Configuration of truck axles carrying a Tacoma Narrows Bridge expansion joint will be changed.

The first of two 100-ton expansion joints destined for the 5,400-ft-long new Tacoma Narrows Bridge is stuck in transit because it exceeds Washington State Dept. of Transportation weight limits.  Halted on March 19, the joint now sits in a WashDOT maintenance facility 10 miles from the Washington-Idaho border until the hauler reconfigures the load.

WashDOT’s office of commercial vehicles had approved a permit based on plans submitted by the hauler and the Minnesota office of D.S. Brown Co., the North Baltimore, Ohio-based subcontractor supplying the joint.  “When the hauler got to the Washington-Idaho border, the load neither conformed to the permit application originally submitted nor to the permit requirements as issued,” says Claudia Cornish, spokesman for WashDOT.

The joint was being transported on a 165-ft-long semi-truck trailer supported by 21 axles. A new configuration calls for 18 axles, four of which will be double axles.  “I don’t know how long it will take for the hauler to reconfigure the load,” Cornish says. “It is not expected to delay the project.”

The expansion joint is one of two needed for the $849-million suspension bridge, which has a 2,800-ft-long main span. The joint weighs nearly 100 tons and measures 70 ft long and 15 ft wide. It can expand up to 56 inches to absorb deck expansion and contraction caused by thermal changes, wind forces, traffic movement or seismic motion. Tacoma Narrows Constructors, a local joint venture of Bechtel Infrastructure and Kiewit Pacific, began facing liquidated damages starting at $12,500 per day after April 2. Those will jump to $125,000 per day after July 1 with a $45-million cap.