New restrictions put in place on Puyallup River Bridge

PUYALLUP, Wash. -- Big rigs and buses can no longer use an aging bridge on one of the main routes into and out of Tacoma. It's Pacific Highway East over the Puyallup River bridge. The restrictions are to head-off a total collapse.

After 87 years of safely getting vehicles across the Puyallup river, there's concern the bridge is not as safe as it once was. A routine bridge inspection has found joint damage that's causing the City of Tacoma to further reduce the maximum vehicle weight from 18 tons down to 10 tons.

But some truck drivers either don't see the sign or choose to ignore it, and that's bringing out the flashing lights of the road enforcement officers.They were out in force on Wednesday, the start of the new ban on big rigs.

Warnings will continue for the next several days and then tickets will be handed out. They're not cheap at $411.

"I was unaware of it until I saw the sign as I was getting ready to cross the bridge. Now that i'm aware of it I'll make a conscious effort to go around it," said truck driver Harry Woodruff.

"We've asked if they've seen the signs and the guys will say, yes, and we'll ask if they've read it and, 'Well, no we didn't read the sign.' We'd seen the new sign. But nobody has read it yet," said road use officer Steve Goolie,

Bridge engineers put the restrictions in place Wednesday because they say they don't want to have happen here what happened in Burlington. We're approaching the one-year anniversary of the collapse of the I-5 bridge spanning the Skagit River.

"Which is scary," said bus rider Tom Marcan. "I'm glad they're not going across it anymore."

But it means buses also cannot cross the bridge, which means a several-mile detour and riders near the bridge will have to walk a distance out of their way.

"It's kind of a hassle because I used to get off right in front of my work. Now I have to get off and walk a couple of blocks," said bus rider Shonna Allman.

City engineers say the nearly 15,000 cars and smaller trucks that use the bridge can still cross despite the concern for the bridge joints. The city has nearly $40 million in funding to begin a project to replace two of the bridge sections and has applied for additional grants to continue work on four remaining sections in the future.