Traffic cones and barriers that had guarded the approaches to Tacoma’s century-old Murray Morgan Bridge for nearly six years were removed as the bridge connecting downtown Tacoma with the Tideflats reopened to traffic at 12:21 today.
A dozen pedestrians and a handful of motorists were the first to cross the rehabilitated bridge across the BNSF Railway tracks, Dock Street and the Thea Foss Waterway.
The $57 million project restored the drawbridge to like-new condition. The resurrected bridge has two lanes for vehicle traffic and two lanes for bike and pedestrian use.
A formal rededication ceremony is scheduled for Feb. 15.
The 100-year-old bridge, which connects downtown Tacoma with the Tideflats and the Port of Tacoma, has been closed since 2007. That’s the year state inspectors found rusted steel and failing machinery they deemed unsafe.
Now the City of Tacoma, using federal, state and local funds totaling some $57 million, have given the bridge a new life. They’ve replaced corroded metal, stripped away flaking lead-based paint and repainted the bridge black, its original color. The mechanism that raises the center section to allow tall boats into and out of the Thea Foss Waterway has been updated with new motors, cables and computerized controls.
The bridge itself has been narrowed from four lanes to two. Two of the former lanes have been converted to bicycle and pedestrian paths. A new elevator, still under construction, will provide access from Dock Street below to the bridge.
Environmental improvements include a new drainage system that routes runoff from the bridge into holding tanks and filter on the downtown side of the bridge and to a rain garden on the Tideflat side of the structure.