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SR 520 pontoon project breaks ground in Aberdeen


February 14, 2011

Update: We’ve posted a video on YouTube with highlights of the groundbreaking celebration.

ABERDEEN – A crowd of more than 200 cheered in Grays Harbor today as Gov. Chris Gregoire and other officials celebrated the start of a construction project that will bring jobs to the community and help replace the vulnerable State Route 520 floating bridge.

“The construction of the 33 pontoons creates hundreds of jobs and gets the state one step closer to replacing the 520 bridge,” said Gregoire. “It’s a great day for Grays Harbor and the entire state. Let’s get to work.”

Flanked by labor and tribal leaders, Gregoire and state Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond led the celebration at the former Aberdeen Log Yard, a 55-acre site where Kiewit-General Joint Venture will build a casting basin and 33 pontoons for a replacement bridge. WSDOT awarded the $367.3 million design-build contract to Kiewit-General. Design-build combines project design and construction in a single contract.

“The 520 corridor is essential to this state’s transportation system and a key commuter route between our biggest population and job centers,” Hammond said. “Starting construction on these pontoons keeps us on track to open a replacement bridge by the end of 2014 – which protects this route and supports our economy.”

The project site is on the shore of Grays Harbor, which allows the massive concrete pontoons – some weighing 11,000 tons, or the equivalent of 23 Boeing 747’s – to be constructed and eventually floated and towed to Lake Washington for the new bridge.

“We’re excited to see this project under way and are proud to have it here in our community,” Aberdeen Mayor Bill Simpson said. “It has been a pleasure to work with both the Department of Transportation and Kiewit-General.”

Construction could begin as soon as this week once final permits are approved. Crews will prepare the site by installing erosion control and marking the wetland areas. Pile driving will then start, followed by excavation of the casting basin, said Phil Wallace, Kiewit-General pontoon project director

“Our crews will be working hard in the coming months, first to build this facility, and then during the next three years to produce the pontoons,” Wallace said. Of the pontoons planned for construction, 21 will each measure as long as a football field, three stories high and 75 feet wide.

The festive groundbreaking included members of the Hoquiam High School marching band, Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp and Aberdeen and Hoquiam city officials. Gov. Gregoire also honored former House Majority Leader Rep. Lynn Kessler, D–24th District, a longtime supporter of the pontoon project and community leader from Grays Harbor.

The SR 520 Pontoon Construction Project is funded in part by future revenue from tolling that is scheduled to begin on the floating bridge in the spring. The state Legislature set the SR 520 program budget at $4.65 billion for improvements from Interstate 5 in Seattle to SR 202 in Redmond. Toll revenue along with state and federal funds provide about $2.62 billion for the SR 520 improvements. WSDOT will continue working with the lawmakers to identify additional funding for more improvements in the corridor.

More information about the SR 520 program is available at


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