Fox Island Bridge gets a lift to replace sliding bearings

Project to raise span about an inch could cause delays up to 20 minutes

Staff writerApril 2, 2014 

Repair and retrofit work will start soon on the Fox Island bridge. Engineers have found the structure to be structurally deficient.


Construction crews have raised the Fox Island Bridge about an inch this month as they work to replace the sliding bearings.

The crew is on a 30-day contract, which doesn’t include weekends or weather delays, Pierce County engineer Kraig Shaner said. Construction began March 26, but most of the lifting won’t start until this week.

Bearings at both ends of the bridge will be replaced, Shaner said. There could be delays up to 20 minutes. The new bearings will be a type of rubber with no shims, Shaner said.

“The jacking is just jacking it enough to get the old plates off,” he said. “(The bridge) will still be open to traffic.”

Crews will lift the bridge between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to avoid rush-hour delays.

The steel plates that will be replaced are called “sliding bearings,” which allow the bridge to expand and contract as weather changes. The plates have seized up and rusted together, Shaner said, putting “undue stresses” on the bridge, which can’t expand or contract as easily.

“By replacing the bearings, we’re just allowing it to move like it was intended to move,” Shaner said.

“In bridge years, it’s not that old,” Shaner said. “It’s 1950s vintage.”

There are plans on the horizon for a new bridge, Shaner said, but Pierce County is getting to work on a type, size and location study. That’s the step before an environmental study, which is steps before a new bridge would be built.

The current span was built in 1954 and originally was a toll bridge. Tolls were lifted May 14, 1965. It is the longest bridge in the Pierce County inventory at 1,950 feet.

Reporter Karen Miller: 253-358-4155 Twitter: @gateway_karen

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