Thursday, March 8, 2012

Emergency floating bridge repairs necessary

Work to begin Friday on corroded cable, plus there's a scheduled bridge closure this weekend

An important underwater cable which connects to the westernmost pontoon on the south side of the SR 520 floating bridge was discovered to be severely damaged today, necessitating emergency repair work which will begin early tomorrow morning.  Divers who conducted a routine inspection of the bridge found that corrosion and stress had caused a connecting pin to be moved halfway out of position.  The cable involved is one of 58 that connect the bridge to anchors on the lakebed.

Department of Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond wasted no time in using this unexpected underwater damage to make a point about the vulnerability of the floating bridge: "Each windstorm threatens to cause further damage and demonstrates our need to replace this nearly 50-year-old bridge," she said in press release this evening.  WSDOT further noted that "if heavy waves batter the bridge, the [damaged] pin could be forced completely out of position, separating the bridge and cable from the anchor."  Not a good scenario, obviously.

The bridge was already scheduled to be shut again this weekend for the purpose of allowing crews to demolish the Evergreen Point Road overpass in Medina.  The closure will begin at 11 pm on Friday night and end at 5 am on Monday morning.  Heavy machinery will be used to break apart the overpass, which will then be trucked away.  A similar operation took place earlier this year when the Bellevue Way overpass was deconstructed, and there's an interesting multi-day time-lapse video of that process posted on YouTube, for those interested. Evergreen Way will be re-routed until the new freeway lid is completed (details here).  This is the new Bellevue Way overpass lid under construction:

In case you were worried, take comfort in the knowledge that the emergency cable repair is not a serious enough problem to necessitate closing the bridge earlier than the scheduled shutdown on Friday night, according to WSDOT.

[Photos courtesy of WSDOT.  Upper photo shows the south side of the looking east, the general area where the repairs will take place.]

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