Transportation officials confirm plans to open Kummer Bridge by Fourth of July

Dashing rumors to the contrary, officials with the state's Department of Transportation hold fast to their belief that work on the Kummer Bridge will be finished in time for the hectic Fourth of July traffic.

Dashing rumors to the contrary, officials with the state’s Department of Transportation hold fast to their belief that work on the Kummer Bridge will be finished in time for the hectic Fourth of July traffic.

One rumor was floated about last week, suggesting that work will take a year or more. Some report hearing that the entire bridge will be replaced, a project that will keep the Green River span out of commission for years.

Not true, Department of Transportation officials say.

“We continue to see good progress,” said Russ East, assistant regional administrator for the DOT. “We really want this road open for the Fourth of July.”

DOT staff gathered the morning of April 8 with public officials from Black Diamond to explain what’s being done and what chores still need to be completed. Strolling through the work site on the south side of the Green River Gorge, visitors in hardhats and safety vests stood approximately 35 feet below the bridge deck.

The bridge is a crucial link in state Route 169, connecting Enumclaw and points south with Black Diamond and destinations to the north. While there are other ways to make the trip, the Kummer Bridge is the easiest, most direct route.

The bridge has been closed since November, after being deemed unsafe by DOT geotechnical engineers.

East said the decision came after heavy rainfall caused a pier on the southern slope to slip about a half-inch in one wet weekend. The state agency has known of the bridge deficiencies for some time and attempted a couple of low-cost alternatives earlier in 2008. When those failed to solve the problem, the decision was made to close the bridge and launch a major fix.

The root of the problem goes back thousands of years. The bridge was built on the edge of an ancient landslide, East said earlier this year when he gave separate updates to the Enumclaw and Black Diamond city councils. The entire southern edge of the Green River Gorge is shifting east and toward the river, he said, adding that no one could have been aware of the geologic condition when the bridge was built in 1932.

The problem has been evident for years to SR 169 motorists who have noticed that the bridge deck and the highway are not exactly aligned – not be design, but rather due to the west-to-east movement of the entire hillside.

The April 8 visitors to the work site were warned that the bridge is a busy place these days, with assorted bulldozers, excavators, forklifts and concrete trucks moving in and out. On a dry day, there are still random wet spots and baseball-sized rocks make for unsteady footing.

When all the visitors had arrived, East explained that the biggest component of the $15 million project is the installation of 55 vertical concrete shafts. They line the bridge approach on the east side and are intended to prevent further erosion. The columns range up to 90 feet tall and most extend 20 feet into pre-drilled bedrock.

Other work will be done, East said, to help drain groundwater away from the unsteady southern slope.

When that work is done, crews will haul in approximately 27,000 yards of material to replace the soil previously excavated. Once the ground is returned to bridge level, a new stretch of roadway will be added.

When everything is complete, East said, travelers won’t notice much of a difference. All the work will be hidden underground.

More in News

Enumclaw’s Van Hulse to compete in national music showcase

Erik Van Hulse, who also goes by his stage name Siboh Nisoh, has been working toward this big break for almost as long as he can remember.

Pepper addresses ‘false’ recall charges in community meeting

The meeting, held at the Black Diamond library, was a chance for voters to have “an opportunity to hear from both sides before they decide to sign,” the recall petition, Pepper wrote in an announcement for the meeting.

Buckley Council race gets recount; results due Dec. 6

The closest general election outcome in Pierce County was found in Buckley, where a razor-thin difference in a City Council race forced a recount by the Pierce County Elections Department.

Burn ban in place for Pierce County

The weather may be getting colder, but burn bans have been called for multiple counties due to deteriorating air quality.

Enumclaw Council roster rapidly changing

A significant shake-up of the Enumclaw City Council is well under way. Soon to exit city government is Mayor Liz Reynolds, who opted against seeking another term after eight years in the city’s highest office. Already off the City Council is Jan Molinaro, who was elected to fill the mayoral post during the Nov. 7 general election and has stepped away from council.

Santa touring Bonney Lake, Sumner neighborhoods

Santa will once again be joining East Pierce Fire and Rescue around Bonney Lake, Sumner and surrounding communities to wish everyone happy holidays. He’s already toured Milton and Sumner, but there are still many more routes for him to complete before he heads back to the North Pole.

Grant money to fund Boise Creek project in Enumclaw

A plan to benefit Enumclaw’s Boise Creek is among 14 projects to receive funding through the state’s Department of Ecology.

Plateau toy, food drives make sure there’s a happy holidays for all

The holidays are a big time for fundraisers, whether people are donating money, food, clothes or even toys to those in need.

Most Read