Some people collect stamps. Others collect records. Still others collect historic bridges that won’t support the weight of semis anymore. And if you happen to be that kind of collector, the Washington State DOT has an offer just for you.
“Are you in the market for a bridge?” an ad recently posted to the WSDOT blog reads. “You are? Great! How about the 1925 State Route 167 Puyallup River Bridge? We’re looking for a new home for this 92-year-old charmer, and yours might just be a match.”
The Puyallup bridge comes with the pretty significant sweetener of $1 million. Still, Transportation Department project manager Steve Fuchs recently told The News Tribune that he doesn’t expect a bidding war. Whoever pockets the money has to agree to “properly care for the antique, 371-foot metal bridge that has stood astride the Puyallup River since 1925,” according to the paper. They also have to dismantle it, move it, and then set it up wherever they’re planning on setting it up (a backyard?) to adhere to historic preservation standards. Officials estimate that the $1 million will simply cover those costs.
Officials removed the bridge several years ago, and spent $31 million to build a new, safer crossing. They hauled the “92-year-old charmer” down the street and parked it in a field, where it currently awaits its new home, according to NPR. Because it’s eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, the state is required to try and find it a home before (as the News Tribune puts it) “blowtorching it to scraps.” The DOT has set a deadline of June 2019, and after that, workers will demolish it. Under preservation laws, the agency doesn’t actually have to ensure that the bridge is preserved, but it has to give it a fair shot at an upkept second life.
The ad hocking the bridge convincingly touts its “riveted steel Warren-type through-truss span,” and promises that it would make a “great addition to a city, county or state road, or even to a large facility looking for something historically significant and … well … long enough to carry 20 cars end to end.”
Claudia Bingham Baker, who runs communications for the DOT’s Olympic region, wrote the ad, and she told NPR that the agency has had some inquiries. One person apparently asked if they could put a tarp over it and live in it. Several contractors, who Bingham Baker says might actually understand the complexity of what the DOT is looking for, have also been in contact.
And as she pointed out to the station, trying to give away or sell old bridges is not an uncommon practice for DOTs — there’s even a website dedicated to bridge enthusiasts on the hunt. Just last month, the Illinois DOT offered to donate the historic Ford City Drive Bridge over Pulaski Road, according to the Chicago Tribune.
That bridge is unique because it’s one of only a handful of so-called “concrete rigid-frame” bridges, according to the paper. Instead of being built in pieces, it’s basically a massive piece of concrete that was poured into forms, “like batter for a cake.” Needless to say, it could also be a coveted find for the avid readers of bridgehunter.com.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.