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WA Transit Agency Floats a Rail Project

Friday, December 1, 2017

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Allow us to float an idea past you: What if a light-rail line crossed over a lake via a bridge that rests on pontoons?

That’s Sound Transit’s plan for its East Link Extension, a first-of-its-kind project that will take a rail line across the I-90 floating bridge on Lake Washington, in Seattle. The bridge—actually a set of two parallel spans, the Lacey V. Murrow and the Homer M. Hadley—has existed in some form for more than 75 years, but the new plan will add a dimension to its duties.

The project, recently named one of 2017’s top engineering innovations by Popular Science, is set to be complete in 2023.

Tough Transition

One major challenge is the transition between the land bridge to the floating bridge; the approach will be based on a test structure in which the rails at the transition rest on plates and bearings to accommodate for a range of motion up and down, back and forth and side to side. The model was developed with Parsons Brinckerhoff and Jesse Engineering and was tested at Colorado’s Transportation Technology Center.

Based on testing carried out at the TTC, Sound Transit is confident that light-rail vehicles will be able to safely and comfortably convey passengers across the lake at speeds up to 55 miles per hour using the floating bridge.

Floating Bridge History

The first I-90 floating bridge, the original Lacey V. Murrow, was finished in 1940. The Homer M. Hadley was built in 1989 to accommodate increased traffic, before the Murrow collapsed and sunk in 1990 during a flood. A new Lacey V. Murrow Bridge was finished three years later.

The Washington State Department of Transportation is in the midst of a $4.5 billion improvement project on nearby SR 520, which included the construction of a new floating bridge to replace the original bridge on that road, which runs parallel to the I-90 bridges, about two miles north. That bridge project won the Grand Conceptor Award at this year’s Engineering Excellence Awards, sponsored by the American Council of Engineering.

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Public Transit; Rail

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