Historic Tacoma Elevated Road being demolished. “It’s become a safety hazard” – KIRO 7 News Seattle

TACOMA, Wash. – The East 11th Street Overpass that connected the Port of Tacoma to the western half of the Tideflats is being demolished after it began dropping chunks of concrete, prompting the city of Tacoma to declare it unsafe.

As of Thursday, about a third of the 2,000-foot-long steel viaduct, which connects Milwaukee Way to Stewart Street, was missing or in rubble. Machines, including one that cuts metal columns like gigantic tin snips, tore through the structure.

The viaduct connects to a truss bridge over the Puyallup River. The bridge is not part of the project.

The bridge and viaduct – essentially an elevated causeway – carried more than 2,000 vehicles a day before it was closed in 2014. The bridge was deemed unsafe due to poor structural integrity.

The bridge was built in 1912, according to newspaper reports filed in the Northwest Room of the Tacoma Public Library. Stories from that time do not give a specific date when the viaduct was built, but the city estimates it was built in the 1930s.

The viaduct does not resemble modern elevated roads. The 4-lane concrete roadway was supported by steel I-beams. It has an average clearance of 25 feet below.

The viaduct began its approach to the bridge at ground level, next to the Port of Tacoma Administration Building. Employees parked below.

It cuts the West Sitcum terminal, leased by SSA Marine, in two. Its removal could facilitate shipping activities between the two halves, according to Matthew Mauer, head of government affairs at the port. Higher port equipment, such as elevators that transport shipping containers, could not pass under the viaduct.

The port worked around and below until it started raining concrete in 2021.

“There were chunks of concrete falling off the bridge,” Mauer said. “Even without traffic on it. It has become a safety hazard. »

“I have a piece on my desk that’s about 18 inches long by 6 inches wide,” demolition project manager Steve Carstens said Thursday. He works for the city’s public works department.

After an inspection, the city declared a state of emergency in February. Demolition began on March 30.


The 1912 bridge that still spans the Puyallup River was once a vertical lift bridge, like the nearby Murray Morgan Bridge, and carried a streetcar line in its early days. It was converted to a fixed span in 1979.

The Puyallup waterway is not associated with shipping and there are no plans to change that, Mauer said. Instead, international shipping is mostly restricted to the Blair Waterway, while the Sitcum Waterway is primarily used for inland shipping.

The closure of the viaduct and bridge in 2014 reduced options for trucks to and from the port. The nearest bridge over the Puyallup is now the Lincoln Avenue Bridge, 4,000 linear feet to the south and a detour about 2 miles long.

The closure of the East 11th Street Bridge has also increased travel time for emergency response and evacuations from the heart of the port.


The demolition project has a budget of $7 million. Atkinson Construction is the main contractor.

The port and the city share the costs.

“We are in negotiation with an interlocal agreement for this aspect of cost sharing,” Mauer said. “But it hasn’t been officially approved by the (port) commission or the (city) council yet.”

The metal parts of the viaduct are recycled, Carstens said. Concrete is also pulverized and recycled.


Current demolition will stop between Stewart Avenue and the river bank, leaving about 100 feet of overpass, Carstens said.

There are no immediate plans to demolish the truss bridge, Carstens said. The main water supply line to the port is attached to the bridge, which complicates matters.

There are plans to eventually replace the bridge with a modern version and build a higher elevated road to replace the viaduct. The highest height, about 60 feet, would allow shipping equipment to pass underneath.

The final section of the viaduct passes over the Puyallup Tribe boat launch into the Puyallup River. Once demolition is complete, a protective barrier will be built under the remaining viaduct to catch falling debris, Carstens said.

In the meantime, the cleared area closest to the port administration building is now a temporary gravel parking lot punctuated by the remnants of the viaduct footings, now just 18 inches high above the ground but much deeper below. .

“What you see above ground is just a small part,” Carstens said. “It’s like an iceberg, basically.”

Demolition should be completed in the fall.

This story was originally published by The News Tribune.

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Susan W. Lloyd