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First SR 520 pontoons to float in Tacoma Monday

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Date:  Friday, July 20, 2012

Contact: Jeff Switzer, SR 520 Communications, 206-770-3547 (Seattle), 206-819-7230 (cell)

Floating bridge to take shape on Lake Washington this summer

SEATTLE – The first six concrete pontoons to support a replacement State Route 520 bridge are ready to float out of a construction facility in Tacoma starting Monday, July 23, marking a major milestone toward replacing the aging and vulnerable floating bridge.

Crews will tow pairs of pontoons out of Concrete Technology Corporation on high tides the evenings of July 23, 24 and 25. Pontoons will go through watertight inspections nearby at the Port of Tacoma and be readied for the next round of construction.

“Construction crews have worked for months to build these pontoons, and seeing them float out and towed to Lake Washington this summer will be a huge accomplishment,” said Julie Meredith, SR 520 Program director for the Washington State Department of Transportation. “We still have a lot of work ahead of us to deliver a new, more reliable floating bridge – and it all starts with pontoons.”

The completed pontoons are the first of 77 of various sizes needed for a new six-lane floating bridge. Together they will help form what will be the world’s longest floating bridge at 7,710 feet. A total of 44 pontoons will be built in Tacoma and 33 in Aberdeen. As each cycle ends, crews prepare the pontoons for assembly in the new floating bridge just north of the existing bridge.

Crews in Tacoma worked for about six months to build this batch of six supplemental stability pontoons. These smaller pontoons will attach to the sides of larger new pontoons to provide additional floatation for the bridge structure. The 44 smaller pontoons each weigh 2,500 to 2,820 tons and measure 100 feet long, 50 to 60 feet wide and about 28 feet tall.

In June, there were 155 workers at the Tacoma jobsite, including 100 craft workers, such as carpenters, ironworkers, concrete workers and equipment operators. Employment levels are expected to rise to meet construction demand as future pontoon construction cycles get under way. Construction is expected to continue into 2014.

“The next few construction cycles in Tacoma build eight pontoons at a time, and this jobsite will continue to buzz with activity for the next two years,” said Dave Becher, WSDOT construction manager for the floating bridge project.

In Aberdeen, crews are completing the first six of 33 pontoons that will form the backbone of the new floating bridge. Pontoons were repaired in June and July after cracks were discovered, and crews are preparing to float them into Grays Harbor and tow them to Lake Washington this summer. A peer review panel is examining the cause of the cracks and preliminary recommendations are pending.

Information about Tacoma pontoon float-out activities July 23 through 25 can be tracked online at


The SR 520 Floating Bridge and Landings Project replaces the vulnerable floating bridge and the approaches. Contractor Kiewit/General/Manson, A Joint Venture, has a $586.6 million contract to build the floating bridge, anchors and 44 supplemental pontoons. Construction is under way on Lake Washington and a target date for opening the replacement six-lane floating bridge to traffic is December 2014.

Information is available at


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