Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Olympia Bridge Restoration Underway

Above: Workers have been restoring downtown Olympia’s Fourth Avenue bridge for about ten weeks. The bulk of the project involves cleaning and painting, however, some repairs are also being done. The project is being funded out of the City of Olympia's transportation general fund for $451,962.

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

For the past ten weeks, thousands of commuters have watched a crew at work on the Fourth Avenue bridge in downtown Olympia.

Formally known as the Olympia-Yashiro Friendship Bridge, the bridge spans Budd Inlet, the southernmost portion of Puget Sound. 

A critical east-west transportation link for the city, the bridge symbolically connects the Olympia community in many other ways as well.

While the bulk of the project involves cleaning and painting, some crack repair is also being done to prevent future water intrusion. Water damage causing significant pockmarks and spalling of cement pieces has occurred in about 250 feet of the bridge.

A contract amount of $451,962 was given to Finishing Touch Masonry and Restoration Solutions, LLC, of Everett.

The project is considered a transportation project and is being funded out of the city’s transportation general fund.

“This project was not bid per our typical design-bid build process however it is a U.S. Communities project and these types of projects meet the competitive bidding requirements,” said Jeff Johnstone, project manager and senior engineer with the City of Olympia, when asked about the cost.   

The U.S. Communities Project is a partnership formed in 2009 among the U.S. Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

The city’s use of U.S. Communities was approved by city council in 2016.

Johnstone added that after the work is complete, the bridge will retain its shiny white appearance, and should only need to be pressure washed once a year.

“I never realized how grubby it had gotten until I saw side by side pictures,” said Johnstone.

Prior to construction of the bridge, Johnstone said that the city tested multiple different coating products.

“These products were applied to concrete panels and allowed to sit for the winter in order to determine how well they held up to our winter conditions and how easy they were to clean. Graffiti testing was also conducted on each coating. The coating being used was selected because it is a single step coating process and once the coating container is opened, it can be resealed and saved for later use, similar to a can of paint,” he said.

Above: The Olympia-Yashiro Friendship Bridge, better known as the Fourth Avenue bridge, spans Budd Inlet, the southernmost tip of Puget Sound.

Workers interviewed on Tuesday were disappointed that their completed work on the south side of the bridge has already been tagged with graffiti.

“It takes a couple minutes to tag, but takes a lot more time than that to clean it off,” said Rick Schindler, a restoration mason and project foreman with Finishing Touch Masonry.

Schindler, of Everett, has been busy with Ken Hester, of Shoreline, to brush, hand scrape, seal, vacuum, and pressure wash the bridge. He recently hired another employee to speed up the work and says he hopes to get the project done by the end of September.

Schindler explained that the westernmost 250 feet of the bridge between the roundabouts on Olympic Way has the most water intrusion damage because the concrete was poured onsite, which resulted in a very difficult finish.

Workers at the time realized their mistake, Schindler said, and used precast forms for the rest of the bridge.

“Those look a lot better,” he said.

“It’s been a tedious project to get right,” said Hester.

All workers are Pacific Northwest chapter members of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers.

Above: Ken Hester, of Shoreline, packs up his masonry supplies for the day on Tuesday.

A Brief Bridge History

The bridge was completed in 2003 to replace the previous bridge which was structurally damaged in the Nisqually based earthquake on February 28, 2001.

The earthquake speeded up a bridge replacement process that was already underway, as load limits had already been placed on the bridge.

Former City of Olympia Mayor Bob Jacobs was asked about his involvement in the planning for the new bridge in the late 1990s prior to the earthquake.

The previous bridge lasted as long as it did because it had been constructed with extra strength to carry trolley traffic. 

“It was generous of the council to include on the bronze plaques all of the names of council members who participated in the entire, long planning process. It’s a great looking bridge. Although the cost estimates had to be increased several times, our council made detailed decisions on the design of the bridge, including the number of lanes, width of sidewalks, and height of railings.

“Partway into the process, it was decided to expand the project to include the area to the west and call it the Olympia Gateway Project. The roundabouts were a big risk because such structures were rather new at the time and the slopes made them difficult to construct. All in all, it turned out very well,” said Jacobs.

Editor's Note, August 24: Little Hollywood deleted a previously published statement that the Fourth Avenue bridge never had trolley traffic.

Above: Olympians braved the rain to celebrate the grand reopening of the Fourth Avenue Bridge in December, 2003. The bridge serves as a critical east-west transportation link in Olympia. The Nisqually earthquake made the previous bridge unusable, causing over two years of inconvenience for commuters.

1 comment:

  1. Bob Jacobs may be wrong about there never having been trolleys on the 4th Avenue Bridge. The old bridge was built in 1922. I think trolleys ran on it through 1933.


    There it states:

    This is from "How the West Was Once : a History of West Olympia" (1974):

    "The street railway system came to West Olympia in 1890. They were two horse cars whose lines extended from Puget Street west to Main Street south to Maple park and finally to Tumwater and West Olympia. In 1892, the Olympia Light & Power Co. unveiled an electric-powered street car. This was powered by a Maptha motor shipped from Chicago in January, 1892. The cars were elegantly trimmed in gold and were white in color. The street cars soon were in operation in July, 1892. Olympia's soggy weather soon turned the elegant cars' interiors in wet messes. The cars also displayed colorful beams of electricity as they discharged wherever a good connection was made."

    "The cars ran right up the middle of the Fourth Avenue Bridge, a fact remembered well by Red Isom, who wrecked his little roadster in a head-on collision with one."

    "The clattering streetcars ran fairly successfully though noisily until the Depression slowed them down, and in 1933 they were replaced by the present Olympia Transit System."

    "The following story was generously and clearly written for us by Mr. Dan Cushman, who lived in West Olympia during the hey-day of the trolley:"

    "'A lot of people in Olympia don't seem to realize that this town once had a Rapid Transit System. It was the Olympia Traction Company and it was commonly called a Street Car System. There were steel rails on Fourth Street, Capitol Way, and up Harrison Hill on the West Side. They turned and ran north on Rogers St. to the Westside Grocery, which in those days was owned by Shorty Halliday. I can vividly recall the fine cane seats that we sat upon. It was fun to watch the conductor switch the trolleys at the end of each run. The conductor was Mr. Potter. He was a very tall, slender and dignified man and moved with great deliberation. Mr. Potter would get out of the street car at the end of the line and walk to the end of the car and pull down the trolley and secure the ropes. Slowly he would go to the other end of the car and release the rope and engage the trolley at that end of the car.'"

    "'I recall a couple of winter storms with snow and ice on Harrison Hill sending the big old street car off the tracks and cross-wise on the street, blocking all traffic. A couple of PHT tracks were used to pull the street car back on the tracks.'"

    "'My favorite story about the street car concerned a Halloween prank. Several of the neighborhood boys with names like Lynch, McCarty, Bean, Havens, Barns and Cushman put some very slippery grease on the tracks on Harrison Hill. When Mr. Potter approached this portion of the track the wheels began to spin but the car would not move. When he failed to proceed after several attempts, Mr. Potter backed the car a short distance down the hill. Very slowly he removed himself from the car and walked up the tracks carrying a small container in his hand. Very methodically he sprinkled sand up and down the greased portion of the tracks. Grandly he reentered his street car and proceeded smoothly and successfully to negotiate the hill. Up in the Scotch Broom and blackberries on the hillside above the tracks were a small throng of pranksters cheering Mr. Potter's success.'"