Pacific Maritime Magazine - Marine Business for the Operations Sector

Bridge Construction Support in Seattle

 

Westar Marine's Tug Mudcat is used to assist the 240-foot-long, 10,000-ton Pontoon A into position as the new bridge's western-most pontoon. Photos courtesy of the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Since 1976, Westar Marine Services has been providing marine services to the San Francisco Bay Area and over the course of the last 39 years the company has expanded into other services and markets, including a move to Seattle in 2012.

In the Bay Area, prior to expanding to Seattle, the company operated 16 tugs, 5 water taxis and 19 barges. Westar's Port Captain Dan DeForge was one of the lead Tug Captains on the new Bay Bridge project. He says on any given day there were 4-9 tugs and 3-5 crew boats working on the project. It was not unusual to have 60-70 barge moves a day. Working on all of the major bridges in the San Francisco Bay Area made our company a perfect fit for new bridge construction projects in Seattle. A further six workboats and several barges are available in the Pacific Northwest from the company's two Seattle locations, on Seattle's Lake Union and adjacent to the Port of Seattle's Harbor Island cargo facilities.

The six boats in Seattle include ocean-towing tugs, pushboats and inland tugs.

DeForge, says one of the main reasons for the company's expansion to Seattle was a contract to provide services for the construction of a new floating bridge to serve state highway 520 across Lake Washington.

"We're providing support for the entire bridge site," he says.

Lake Washington is 22 miles long but less than 1.5 miles wide at the bridge crossing site. The lake's 240-foot depth makes conventional bridges impractical, and the current bridge, built in 1963, is showing signs of wear. The new span promises to add 30 percent to the vehicle capacity and the possibility of light rail in the future.

Westar Marine Services has been transporting or supporting precast concrete pontoons for the bridge from different sites, including as close as the north end of the lake and as far away as Aberdeen, Washington, where the State Department of Transportation has developed a 55-acre site with a casting basin facility featuring a concrete batch plant, on-site water treatment, and a 4-acre casting basin.

Westar has provided support at the bridge site for all the gravel moves, concrete pours and derrick barge moves, and continues to support construction of the new span. DeForge says "We'll be involved with the 520 bridge project right through until the old bridge is demolished, scheduled for the end of 2016."

The company has also moved more than 70 supplemental stability pontoons as well as a series of concrete casting girders from Tacoma, Washington. A facility in Kenmore, Washington has been building pre-cast concrete elements including 776 low-rise roadway deck sections and 58 anchors, and Westar equipment has been instrumental in moving these components to the mid-lake project.

As well as moving the concrete pontoons, Westar has been hauling aggregate from Dupont, Washington, south of Tacoma, to use as ballast in the floating sections.

"We've made thirty to thirty-five round trips to Dupont for ballast," DeForge says. "In the future, if the state decides to run light rail across the bridge, the ballast will be removed."

In addition to the work on the 520 bridge, Westar is providing support for the US Navy, towing fuel barges to the region's naval facilities on the Kitsap Peninsula, Whidbey Island, Anacortes, Bellingham, Everett and Tacoma.

Westar's multi-purpose tugs are equipped with anchor winches to provide anchor services in place of a dedicated anchor scow, and most are equipped with both push knees and towing winches to provide diverse options for barge work.

"The boats can face up to barges for tight-quarter maneuvering," DeForge says, "but they can also tow barges, which is more convenient for some construction jobs."

The 71-foot by 21-foot Mudcat is a converted landing craft. "We can fill the Mudcat's belly with 50 or 60 tons of cargo and still get into shallow draft areas," DeForge says. Converted for bridge work in the Bay area, the boat could get very near the bottom at low tide, where crews could mark navigable channels with poles. At high tide, Mudcat, which draws only 4.5 feet, could deliver materials by navigating along the marked channels.

Another vessel, the 69-foot by 23-foot Bearcat, offers offshore towing and a bollard pull of more than 12 tons. "We're just finishing up a new crow's nest, in order to see over the top of barges," DeForge says. The twin-screw boat is available to move barges up and down the West Coast and to Alaska.

Four Westar tugs were brought from the Bay Area, including Terilyn and Solana on one barge and the converted landing craft Mudcat on the second barge, and towed by the Taurus. Photo by Margie Freeman courtesy of Mark Freeman's Maritime Museum.

Westar is proud of their good, longstanding relationship with government entities. The firm was appointed to the first barge seat on the San Francisco Harbor Safety Committee in 1994 and has maintained membership on the Committee since that time. Westar's safety management program is the American Waterways Operators' Responsible Carrier Program (RCP).

Along with construction support, the company provides ship assist, crew boats and barge and tanker escort services, offshore towing and specialty barge services.

In San Francisco the company can also provide hazardous material transportation. As a certified HazMat Water Transporter recognized by the State of California, Westar is comfortable with the transportation, disposal and recycling regulations, methods of containment and shipping, and the required documentation and manifests.

DeForge says with safety as our number one goal along with the diversity of equipment, skills and project experience the company offers makes them a good fit for the Pacific Northwest.

"It's been a good model for us and has led us to success."

 
 

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