Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published Friday, October 26, 2012 at 8:23 PM

  • Share:
           
  • Comments (0)
  • Print

WA gov wants independent review of bridge pontoons

Gov. Chris Gregoire said Friday she wants an independent expert panel to review the safety of pontoons being built for the new floating bridge across Lake Washington in the wake of new reports about construction flaws.

The Associated Press

Most Popular Comments
Hide / Show comments
No comments have been posted to this article.
Start the conversation >

advertising

SEATTLE —

Gov. Chris Gregoire said Friday she wants an independent expert panel to review the safety of pontoons being built for the new floating bridge across Lake Washington in the wake of new reports about construction flaws.

The governor's comment came after a television report on leaks found in the first pontoons built for the new Highway 520 bridge.

"I have made it clear, based on what I saw in your report, that I want another independent expert panel to review" the pontoons, Gregoire told KOMO-TV ( http://is.gd/Bp4t6y). The governor promised that Washington citizens would be protected.

Small cracks have appeared in at least two of the first six pontoons built for the bridge but transportation officials say the problem is manageable.

Leaks can be repaired and changes made in the construction of 61 remaining pontoons, Steve Pierce, a spokesman for the Washington Department of Transportation, said earlier.

Construction flaws were found in the first pontoons floated out of dry-dock in Aberdeen after being built, KOMO reported Thursday after reviewing transportation department video and documents.

Also on Thursday, department Secretary Paula Hammond announced changes in the pontoon construction team to improve oversight and coordination. The changes were part of a review of the first cycle of pontoons that the agency conceded shows more cracking than expected.

The state has not yet accepted any of the pontoons from the contractor. The equipment will have to meet specifications for the new bridge expected to be completed in 2014 and last 75 years.

"We won't accept the pontoons from our contractors until we are satisfied they meet contract specifications," Hammond said in her statement.

The new bridge will replace an existing 49-year-old bridge that officials say is vulnerable to an earthquake.

The planned, six-lane bridge is the centerpiece of a 13-mile project costing more than $4 billion to improve Highway 520 between Seattle and its eastern suburbs.

It's difficult to confirm whether more than two pontoons were leaking because of temporary ballast water added for balancing, residual water left from concrete curing, missing plugs for bolt sleeves, and hatch doors being left open, Pierce said.

An inspection of the pontoons was continuing.

"These are manageable issues," Pierce said.

Some of the leaks are related to cracks that developed during construction because of interior cables that are tightened for strength, Pierce said.

Changes in construction have been made and experts are reviewing the process for possible changes, he said.

The transportation department is particularly concerned about pontoon W, the big end piece on the east side of the bridge, The Seattle Times reported (http://is.gd/qxQKbW).

Some of the cracks are superficial and some are structural, said Mike Cotton, a design-build manager for the department.

Water hasn't been streaming in, but some cracks have allowed absorption and condensation so water appears inside the pontoon, he said.

Washington has three floating bridges that are among the longest in the world - two on Lake Washington and one across salt water on Hood Canal.

In 1990, the Interstate 90 floating bridge on Lake Washington sank in a storm because some hatches had been left uncovered during renovation. In 1979, half of the Hood Canal bridge sank in a windstorm.

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

The Seattle Times Historical Archives

Browse our newspaper page archives from 1900-1984


Advertising