Sunday, April 13, 2014

Thea Foss Waterway Bridges

Thea Foss Waterway Bridges
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So here's a photo of a couple of bridges in Tacoma, neither of which is the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, for once. Instead, here are the two bridges over the Thea Foss Waterway: The SR 509 bridge (1996), the cable-stayed one in the background; and the older Murray Morgan Bridge (1913), a lift-span bridge that you can't really get a good look at in this photo, unfortunately.

In most cities (i.e. those without a famous suspension bridge across town) the SR 509 bridge would be a major local landmark. At the very least it would have a proper name to it, maybe a retired mayor or influential congressman or something, but as far as I can tell this isn't officially called anything except the SR 509 cable-stayed bridge. Not long ago I rashly said something about Eastern Washington's Cable Bridge being the only cable-stayed bridge in the Northwest, other than the pedestrian one at OHSU. So yeah, I was kind of wrong about that, it turns out. It wouldn't surprise me if there are others besides the Tacoma one. I don't know of any others, but it wouldn't surprise me.

The Bridgehunter page for the Murray Morgan Bridge is livelier than usual, with reader-contributed anecdotes about it and the contentious politics of bridges versus ships in Tacoma. The Port of Tacoma occupies the low-lying tideflats where the Puyallup River flows into Commencement Bay, which is inconveniently right in the middle of the city of Tacoma. The fastest way between downtown and the Dash Point area would be on elevated bridges over the port, but that creates a height and width limit for container ships, which the port finds intolerable. In 1997 they arranged to have the outdated Blair Bridge demolished and not replaced (unless you count SR-509, which detours around the south end of the port), cutting what used to be a significant road link in the area. The nearby Hylebos Bridge reopened in 2012 after being closed for eleven years. Its drawbridge became stuck in the open position, and there was talk of demolishing it as well. Eventually the port realized the bridge was a critical evacuation route (in case of tsunamis, earthquakes, or lahars from Mt. Rainier erupting), and repairs were belatedly made.

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