a center turn lane, bike lanes, and pedestrian traffic. $1.8 million for the project will come from the City, with the remaining $7.2 million coming from a federal grant already secured by the City.
A major staff recommendation coming out of the committee discussion was for full closure of the bridge, rather than a phased approach to the project. Phasing the project to allow for partial continued use during construction would add six months to the timeline, and use up $1 million of the budget. There are also engineering concerns about the effect of road vibrations as the new green concrete is laid, and the City is eager to complete the project in a year, rather than 18 months, in order to coordinate with upcoming WSDOT work on Pacific Avenue.
The possibility of running light rail across the bridge has not been included in design considerations to this point. The decision was made by the former City Manager not to include it in the federal grant application 2010. Councilmember Boe had some thoughts on the irony of not considering the possibility of light rail for one of the few connectors south out of downtown – especially ironic since the bridge originally carried a streetcar. Councilmember Mello asked staff to look into the cost and possibility of adding light rail to the bridge in the future, but we’re a little worried that the horse may already be out of the barn on this one. Construction is expected to begin this fall and last about a year.
What’s that you said? Wouldn’t it be nice if Tacoma had a comprehensive transportation plan? Hm…
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