In the realm of capital facilities, the ingredient of time can be as vital as mortar or concrete.
From roads to bridges to civic buildings, municipal engineering departments work to balance the need for adequate construction schedules with the disruption caused by closed streets and scenic detours. In the case of the Barker Road Bridge – at the center of a massive reconstruction effort that began in July 2008 – local residents continue to wonder why the overpass is running over schedule.
Originally slated for an 18-month timeline, the project is now approaching the two-year mark. The latest holdup has to do with a ruling handed down from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife dictating that any work that may disturb the sediment and surrounding aquatic life in the Spokane River be halted from March 15 to June 15. According to Steve Worley, senior engineer with the city of Spokane Valley, that means plans to remove a temporary work bridge and underlying form material, used to construct the bridge deck, must wait several more weeks.
In the meantime, Worley and his cohorts at City Hall keep fielding calls.
“People want to know when the bridge is going to be open,” he said. “We recognize the inconvenience to the traveling public, but we’re not going to open the bridge until it’s safe for pedestrians and traffic.”
The original Barker Bridge was built in 1952 parallel to a steel span constructed by Spokane County in 1910. At 36 feet wide, the first concrete bridge served as a valuable link between the north and south sides of the Spokane River but, over the years, became unfit for an increasing amount of traffic. In December 2007, weight restrictions were issued for the bridge after an inspection determined that the limits were necessary to prevent further deterioration before construction began.
The history of crossings in the area goes back to 1894 when the Greenacres bridge provided passage for early homesteaders across the river.
Worley said part of the community disgruntlement with the project may have something to do with the misperception that the bridge was being renovated not completely rebuilt.
“When you say ‘reconstruction,’ it gives the impression that part of the old bridge is still there – but it’s not,” he said. “This is a totally different style of bridge.”
The cost of the latest rendition varies slightly from the 1954 version as well. The total budget for construction at that time rang in at $190,000 while the new price tag is listed at $11.3 million. The sum includes $10 million in federal grants and $350,000 in reimbursements from local utility companies such as Avista and Consolidated Irrigation District.
“I think it says a lot about the city’s ability to secure grants,” said Council Member Bill Gothmann who serves on the state Transportation Improvement Board.
While the mid-June moratorium will mean adjustments in the construction schedule, Worley said there is still plenty of work currently underway. This week, the first layer of asphalt was poured for street approaches on the north and south sides of the bridge. The schedule also includes the installation of conduit for future fiber optic uses, irrigation work along nearby swales and resurfacing of a portion of the Centennial Trail that has been impacted by construction.
The 2010 debut of the Barker Bridge will feature room for four traffic lanes as well as bike paths and sidewalks on each side. The finished span will double in width to 72 feet.