Pigeon trouble on SR 526 disrupts seismic retro-fitting

Jul 11, 2023, 5:02 AM

pidgeon SR 526...

"Contractor crews found, well, the way it's been described to me is an exceptional amount of pigeon excrement up in the girders" (Photo from WSDOT)

(Photo from WSDOT)

Seismic upgrades and pigeons don’t really have much in common but don’t tell that to contractors working on improvements to the Boeing Freeway in Everett.

You might be able to guess where I’m going with this, so be prepared.

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Pigeons usually don’t get in the way of construction projects unless they’ve been living in spaces that are slated for improvements.

And that’s what happened along State Route 526, or the Boeing Freeway, over the winter when work to seismically upgrade four bridges began.

“Contractor crews found, well, the way it’s been described to me is an exceptional amount of pigeon excrement up in the girders and the support areas of the bridge,” Washington Department of Transportation spokesperson Dave Rasbach said.

You should expect a little of that under these bridges, but it sounds like these pigeons had been very busy for a very long time.

“The lead inspector told me that there was about an inch worth deep of pigeon excrement, which is an exceptional amount,” Rasbach said.  “It was the most he’d ever seen underneath a bridge. I cringe thinking about it.”

It was enough that the work had to be stopped for a bit to get a hazmat crew under the bridges and clean everything up. Those workers cleaned the east half of the bridges first so the retrofitting could start.

They recently began working on the pigeon problem on the west side of the bridges so that the retro-fitting can finish by the end of the year.

But how can you keep the pigeons from returning and making a mess?

Rasbach said they’ve found a solution for that.

“They’re gel discs, and what they do is they deter all species of birds using three senses against them to encourage them to stay away,” Rasbach said.

“The way the birds see them is they look like smoke or fire. They’re also scented with citronella and peppermint, which from what I understand, birds don’t enjoy that smell,” Rasbach continued. “And the third thing they do is they’re a little bit sticky or tacky. So if the birds do decide to land in that area, their feet kind of stick to it, and they don’t like that.”

But enough about the pigeons.

What about the project?

“Contractor crews are currently working on the overpasses at Airport Road, Hardeson Road, and East Casino Road, and later in the project, we’ll also be dealing with a ramp from southbound Seaway Boulevard to the eastbound State Route 526,” Rasbach said.

These are all between Interstate 5 and the Boeing plant. There have been ongoing lane reductions throughout the project on the roads that go under SR 526. Those will continue throughout the project, which should be done in December.

What does the retro-fitting look like?

“Contractor crews wrap steel jackets around the columns, and that helps support the bridges and hold the concrete together better,” Rasbach said. “In an earthquake, that reduces the chance of collapse of this important freeway.”

Pigeons or no pigeons, this work needs to get done. Highway 526 is 59 years old, and like a lot of our bridges, it needs some attention.

There are 900 bridges in the state that are in the seismic upgrade program.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.


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Pigeon trouble on SR 526 disrupts seismic retro-fitting