by Kirby Lindsay
On April 19, 2010, construction is scheduled to begin on the Aurora Bridge. This is not the construction of the long-awaited, long-debated safety barrier. This is not about the seismic retrofit in the beginning planning stages for 2011. This is pre-construction preparation, and a sampling of what is to come.
Not As Bad As It Sounds
Greg Phipps, spokesperson with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) for this project, wants the neighbors of the bridge to know that his office will deliver, for free, industrial-strength earplugs to those who want them. Call 206/267-6019 for a pair – or pick some up at your local pharmacy. Also, all comments and complaints on the noise can be given to a 24-hour construction noise hotline at 206/390-5697.
These measures are being taken because “we don’t have an environmental test,” Phipps explained, “it may be noisier for some people than others.” Due to the scale of the bridge, the acoustics over water, and the lay of hills and valleys on which people live, work and sleep, the impacts can not be accurately defined. As the work progresses, and comments come in, they will modify the staging to lessen the impacts.
Ultimately, “it’s a safety thing,” Phipps described. The work they will do over the next 4 – 6 weeks “is all about lessening the impacts of the construction later on.” For the work being done now is not for construction of the safety fence for the George Washington Memorial Bridge, better known as Aurora, but to reinforce the sidewalk before construction begins.
After a winter of discussion, review and evaluation, a couple of weeks ago the contractor, Massana Construction, got approval to use a ‘buggy’ system for installing the barrier – a carriage that runs on a track on the sidewalk and lowers workers over the rail in a basket. The will be instead of a flatbed parked in two lanes of traffic, and allow for daytime work hours – from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. for the drilling work.
In order to lay the tracks and buggy, “our Bridge Engineers had asked for work to be done to strengthen the sidewalk,” Phipps explained. The sidewalk will bear the weight of normal pedestrian and bike traffic but engineers wanted slightly more reinforcement for the workers and their buggy. So, over the next weeks wooden blocks will be placed underneath the structure - during nighttime hours as workers will use a flatbed with a crane and block two lanes.
Alarms have been raised about the noise of this work, but the only expected noise will be generators to give the workers light during this phase. The work will be done in a circuit, starting at the Northwest corner of the Bridge (on the southbound side), working south, then switching to the Southeast corner (Canlis) and working north.
To Further Lessen Confusion
This will begin work much sooner than expected. Meanwhile, many have received notices from WSDOT about a seismic retrofit. Mike Murphy, the WSDOT spokesperson on this project admitted that they are “still evaluating what it will take.”
They need to ‘wrap’ the columns that hold up the Bridge, to better protect us all in an earthquake. Seismic activity can move up-and-down as often as side-to-side, and lead the columns to crumble. Usually WSDOT would install steel jackets around cylindrical columns most common to bridges. Aurora, however, has gorgeous, architecturally significant, tapered, cruciform shaped (cross shaped) columns.
According to Murphy, engineers have explored the use of a black reinforced polymer that would cover 18 of the 48 – 50 columns (WSDOT figures differ). The polymer would then be covered with a thin layer of concrete and painted the standard ‘Washington gray’ color, just as the bridge is today.
This project, expected to be done over the summer of 2011, still must undergo review by the City of Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board. Any significant visual change will be thoroughly assessed and addressed in meetings with their architects and a public hearing.
For more information on this project, check out the website. Also, the website contains information on seismic work completed in 2005. Finally, more information on the barrier construction, and pre-construction, can be seen on their website page – and will be presented at upcoming public community meetings.
- Hurdles To The Bridge Barrier Cleared For Construction
- by Kirby Lindsay, September 1, 2009
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.