Pontoon problems mar SR 520 bridge project

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by TONYA MOSLEY / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on May 18, 2012 at 4:02 PM

Updated Saturday, May 19 at 10:26 AM

SEATTLE -- Two years ago the city of Aberdeen celebrated news that 33 pontoons for the new 520 bridge would be built in the city.

On Friday, the Washington Department of Transportation announced that one of the six pontoons scheduled to float out this summer failed the post-tension test.

"When we first started to do our inspections we found spawling on the insides. Spawling is cracking near the ends of the pontoons," said SR 520 program director Julie Meredith.

The contractor, Kiewit-General, will be investigating what happened and what actions need to be taken. Inspections of the first pontoon showed damaged concrete where there was insufficient steel rebar reinforcement to hold the tendons in place.

This leg of the 520 project has not been cheap. As KING 5 investigator Susannah Frame discovered last year, the state has spent $125 million dollars on the project.

Fifteen years of planning has also gone into paying consultants for technical work and community outreach.

"I think taxpayers have every right to look at what we're doing, but I'd like to say this bridge is the world's largest floating bridge...and we need to be sure during our inspection process that we catch these things," said Meredith.

Meredith said they have no idea how much money this fix will cost or who will pay for it. She added it's good they discovered this problem now instead of later.

"Another 4 to 6 weeks of wait is going to worth it to get the quality to get the quality we want for a bridge that will last 100 years or more," she said.

The first six pontoons are expected to float out in July instead of June.

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