Monday, June 30th – South Park and Georgetown reunited and it feels so good

South Park bridge IMG_1664 RESIZEDAfter three years of construction King County will open the new South Park Bridge to vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians. The old bridge was closed to traffic because it was no longer safe to remain open. After an unprecedented effort that brought together community members, business partners, and government at the local, regional, state, and national levels, the new South Park Bridge is receiving its finishing touches. Designed to resemble its iconic predecessor, the new bridge was built to modern standards and should last a hundred years.

For information about the grand opening celebration on Sunday June 29th in South Park check the project website here. There will be a party all day long and you will be able to walk the bridge and tour its south tower.

The complex construction project required large-scale excavations to lay the caisson foundation and install piers. Each span of the drawbridge was brought in by a massive floating crane, and attached to the bridge with more than 1,000 large bolts. Crews installed more than 750,000 feet of electrical wiring – enough to stretch from South Park to Yakima. It required an estimated 27,600 cubic yards of concrete, enough to fill more than 2,700 concrete trucks.

Even though each drawspan weighs three million pounds, they are so precisely balanced that opening the drawbridge requires approximately the same amount of horsepower needed to drive a Toyota Prius. State-of-the-art mechanical and electrical drive systems will substantially improve the bridge’s operation.

South Park Bridge sideview IMG_1645 RESIZEThe new bridge meets current structural, seismic, and traffic standards. New bicycle lanes have been built on the road shoulders, and sidewalks on the bridge are separated from the roadway by a traffic rail. The moveable spans have a solid deck rather than open steel grating. The concrete deck also provides better traction. Roadway runoff will be treated in two rain gardens, which also feature salvaged components of the old bridge and interpretive displays along a walkway that provides improved access to the riverfront.

With funding from King County’s One Percent for Art program, Tucson artist Barbara Grygutis contributed ideas to the bridge design that honor the historic and cultural integrity of the original 1931 bridge as well as the South Park community as it exists today.

Art and components of the previous bridge have been incorporated into both the new bridge and the area around it.

Four rockers and guide tracks, which raised and lowered the drawspan of the old bridge and gave the bridge its historic status, now flank the approaches to the new bridge. The pedestrian railing has curved pickets that open toward the center of the bridge, echoing the motion of the Duwamish Waterway underneath. Gears and rail panels from the old bridge are embedded in the pedestrian rail throughout the span. These elements are painted metallic silver, and the rockers will be dramatically lit at night.

Grygutis was selected by 4Culture King County’s cultural services office, which administers the county’s One Percent for Art program.

Salvaged gears from the original bridge that are incorporated into the railing.

Salvaged gears from the original bridge that are incorporated into the railing.

The old five-way intersection at Dallas Avenue S and 14th Avenue S was reconfigured in the spring of 2012 into a safer four-way intersection. Street landscaping has been used throughout the bridge site. The county replaced concrete rubble on the riverbank with native vegetation to provide better marine habitat.

For more information about the bridge construction and the project, why not visit the King County South Park Bridge website.