The South Park Bridge wasn’t pretty, but it was loved. It didn’t even have a catchy name. And it is really quite expensive to replace. So, despite wanting to build a new bridge, King County couldn’t come up with the $130 million needed to do anything. So, the South Park Bridge died.
But this sad bridge story has a happy ending. Or, at least it should in the next few years.
The troubled bridge story really started 79 years ago when the double-leaf bascule bridge was built. You see, it wasn’t built all that well, or so they now say, with pilings not sunk into solid footings. The 2001 Nisqually earthquake caused major damage and an eventual rating of just 4 out of 100 by the Federal Highway Administration doomed it as unsafe. Yeah, really unsafe for the 20,000 daily vehicles. As King County struggled to come up with money to replace it, the bridge was closed and removed on June 30.
As a span between East Marginal Way South and Highway 99 in the city’s Duwamish industrial area (near Boeing Field), the bridge crossed the Duwamish River and connects the South Park neighborhood, with 4,000 residents mostly within the city limits. But the city didn’t want to pay too much to help connect their residents. They left most of that work to King County. After all, $130 million is a hefty price tag.
King County was out practically begging for money, getting pledges of over $80 million at one point, but that wasn’t enough. The attempt to land a stimulus funding package of $99 million went elsewhere in the city (Seattle’s Mercer Street project). Not to South Park.
Roughly four months after the bridge was closed and the neighborhood held what amounted to a funeral for the concrete structure, funding was found. A TIGER II grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation announced on Oct. 15 becomes the final piece of the puzzle, adding $34 million into the pledging pot.
Now there is hope and King County has again started up the project. With pledges up to nearly $100 million before the TIGER grant (Seattle did pledge $15 million of that total price tag, while the state has $20 million in the mix), plans are in the works to assemble a bid package, with the financial plan pending approval in late 2010. King County says the project will head to bid in January 2011 with construction expected to begin in April 2011. Construction will last two to three years.
It seems that bridges can be raised from the dead.