Friday, March 23, 2007

On a Slow Bridge to Tacoma

If the bridge can't come to Tacoma, can Tacoma come to the bridge:

COEUR d’ALENE, Idaho – A massive piece of the new Tacoma Narrows bridge remains stranded at the Washington-Idaho state line where officials say it’s too heavy to move across Evergreen State roads.

The 73-foot-long expansion joint, which will be used to connect the bridge to the Gig Harbor side of the Narrows, tipped the scales at 330,000 pounds Saturday when it rolled into the Washington weigh station 20 miles east of Spokane. The weigh-in includes the tonnage of the custom-built trailer carrying the steel-and-neoprene joint.

The piece has been stranded along Interstate 90 at the state line ever since, and weigh station officials say it won’t budge unless the trucking company hired to ship the part makes it right.

“They’re going to have to figure that out,” Nicholas Hopper, spokesman for the Washington State Patrol’s Commercial Vehicle Division, said Thursday.

One solution might be spreading the object’s weight out over more axles, Hopper said. The 130,000-pound trailer already has 21 axles – in trucker speak that makes it an 84-wheeler.

Big Boat Movers, a Texas-based trucking company, is charged with making the Minnesota-to-Tacoma haul. Owner Mike Love said Thursday that adding more axles might not be practical, partly because more trailer means the more weight, but also because a longer load would present traveling problems.

The 15-foot-wide trailer already stretches to 149 feet. An addition to the body would extend that to 200 feet, and push the cost of the trailer to more than $100,000.

The movers headed out from Minnesota on March 1 and made it through five states without being stopped, Love said, and on fewer axles.

They anticipated being asked for more axles in Washington and stopped in Idaho to boost the trailer’s count from 18 to 21. The addition increased the weight of the load by 6,000 to 16,000 pounds, depending on who’s asked.

....The bridge project, now in its 54th month, is running four months behind schedule, so Tacoma Narrows Constructors is in a hurry for the accordion-like expansion joint, which would keep the mile-long bridge grounded in an earthquake or other bridge-moving event.

Another expansion joint has yet to be shipped from Minnesota.

And the one stranded more than 300 miles from Tacoma?

“We’re open to suggestions,” Love said. “What I’ve told them is, ‘We’ll do this anyway we can.’ If it’s impossible, then it’s real easy: Y’all can build the bridge in Idaho.”

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