Kent’s heavily used Meeker Street bridge isn’t falling down but it needs a paint job. The work would cost an estimated $1 million.
That’s the news Public Works Director Tim LaPorte delivered last week to the Kent City Council’s Public Works Committee. LaPorte said the paint job isn’t needed yet, but he plans to put the project in a budget request in the next couple of years.
“It’s rusting and you can’t let rust go on forever,” LaPorte said during an interview after the meeting. “You can’t let it go too long. We’ll need to address it in the next few years.”
LaPorte estimated the painting cost at $1 million. He said about another $400,000 will be needed to replace concrete panels on the bridge deck that spans the Green River near the Riverbend Golf Complex.
Councilwoman Dana Ralph asked LaPorte at the meeting why it costs so much to repaint a bridge.
“There’s sandblasting and they have to work in a closed environment so that nothing falls into the river,” LaPorte said. “And it’s a high-quality paint.”
LaPorte explained later that because the bridge is over a river, crews use what’s known as a diaper in the business to form a cocoon around the bridge to keep any paint chips from dropping into the river. He said the workers wear protective suits to do the painting. The city would need to shut down the bridge for about two months to paint it.
The Meeker Street bridge was built in 1958. The bridge was last painted in 1994, LaPorte said.
All bridges must be inspected every two years under federal requirements to ensure the bridges are safe. Kent pays King County to inspect bridges in the city.
“There’s no danger,” LaPorte said.
About 25,000 vehicles use the bridge each day. Many drivers use the bridge for access to the valley between the West Hill via Reith Road or the Kent Des Moines Road, also known as State Route 516.
“It’s too narrow and needs to be widened, but that would cost additional funds,” LaPorte said. “It’s not bad enough to get a (federal or state) grant.”
Councilwoman Elizabeth Albertson asked LaPorte if it might make more sense to possibly replace the bridge if it costs $1 million to repaint it.
LaPorte said he didn’t know how much it would cost for a new bridge but that is an option that staff could look at.
“We’re not to that point yet,” LaPorte said.
LaPorte provides regular updates about city bridges to the committee but decided to do this informational report in part because of the May collapse of the bridge in Skagit County along Interstate 5 near Mount Vernon.
“Meeker Street is our only bridge similar to the I-5 bridge collapse,” LaPorte said of the style and design.
“We’re watching it and it’s OK,” he said. “But it needs a paint job.”
A truck hit the Meeker bridge in 2006 and caused minor bending but the structure withstood the hit. The truck left the scene before the damage was discovered.
As far as other bridges in the city, LaPorte said the South 212th Street bridge needs about $400,000 worth of work to replace exposed rebar.
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