More 520 Bridge pontoons pop out of Aberdeen

20130429-045857.jpgImage: WSDOT Flickr stream

The second cycle of pontoons for the new 520 Bridge floated out of the casting basin in Aberdeen early this morning, complete with additional post-tensioning to avoid the cracks that plagued the first cycle last year. “We have now constructed 24 out of the 77 bridge pontoons we need for the new floating bridge,” said Julie Meredith, SR 520 program director. The pontoons will be moored in Grays Harbor for inspections before being towed to Lake Washington when needed.

Despite the progress, it is not clear when the new bridge will be done. Ambitious hope for an early opening in 2014 ended with the Gregoire Governorship. WSDOT’s construction contract with Kiewit General requires a July 2015 completion, yet fixes to the first set of pontoons and additional structure for those remaining are adding unknown cost and time to the project.

WSDOT is in negotiations with its contractors for pontoon issues encountered in spring 2012 and has not made an official determination on any potential schedule effects.

Another cloud of uncertainty hangs over 520 due to the legislature’s failure to pass a transportation budget before the end of session yesterday. That work will be left for a special session, likely to begin in mid-May. Lawmakers will have to decide to press ahead with the piecemeal West Approach Bridge North, scheduled for June 2014, or wait until full funding is secured to complete the Seattle-side of 520. Seeing how an aggressive schedule has so far cost the state $100 million in avoidable mistakes — and the likelihood of a public vote to fill the $1.4 billion funding gap — there’s good reason to think a pause is in order.