Veterans Memorial Bridge (aka Milwaukee Bridge) Rehabilitation

Project Summary (see below for updates)

The Veterans Memorial Bridge spans the Puyallup River at Milwaukee Ave. NE and NE 5th St.

In 2013, this cast-in-place concrete structure was projected to provide about ten more years of use. Either the bridge must be rehabilitated at this time, using existing components, or its condition will continue to deteriorate to the point of non-use (i.e. permanent closure).

In order to preserve this valued access across the river, the City sought funding from the Federal Highway Administration and was awarded an 80% cost share grant up to $11,500,000.

This project went out to bid in the spring of 2020. Construction began on October 7, 2020. 

The bridge is scheduled to reopen on March 1, 2022, at 2 pm. The City is hosting a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at 10 am to celebrate the bridge reopening. Parking is available at Veterans Park (429 9th Ave NE) and also along 5th St NE. 

Why is this work needed?

According to a report issued in 2013, Veterans Memorial Bridge (formerly known as the Milwaukee Bridge) is failing.

We know this because all bridges used for public transport must be inspected every two years by a certified inspector.* An inspection assesses the overall condition of a bridge and determines a Sufficiency Rating, which ranges from 100 (best) to zero (worst).

  • Veterans Bridge currently has a sufficiency rating of 15.32.
  • The bridge is now categorized as Structurally Deficient.

Structural deficiency can occur when a bridge does not meet operating load requirements or has superstructure or substructure condition deficiencies. The superstructure rating of Veterans Bridge is “4” which is considered to be “Poor Condition.” Typical of this condition are advanced deficiencies such as section loss, deterioration, cracking, spalling and scour.

Due to concerns about the state of its structure, Veterans Bridge was first posted with load restrictions in 2009. Those restrictions were tightened in the fall of 2018.

  • Veterans Bridge averages about 10,000 vehicle trips per day.
  • The number of daily vehicle trips is projected to rise to 23,927 by 2032.

In 2012, the lifespan of the bridge was projected to be about ten years. It must either be replaced or rehabilitated, and there is not sufficient funding available at this time to replace it.

This type of infrastructure deterioration is happening all across our country. Very recently, commuters on I-91 in Massachusetts encountered chunks of concrete in the road—debris from a failed bridge joint. Here in Puyallup, we’re fortunate to have caught this problem before the condition of Veterans Bridge proceeded to critical or, even worse, imminent failure.

*Due to its current substandard condition, Veterans Bridge has been inspected every year since 2009

Project Updates

January 2022 Update:

The Bridge is continuing construction as planned into the New Year. The contractor is currently working on the fabrication and installation of safety railings for the bridge. Installation of utilities such as water, electric and fiber lines are being installed and is estimated to be completed in mid-February. Mitigation plantings for shoreline habitat, fencing for retaining walls, and other final restoration items are being worked on.

The Bridge is scheduled to reopen on March 1, 2022. At 2 pm, the bridge will reopen to vehicles. The City will host a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at 10 am that morning to commemorate the reopening.

July 2021 Update:

During the month, contractors applied a process called post-tensioning to the bridge. 24 individual high-strength steel cables are installed within the box girder of the bridge. The cables are housed in a duct below the concrete surface, and the cables are stretched to reinforce the concrete, which makes it stronger. Additionally, work was done grading surfaces under both approaches. Following the post-tensioning, contractors will begin the process of installing new span approaches on the north and south end of the bridge. This includes setting 80-ft precast concrete girders.

August 2020 Update:

The contractor has been approved to mobilize equipment on September 21st. The bridge will be closed to all traffic on October 7th, continuing for 18 months until February 2022. A project summary was provided at the City Council meeting on Aug. 25th.

May 2019 Update:

All of the necessary property rights have been acquired for this project. The City has submitted for the required shoreline permit, which remains in process. Bid documents are being prepared.

If bid results are within budget, the project will be awarded and begin construction. The anticipated time for construction is 365 working days (approximately 18 months).

The bridge will be closed during construction. All cross-river traffic including from Benston Road will be detoured to Meridian.

November/December 2016 Update: 
The City will seek a boundary line adjustment so that the entire project on the north side of the bridge will be within Puyallup's city limits.

The City is also reviewing the total costs for the project to determine if it will request an increase to the original grant amount.

October 2016 Update:
This project is under design. The biological assessment, which addresses flood plains and Endangered Species Act impacts, has been completed and will be reviewed before permits are submitted.

The design for the replacement structure addressed components such as sight distances, utility relocations, right-of-way needs and structural layout. The three current south approach spans will be consolidated and replaced with one approach span.