Fox Island bridge now deemed 'structurally deficient'

FOX ISLAND, Wash. -- The only bridge on and off a popular island is now deemed "structurally deficient," leaving people on Fox Island in Pierce County wondering if it's safe to cross.

But in fact despite the ominous sound of "structurally deficient," the county engineer says the bridge is safe.

The Fox Island bridge is one of Pierce county longest at 1,950 feet, and one of the county's oldest, built in 1954.

And now it's the one that most needs to be replaced.

The bridge was recently downgraded after 2-foot holes were found in the huge underwater supports.

"It's pretty scary," said Gabby Cagley who lives on Fox Island. "Because it's the only way to get across the island and without it, we'd be stuck here. So it's a little bit concerning."

The 3,500 residents depend on the bridge as the only way to the mainland. And it's narrow -- 22-feet wide, curb to curb, giving it an additional listing of "functionally obsolete."

"It would nice if it was a little wider, though," said Cienna Johnston. "It's a little unnerving when you're first-time driving over the bridge."

The bridge had a higher rating until the underwater photos showed the holes in the footing recently. But the county's engineering department says there's no need to be alarmed.

"The bridge is definitely safe," said Pierce County engineer Brian Stacy. "The folks who commute back and forth on that bridge should be comfortable in doing so."

Stacy says the wording of "structurally deficient" is not a safety issue, it's a way for the county, state and federal government determine which bridges should be replaced in which order. Nothing urgent with the Fox Island bridge.

"So it's something that needs to be monitored, watched and reported," said Pierce County bridge engineering supervisor Kraig Shaner. "But it's not a doom and gloom."

But county engineers say it'll need replacing some day and the cost could be $50- to $60 million. And the lower the bridge goes in its rating of "structurally deficient," the higher it'll go in the ability to qualify for state and federal dollars to help pay for it.