Tag Archives: Narrows

Toll-paying troubles illustrate changes at Narrows Bridge

The in basket: Lance Kanski had some trouble paying his toll to cross the Tacoma Narrows Bridge this fall and sought help from Road Warrior readers on the Road Warrior blog at kitsapsun.com.

“I received two infractions for the same reason,” he said, “one for my truck , one for my motorcycle. Both have transponders. I stopped at the toll booth with my motorcycle to make sure the transponder worked, and it did not. It was the first time I had tried to use that transponder.

“The booth dude told me. don’t worry, it will read your plate and debit your account. What is the outcome on the infractions? Do I have to pay the $52 fines? Anyone?”
The out basket: Janet Matkin, the voice of the Good to Go! toll office since its inception in 2006, fielded this question on her last day on the job before joining the state Association of Cities. She said, “If the license plate number is on the account, then the vehicle can be identified by the license plate and their Good To Go! account will be charged the toll. With the start of photo tolling on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge on December 3, the vehicle would be charged the Pay By Plate rate, which is 25 cents more than the transponder rate ($3 for a two-axle vehicle).

However, if you have a transponder and it isn’t reading properly, you should stop by the customer service center and have it replaced,” she said. “Then you’ll be charged the $2.75 rate.

“Also, there are no more $52 fines,” Janet said,” if you bypass the toll booths. Instead, if you don’t have a Good To Go! account and don’t stop at the toll booths, the registered owner of the vehicle will be mailed a toll bill for $5.50.”

Annie Johnson of the Good to Go! office stepped in after Janet had left and I asked whether Lance would have to pay his two $52 fines from before the recent changes.


“Our records show that the (tickets)  were issued because neither license plate number was on the Good To Go!  account ,” Annie said, “and thus we couldn’t associate the license plate numbers with an account.

“Mr. Kanski should receive dismissal letters in the mail once the tickets are dismissed (meaning he won’t have to pay the two $52 fines). The Good To Go! toll rate of $2.75 was posted to his account for each of the two toll transactions.”


“(This) case is a good reminder to folks to keep their account information (including license plates) up to date,” Annie said. “If the license plates had been listed on his account, we could have matched it up that way and he wouldn’t have received any (infractions).

“As Janet noted, as of December 3 we no longer issue (notices of infraction). If this situation were to occur now, we would issue a photo tolling bill instead of the fine.”


The nuts and bolts of removing old bridge’s nuts, bolts and concrete

The in basket: As I crossed the Warren Avenue Bridge in Bremerton one recent day and looked over at the old Manette Bridge, fated for demolition this fall and winter, my thoughts flashed to the fact that most of the fallen portions of Galloping Gertie, the original, short-lived Tacoma Narrows Bridge, are said to remain where they fell, at the bottom of the narrows.

I wondered if any part of the Manette Bridge would wind up on the bottom of its narrows.

The out basket: It was a timely curiosity, as state engineers were grappling at that very moment with ways to make sure the answer is no, the old Manette Bridge will be removed in its entirety.

They turned out a news release soon afterward, detailing how the underwater portions of the old bridge will be removed under a separate contract. Their original plans for the removal were judged too likely to make the crumbled concrete unretrievable. There was a story about it in the Sept. 17 Sun.

Project Engineer Jeff Cook has provided me with further details.

The majority of the removal will be done under the construction contract with Manson-Mowat.

The road surface already has been removed.  This fall, the steel parts of the bridge will be lifted in chunks of up to 250 tons, put on a barge and cut up for transport off-site. The steel center truss, the visual identity of the old bridge, will be the last steel part removed.

Then crews will use what’s called a hoe ram, described as a huge jackhammer, to “rubblize” the above-water parts of the concrete uprights that support the bridge.

The chunks will fall onto a platform of planks laid between two barges to be positioned on each side of the pier being destroyed, Jeff said. The barges and planks will be covered in sand to keep the falling detritus from bouncing into the water.

When the platforms hold as much as they can, the barges will be moved to Tacoma to be unloaded, Jeff said. It may take more than one trip.

“Nothing is allowed to drop into the water,” he said. “The contractor will be required to fully contain all pieces that are picked and removed during demolition.”

The below-water parts of the bridge will fall to the bottom, but will be contained within steel coffer cells that will limit the area from which the rubble must be removed, Jeff said.

No one will ever accuse me of being an environmentalist, so I’m anxious to hear from those who consider themselves to be whether this doesn’t all seem a bit much. Particularly, the importance of keeping out of the water crumbled parts of concrete structures that have sat intact in that same water for 80-some years seems like costly overkill.

Speed limit around Narrows Bridge questioned

The in basket: Michael Johnson asks, “Why is the speed limit on (Highway)16 in Tacoma and Gig Harbor still 55?  

“Before the new bridge was built, traffic was really bad through there, so I understood the decreased speed limit,” he said. “With the new bridge there is no such thing as ‘bridge traffic’ any more so I don’t know why the speed limit hasn’t been raised up to 60 like the rest of the freeways in the area.” 

The out basket: I wonder the same thing every time I encounter the reduced speed sign at the Wollochet interchange going toward the bridge, and especially when I must wait until I get to the same interchange heading away from the bridge to see a 60 mph speed limit sign. Highway 16 between the Olympic and Wollochet interchanges includes no complications not found farther north, where the speed limit is 60.

The state must have noticed the same thing. Lisa Copeland of the Olympic Region public affairs staff says they are working toward a hike in the speed limit from 55 to 60 between Union Avenue in Tacoma and the Wollochet interchange.

But it requires environmental approval, surprisingly, because of possible air pollution implications, and may not happen for months, it at all.

Those “Severe Side Wind” warnings at Narrows bridges

The in basket: John Veatch of Bremerton writes, “One of my pet peeves is the habit by the state to claim there are severe high winds on the (Tacoma) Narrows Bridge when there is barely enough wind to make the wind sock jiggle. 

“I feel they shouldn’t turn on the ‘Severe Winds’ sign until the velocity is up to at least 15 knots.  Do you know what their policy is and how it is triggered?  The way it is results in my thinking it’s just another false alarm and grow to ignore its importance.”

I had noticed the same thing.

The out basket: Well, John and I in our passenger cars aren’t what you might call the key demographic for whom those messages are intended.

Hal Weiblen, Traffic Management Center supervisor for the state, replies, “Wind warnings at the Narrows are activated by either of the two criteria.

“One, the TMC operators notice that the wind socks on either end of the bridges are extended, or two, when notified by the WSP that wind conditions are being reported or experienced that may cause a concern for motorist or truckers crossing the bridge.  

“There are no weather instruments located at the bridge deck (where the traffic is) to indicate wind speed at that level, only the wind socks,” Hank said. “It should also be noted that wind will often be indicated by the socks at one end of the bridge, but not at the other, but motorist must cross both ends of the bridge (we hope).  

“As such, we always want to err on the side of safety,” he said, “as no one can tell us what an appropriate wind speed would be for activating the alerts.  A mild breeze barely felt by a motorist in a car, could be quite severe for a semi-truck, or for someone on a motorcycle, so the wind warning message is activated upon a visual observation, and allows the motorist to at least be prepared to encounter an unusual driving condition. 

“Years ago, we did a survey with the trucking industry to try and determine what a wind speed criteria would be for trucks, and the responses I got back were across the board, which basically came back to me as ‘What is the cargo?’  

“A truck carrying a load of  (plastic) foam cups will be much more negatively impacted then a cargo of iron anvils.  So you can see there is no clear-cut answer to the question of what speed to activate such messages.” 

What happens if one Tacoma Narrows span is blocked?

The in basket: Mike McKinney asks “If one of the (Tacoma) narrows bridges is closed for an extended period of time, are there plans that would open one bridge both ways?”

The out basket: Yes, says Tony Leingang, the state’s freeway operations engineer:

 “The bridge ends were designed with improvements to facilitate crossing traffic and putting two-way traffic on one bridge,” he said. “The traffic control plan that goes along with that provides for easily identified cross-over detour alignments and storing traffic control devices at the bridge site for expedited response. 

“Steel traffic swing gates were designed into bridge end barrier protection so that cross-over detours could be quickly established. Depending on the collision, the time estimated for a complete bridge closure would be weighed against the time needed to implement two-way traffic on one bridge.”

Plans still alive for LED lights on new Narrows bridge

The in basket: Glen Adrig says in an e-mail, “In 2007, a citizens group had an agreement with (the state) regarding installation and maintenance of decorative and low cost LED lighting on the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge suspension cables.

“I was looking forward to seeing Christmas lights displayed on the bridge this year,” he said, “but there seems to be no progress on getting the lights installed.” 

“Looking for the website associated with the organization (www.narrowsbridgelights.org) results in an expired domain name. Is the organization and agreement  gone, and will the new Narrows Bridge ever get the decorative LED lighting installed to make it a real attractive and seasonal landmark?”

The out basket: It’s an ongoing effort, and the Web site comes up on my computer. Glen may have made a typo on the address when he tried.

Chris Keegan, the state’s bridge expert, said his staff will meet with the contractor for the Narrows lighting project and look at the plans sometime in January “to make sure they are heading in the right direction.”

Chris said the state Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development has awarded Narrows Bridge Lights $1.5 million, and all concerned hope it will be enough to get the decorative lights on the new bridge.

Desa Coniff of Narrows Bridge Lights says, “We have been working out the details of the contract with (the state)  for about 18 months and have come to an agreement.  Our energies have been focused in this direction.  

“Once the design plans are approved, we will focus on the next phases and future fundraising. We needed to come to an agreement with DOT prior to any other activities being accomplished. 

“Thus I do not have an update other than this at this time. But tell people that we continue to work diligently, we have not given up and are determined to bring some color to the bridges!” 

They’ll move on to get money and authorization to light the old bridge once the new bridge is done, she said. 

“This is a unique project run entirely on volunteer time.  We have endeavored for three years to make this project happen, and it appears we are very near.”

Chris Keegan said the group’s contractor is to install the lights, with state supervision.

Catch-22 in old bridge’s HOV lane

 The in basket: Ken Luzbetak of Bremerton said in an e-mail, “The other night I saw a Washington State Patrol running with lights and sirens across the old Tacoma Narrows bridge toward Gig Harbor in the HOV lane. There was a car ahead of him. I couldn’t see how it turned out, but should the driver ahead of him changed lanes on the bridge (despite it’s being prohibited) or fail to yield (against the law) and make the WSP change lanes?”

The out basket: A driver in the HOV lane on the old bridge should proceed until he or she is past the grates that separate the lanes and then pull over for the officer, says Trooper Krista Hedstrom of the Bremerton detachment. 

“The troopers that work in the Gig Harbor detachments will usually shut off lights and sirens as they cross the bridge for (this) very reason,” she said.  “However, there may be times that a trooper will continue with lights and sirens across the old bridge. The recommendation – wait until you are safely across the bridge, then move out of the way.”

The difference in traction between the grates and the pavement is the main reason lane changes are forbidden on the old bridge.