Even its supporters call Orting’s McMillin Bridge “not a pretty” structure. Still, this week the Pierce County Council is expected to align itself with a small group of advocates in an effort to preserve the 78-year-old crossing on SR 162.
“This has been the gateway to Orting for probably three generations of people,” said bridge supporter Bob Peters, “People would be shocked if they drove out here one day and this was gone.”
Washington’s Department of Transportation wants to remove the McMillin Bridge to make way for a new, safer highway. The state calls it “antiquated” and “unsafe”. Replacing it would cost $15 million.
Complicating matters is the bridge’s designation on the National Registry of Historic Properties, which requires extra public input and environmental assessment. However, that does not prevent demolition.
“It’s unfortunate they’ve taken the tactic that they have,” Peters, a former WSDOT employee commented, “It’s not too late to change.”
This week, the Pierce County Council is expected to put the bridge on its own Register of Historic Properties in an effort to protect the bridge.
What the McMillin Bridge lacks in visual appeal, it makes up for in engineering history, Peters said. Built in 1935, Pierce County’s analysis of the bridge calls it “an engineering marvel”, largely because it was built as a hollow concrete truss.
It is believed to be the only bridge of its kind in the world.
In addition to replacing the old structure, others believe the McMillin Bridge affects the flow of the Puyallup River and its fish.
Peters suggested the new bridge be built, but the old one stay.
“Nobody wants to drive over this bridge,” he said.