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Puyallup River Bridge
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Old Tacoma bridge closing for 9 months

The old Puyallup River Bridge on Highway 99 that connects Fife and downtown Tacoma closes on Monday. Crews will start replacing segments of the aging bridge. (City of Tacoma)

The I-5 construction in Tacoma has been getting all the attention lately, but a major commuter route into the city is about to be shut down for nine months.

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The new Puyallup River Bridge opened last weekend. The old Puyallup River Bridge on Highway 99 that connects Fife and downtown Tacoma closes on Monday. 

“It’s going to be a total closure because they are going to remove those bridge segments and replace them with a brand new bridge,” City of Tacoma engineer Dan Soderlind said. “It’s supposed to take nine months.”

The bridge is 92 years old. It is in desperate need of replacing. It has been load-restricted since 2009. It is made up of seven bridge sections, three of which will be replaced. 

“We will replace a concrete span and then a steel-truss span that goes over the BNSF railroad and then there’s another concrete span,” Soderlind said. “It’s quite a little project.” 

The plan is to replace the entire bridge, but the city doesn’t have the money to do that right now. This will replace about one-third of the total span over the river.

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About 15,000 cars use this bridge every day, and they will all be pushed to alternate routes such as SR 509, Lincoln Avenue, or I-5. 

“I think I would try to go on 509,” Soderlind said. “That facility is a nice, big four-lane facility so I think that would be the best bet.” 

Soderlind knows it’s a giant pain to do this at the same time I-5 is going through such a major renovation, but he said bridge needs to be replaced.

When complete, this new section of bridge will look nothing like the current span. It will have four lanes instead of three and a sidewalk and bike lane. The truss span over the railroad will be gone. It will still be load restricted because of the other segments that are not being replaced.

Most of the nearly $42 million for this project is coming from federal grants, with the city and the Port of Tacoma kicking in much smaller amounts.

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