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No one would take the old Puyallup River Bridge, even for $1M

The old Puyallup River Bridge (SR 167) was built in 1925 and decommissioned in 2015. (WSDOT)

The old Puyallup River Bridge is becoming Washington’s own version of a bridge to nowhere.

More and more people using foot ferries for Seattle commute

The Puyallup River Bridge — a stretch of State Route 167 — was decommissioned in 2015. Despite the bridge being deemed structurally deficient for the highway traffic, the Washington State Department of Transportation thought quite highly of it. WSDOT hyped that at 371 feet, the riveted steel Warren-type through truss bridge was the longest of its kind build before 1940. It was originally constructed in 1925, making it historic.

With so much charm, someone would certainly want this nearly 100-year-old bridge. WSDOT first offered the old bridge up for sale. After all, it would make a great bridge for pedestrians or bikes, even a small city or for private use. There was a catch, however. The new owner would have to pay to move it. They would also have to pay to maintain any of its historically-significant features. And also, it came with no bridge deck.

So … no one opted to pay for the old 370-ton bridge. WSDOT tried another tactic — it would pay you to take it. In fact, it would pay up to $1 million for someone to take the bridge away.

“We’re actually offering up the cost of demolition to the new owner, which is up to a maximum of $1 million,” said Steve Fuchs with WSDOT in 2017.

Fast forward to 2019, and it turns out that this $1 million plan did not motivate anyone. That’s right, no one would take the bridge even if they could have gotten up to $1 million.

“We took efforts for a second time throughout the summer of 2018 to try and preserve our historic State Route 167, Puyallup River Bridge,” said WSDOT’s Tina Warner. “We were trying to find a new owner of the bridge. They would have received up to $1 million to relocate and reuse the bridge as defined in a transfer agreement.”

Warner explains that there was a lot of interest in the bridge, perhaps for trails and other uses. But it wasn’t as simple as just taking the structure and $1 million. The new owner would have to take all the lead out of the bridge. It would also have to be available to the public for five years.

“Unfortunately, after two rounds of competitive advertising we were unable to find a successful bidder for the Puyallup River Bridge,” she said. “With those requirements, it really eliminated a lot of potential bidders, and I think it became a risk for them to take something like that on.”

What to expect as Seattle’s Fairview Bridge is closed

The replacement bridge has been in use for a while. The old Puyallup River Bridge sits in the right-of-way nearby. The last advertising campaign for the bridge ended in June. So now it will become the property of the future contractor that will build stage 2 of the SR 167 Gateway project. That project will connect SR 167 to I-5 in Fife. That contractor has the option of disassembling the bridge by around 2025, according to Warner, when the new highway is expected to be built where the old bridge currently rests.

It is unknown what the fate of the old bridge will be at that time.

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