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Originally published June 4, 2013 at 8:39 PM | Page modified June 4, 2013 at 9:19 PM

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Aging Kent bridge to be closed for good

The Alvord T Bridge in Kent, a small symbol of the region’s aging infrastructure, closes permanently Wednesday.

Seattle Times transportation reporter

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King County has given up on fixing the Alvord T Bridge, after 99 years of rust and rot.

So the Kent bridge will close Wednesday, perhaps never to be replaced. Demolition is to begin this summer.

Traffic there is not heavy, nor does this short, green steel-truss bridge over the Green River make an architectural statement.

What the span does tell us is the Puget Sound region isn’t young anymore. The infrastructure crisis that began to spook East Coast cities in the late 20th century has reached the West Coast in the 21st.

King County points to the bridge’s deterioration as an example of how scores of its other bridges will decline unless there’s more money for maintenance.

The Alvord T was to close at the end of June, but the county chose to retire it three weeks early because of the May 23 collapse of the Interstate 5 Skagit River bridge. A section of that bridge along with two vehicles and three people plunged into the river after a truck hit some overhead beams.

The Kent bridge also has a low clearance — 13 feet, 8 inches — and a history of truck hits.

Though load limits are posted, it’s common to see heavy trucks make the crossing. That’s a risk the county didn’t want to prolong, said Rick Brater, engineering-services manager for the King County Department of Transportation.

Brater said rust on the bridge was documented as early as 1916, and by now the lower beam joints are irretrievably corroded.

King County applied for $18 million in federal money to replace the bridge but was turned down in 2008, mainly because there are three other Green River bridges nearby. The feds are covering most of the $1.3 million cost of demolition.

“This is what happens when a bridge reaches the end of its useful life. You have to close it,” King County spokeswoman Rochelle Ogershok said.

The bridge typically carried 2,500 vehicles a day on 10-foot-wide lanes.

The crossing is named for Thomas Alvord, an early settler. He owned a landing on the river in the 1870s for sternwheel steamboats, near a bridge called the “T,” at a time when valley farmers were selling hops to the national beer market.

The bridge closure will affect businesses immediately south of the bridge by turning 78th Avenue South into a dead end.

Trucks leaving Fields Roof Service will have to detour a few miles south to congested South 277th Street. Retail customers of Special Interest Auto Wrecking must adapt to arriving only from the south, manager Tom Oothout said.

Most of King County’s 10 other fracture-critical bridges are considered safe, because they are fairly new or their beams are out of harm’s way.

The main worry is in Carnation, where the Stossel Bridge over the Snoqualmie River revealed six hits to its overhead beams in an April inspection.

It will be posted with warning signs for the 15-foot clearance, and possibly alarm lights should an overheight truck come near.

Includes information from Clarence Bagley, “History of King County, Washington,” found online. Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or mlindblom@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @mikelindblom

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