Community Government Transportation

Fox Island Bridge maintenance work to require lane closures

Posted on March 8th, 2024 By:

Maintenance on the Fox Island Bridge will require single-lane and complete bridge closures beginning next week.

Work began March 5 to repair the concrete girders at Piers 17 and 20, on the mainland side, by removing steel bearing plates and replacing them with rubber bearing pads. The ends of the girders are also being fixed. The work is expected to take 1 1/2 months and cost about $600,000, according to Pierce County.

View from under the Fox Island bridge.

View from under the Fox Island bridge. Photo courtesy of Pierce County

The bridge will be reduced when necessary to one lane with flaggers directing alternating traffic. It will be closed several times for about two hours at night, between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. Sunday through Thursday. Notice will be given in advance, including via variable message boards. The first closure is scheduled for 10 p.m. to midnight on Friday, March 14, followed by Thursday, March 21 at a time to be determined.

Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One said in a Facebook post that it is aware of the closures and is working directly with the contractor to limit delays. If a call for service occurs, the contractor will be notified and immediately begin working to make the bridge passable for emergency apparatus. The department says it has a plan in place to limit delays as much as possible.

More work to come

More work is planned for ensuing years. A $7.7 million girder repair project will be designed in 2024-25 with construction expected in 2026 or later. It comprises repairing 16 concrete girders that have cracks and/or spalls with rusty reinforcing steel exposed on the bottom flanges. It is fully funded, according to the Pierce County 2024-29 Transportation Improvement Program.

About $10.5 million in other repairs will be designed beginning in 2026 with construction to follow. They include repair of dapped ends, girders, pads, anchor bolts, piers and pier walls. Design work is anticipated to begin in 2026 and continue into the following years, followed by construction. It is also listed as fully funded.

Replacement study funded

None of the above work has anything to do with replacing the bridge, though the county budgeted this year for a $2.4 million final type, size and location study for a new span. It will hire a consultant to refine designs and estimate project costs, which will take about 18 months. The study will be followed by at least five years of environmental work and then another two to three years of construction, a field engineering manager said during a July 2022 community meeting. Funding has not been determined, but would probably include a mix of state and county funds, grants and local taxes.

fox island bridge

The Fox Island bridge

A preliminary analysis on type, size and location by consultants InfraStrategies LLC was published in October 2019. It set the price tag then for a new bridge at $168.1 million, not including financing. The preliminary analysis estimated the price to rehab and retrofit the bridge at $79.5 million, but projected that expected fixes over the first 15 years would push the cost beyond that of a new bridge.

The replacement discussion began after a 2012 inspection discovered deterioration of the bridge footings. A 2017 inspection stated that no immediate action was needed, but recommended that planning begin for future repairs. The substructure is rated 4 out of 7 on the National Bridge Inventory Code, which is considered poor. The two-lane, 1,950-foot bridge, which opened in 1954, is old and needs some work, but isn’t at risk of collapsing. It is the only connection to the mainland for about 4,000 residents, and carries about 6,000 vehicles per day.