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Seismic retrofitting effort increased in decades after Nisqually quake

Projects continue across western Washington to strengthen critical infrastructure against large-scale earthquakes.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Though seismic retrofitting work was underway before the magnitude 6.8 Nisqually earthquake rattled the Puget Sound region, the effort since that day on Feb. 28, 2001 has increased.

Approximately $144 million has been spent on seismic retrofits of bridges, which includes complete retrofitting of 323 bridges and partial retrofitting of another 114 bridges. 

More than 900 bridges are part of the state's Bridge Seismic Retrofit Program. Priorities are based on risk, structural detail deficiencies and route importance. 

The state is working on establishing a $171 million seismic retrofitting program that would complete a "lifeline" for the Puget Sound region that would help ensure emergency response and supplies can flow in in the case of a major natural disaster. 

Some of the more recognizable work that has been done includes the State Route 520 bridge; 18 updated bridges or overpasses in Pierce County as part of the state's HOV program and I-5 Lakewood to JBLM projects; two new bridges over Puyallup River; and, of course, demolishing the Alaskan Way Viaduct and building the Seattle tunnel.

The new Mukilteo Ferry Terminal that opened in December is more seismically-resilient as well. And work continues on Seattle's Colman dock in downtown.

The Washington State Department of Transportation notes more work has to be done as the region prepares for an earthquake stronger than any of us have experience in our lifetime