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Fishing Wars Memorial Bridge Closure FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions on the Fishing Wars Memorial Bridge Closure

Why is the bridge closed?

The City of Tacoma was notified on October 20, 2023, that the Federal Highway Administration is recommending the Fishing Wars Memorial Bridge be closed immediately.


What must be done to reopen the bridge?

The bridge must remain closed as a safety measure to all vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic until:

  • All non-redundant steel tension members and connections are cleaned of dirt and debris (The bridge must be fully encapsulated during the cleaning process to prevent sediment from entering the water and protect the environment.);
  • A complete inspection is conducted;
  • The inspection results are analyzed;
  • The load rating is updated (if required); and
  • The Federal Highway Administration recommends the bridge to be reopened.

What is a non-redundant steel tension member?


Imagine a bridge with two load-carrying beams. If one of the beams fails, the other beam can still carry the load and the bridge will not collapse. This is because the beams are redundant, meaning that there is more than one way to transfer the weight of the load. If a non-redundant steel tension member fails, the entire bridge or a portion of it may become severely compromised.


Why does the bridge’s load rating need to be updated?

All bridges are required to have a complete load rating based on their current condition. The most recent load rating for this bridge, conducted in 2019, cannot be considered a complete load rating due to the unknown condition of the non-redundant steel tension members and connections. During a federal audit of our inspection in June 2023, it was noted certain panel points on the lower chord of the bridge were not visible during the inspection.


Is the Federal Highway Administration concerned about the section of the bridge over the Puyallup River?

Yes. The Federal Highway Administration is concerned about the section of the bridge over the Puyallup River.


What happened to the Puyallup River Bridge?

On May 21, 2019, the Tacoma City Council passed Resolution No. 40333 a resolution renaming the Puyallup River Bridge to the Fishing Wars Memorial Bridge. The Puyallup Tribe of Indians and the City dedicated the Fishing Wars Memorial Bridge on Friday, Aug. 9, 2019. The Fishing Wars Memorial Bridge reopened the morning of September 14, 2019. The bridge reopened with a weight restriction of 20 tons, double that of the pre-closure restriction.

Could the bridge be reopened with more limited loads, or maybe one lane?

No. There is no option available to the City at this time which would allow for the bridge to reopen with limited loads or a reduction to fewer lanes. The Federal Highway Administration has found the bridge should remain closed until the steps above can be completed.


How long is cleaning and inspecting the bridge estimated to take?

It is estimated that it may take up to two to three years to complete the cleaning and inspection necessary to determine if the bridge may be reopened to traffic.

How much is cleaning and inspecting the bridge estimated to cost?

If the City pursues the required cleaning and inspecting of the bridge, it is estimated to cost $6 million to $7 million. Currently, the City does not have the resources to fund the bridge cleaning. The City is able to allocate $300,000 towards this effort and will be working to obtain the additional funding needed to complete the cleaning of the bridge necessary to allow for the inspection.


Was the work done in 2019 to repair portions of the bridge completed properly?

Yes. That work done in 2019 was completed in full compliance with all Federal Highway Administration requirements for inspection and reporting. And, in fact, the American Public Works Association recognized the City’s extensive work to replace the western-most span on the Fishing Wars Memorial Bridge in 2019 with its 2020 Project of the Year award. Details are available here.


Why were all portions not replaced in 2019?

There was not sufficient funding to replace the entire bridge. The work completed in 2019 replaced two sections of the bridge, along with partial replacement of another section. These efforts were made possible through funding contributions from the Port of Tacoma, City of Tacoma, the Washington State Department of Transportation, the Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board, and federal grants from the Bridge Replacement Advisory Committee (BRAC) and Surface Transportation Program (STP). The work to replace the remaining segments was to be funded later, and the City has continued to pursue funding for this work.


Have there been any attempts to fund work on the other spans of the bridge?

The City has been seeking funding for additional work on the bridge through both state and federal sources. Currently, the City has been awarded $9 million in federal grant funding to begin the preliminary design of the replacement of the remaining spans of the bridge.


What would it cost to replace the bridge?

The total replacement cost of the bridge is estimated to be $280 million in today’s dollars. Construction cost escalation will likely increase this estimate moving forward. The City would need to pursue state and federal grant funding as well as partnerships with stakeholders to fund the replacement.


What did the City learn in 2019?

In 2019, the City worked with speed and efficiency while reducing impacts to the public. Moving forward, the City would also apply the same approach.


Where can I go for more information?

Updates on this work will be provided here as they become available and will also be shared across the City’s official platforms.

Community members with specific questions about work on the Fishing Wars Memorial Bridge may contact Project Engineer Steve Carstens in the City's Public Works Department at scarstens@cityoftacoma.org or (253) 591-5263.

More information about the City’s Bridge Program is available here.