The New Raft Island BridgeOn Sunday, June 29, the community of Raft Island celebrated the opening of a new bridge that replaced the original 1958 bridge. Ticor Title would like to congratulate the Raft Island community for this major milestone. We are grateful to have provided title insurance for this project.

Construction of the New  Bridge

For the first six months of 2014, residents of Raft Island  watched the construction of the new bridge unfold adjacent to the original 57-year old bridge.  On Sunday, June 29 they celebrated its completion with the boom of a cannon, a picnic, live music, and a crossing by a car from the LeMay car museum.

The Infrastructure Assistance Coordinating Council awarded RIIA first place for Community Facilities projects in 2014.   This category includes projects like hospitals, health clinics and public safety facilities. In an October 1 ceremony, RIIA was cited by 300 IACC members.   The island was commended for facing up to the difficult choices and tasks inherent in replacing an aging bridge over a navigable coastal area.

Bridge History

In 1957 Raft Island was purchased for $80,000 by Archie Matthew Sr. Who initiated construction of the original bridge in 1958.  Matthew then sold the majority of the island in 1959 for the sum of $348,000. In 1995, after nearly 40 years of service, engineers determined that the original raft island bridge had a projected lifespan of approximately 20 years.  Below is a timeline leading up to the construction of the new bridge.

  • 1958 Matthew constructs 2-Lane 788-ft x 20-ft Timber Bridge with Concrete Decking
  • 1977 RIIA purchases the Bridge and Access Road (off Kopachuck) for $50,0000.  RIIA is a taxable  non-profit home owners association (HOA).
  • 1995 Engineers Inspection reveals on-going deterioration with remaining bridge life of approx 20 years (to 2016) **
  • 1996 Membership approves Annual Special Assessment called the Bridge Replacement Fund (BRF)
  • 1996 Each lot assessed $130 BRF with 8.04% added each year thereafter (BRF will be $610 in 2016)
  • 2005 Updated construction estimates reveal BRF falling behind projected bridge replacement construction costs.  Board initiates full review of bridge condition and options.
  • 2007 Board studies many options including possibility to get a Road Improvement District approved by Pierce County.
  • 2009 Volunteer Bridge Committee formed to review Bridge Options
  • 2010 membership approves preliminary design of new bridge in order to compete for low interest Federal Stimulus loan.    State and Federal agencies give favorable pre-screenings of plan.
  • 2011-2012 in a series of votes, RIIA voters overwhelmingly approve replacing bridge (75%+)
  • Though taxed at 33% rate, the BRF is able to cover 25% of the cost of new bridge
  • USDA offers 80% guarantee to any bank that will provide RIIA with long term loan
  • 33 banks pursued for loan.  All report a 30 yr. bridge loan is outside their expertise
  • USDA agrees to provide 30 yr. loan at fixed interest (no construction financing offered.)
  • More banks pursued until Northwest Farm Credit Services agrees to provide construction line of credit under an ARC bond.

Insuring Title for the Raft Island Bridge Project

We are pleased and honored that Ticor Title provided the title insurance policy for the Raft Island bridge project.  An unusual project such as this brings unusual challenges.

To explain, we have provided a brief Q&A with our Sr. Commercial Title Officer, David Watson:

Q: What role did Ticor Title play in the development of the new Raft Island Bridge?

A: Ticor Title provided a lender’s title policy to NW Farm Credit Services for approximately 5.7 million in coverage to complete the financing package for this project. Initially the residents of Raft Island spent 20 plus years raising money for the construction of a new bridge and the NW Farm Credit Services loan was the last piece of the puzzle.

Q: What is involved in a title search for a project like this?

A: This was a fun search completed by Miriam Hatcher a veteran of over 30 years examining Pierce County properties. This was her first bridge. The interesting thing about this is that since Raft Island Improvement Association had an existing bridge and had been conveyed the property, we didn’t have to deal with the State of Washington or Pierce County. Our contacts were for the most part the Raft Island Improvement Association Board.

We had typical issues you see when dealing with waterfront property, however for the most part, the title exam process was not terribly difficult which was a pleasant surprise going into the project. Since the Raft Island Association had been working on the project for so long, much of the heavy lifting, permits, and approvals had already been put in place and were recorded for our review.

The biggest issue for us was ensuring that we were getting a full picture of the documents recorded which affected the bridge and the land around the bridge. Miriam had to spend a lot of time reviewing documents that had no real effect on the bridge project due to the inconsistency in how recorded documents were posted in the plant for property such as this. This was truly a “round peg in a square hole” type of title exam.

Late Afternoon Traffic on the Raft Island Bridge – [Hyperlapse Video]

Q: Why was Ticor chosen as the title insurer for this project and what unique skills or expertise did your team bring?

A: We were chosen for this project by way of a recommendation. Lee Smith an agent at Windermere Gig Harbor was asked by the Raft Island Board to recommend a title company and he provided them with Lucy Ritchie’s contact information. This is a prime example of the importance of word of mouth and maintaining a good reputation in the real estate community and the opportunities this brings for future business.

Q: What was the biggest challenge with this project from the title insurance perspective?

A: From a title insurance prospective this wasn’t as daunting a challenge as we initially thought when we first started looking at the project. The construction for the new bridge had already begun when we started on the project, bringing up potential lien priority issues. But NW Farm Credit Services didn’t need coverage to shield them from this potential lien liability so that ended up being a non-issue. This ended up being a pretty routine construction loan transaction due in large part to the preparation of the Raft Island Improvement Association and the years they had spent getting the project permitted, financed and approved.

1 Comment
  1. Now that’s a new take on a “bridge loan”! Very interesting article. I’ll have to check into this island more.

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