SDOT says Spokane Street Viaduct’s new 1st Avenue S. ramp won’t be ‘fully open’ before summer

Once upon a time, the city had said they hoped the new 1st Avenue South on- and off-ramp for the westbound Spokane Street Viaduct – the now-being-widened section of the West Seattle Bridge between I-5 and Highway 99 – would be open by this fall, maybe even before the Alaskan Way Viaducts closure last month. It wasn’t. So many then asked, when WILL it open? We asked SDOT, and were told the contractor was coming up with a revised schedule. Now, that’s in, and our answer has finally arrived from SDOT spokesperson Rick Sheridan:

While the overall project is nearly 90 percent complete, our Spokane Street Viaduct contractor has not finished constructing the First Avenue S on-/off-ramps due to delays in receiving critical construction materials. Their steel subcontractor has yet to deliver specialized steel girders needed to complete the ramp.

When the girders finally arrive from the fabricator, it will take at least two months to complete the ramps. At that point in the construction schedule, we will need to transfer traffic to the viaduct’s new roadway to resurface the existing deck and cannot safely allow use of the on-ramp. Due to this, SDOT does not anticipate opening the ramps fully until the overall project is completed in July 2012.

We understand that the loss of this access point does create inconveniences for West Seattle residents and businesses. Alternate routes such as accessing the high rise bridge via I-5 or SR-99, the lower Spokane Street Swing Bridge or the First Ave S Bridge will continue to serve as good options for reaching West Seattle. The overall project remains on budget and scheduled for completion by summer 2012.

If that timeframe holds, it will be 26 months after the closure of the old 1st Avenue South onramp to the westbound bridge; just before that closure, we were told the ramp would take “at least 16 months” to build.

51 Replies to "SDOT says Spokane Street Viaduct's new 1st Avenue S. ramp won't be 'fully open' before summer"

  • Dakota November 22, 2011 (4:31 pm)

    My first reaction after reading the heading was, “What?!”

  • LAintheJunction November 22, 2011 (4:37 pm)

    Color me not surprised.

  • rockyraccoon November 22, 2011 (4:41 pm)

    Absolutely ridiculous. You’d think they were building the pyramids without heavy equipment.

  • redblack November 22, 2011 (4:58 pm)

    wow. thanks, PCL. this is shameful and heads should roll over mismanagement.
    so when SDOT shifts traffic to the new structure to repave the existing one, will we lose the eastbound 4th ave on-ramp?

  • JEM November 22, 2011 (5:11 pm)

    I guess in the spirit of the season, I will be thankful that this gives me extra reading time on the bus, stuck at the Hanford train crossing.

  • WorldCitizen November 22, 2011 (5:21 pm)

    Ouch. Redblack has a pretty good question about losing the 4th avenue ramp. It would seem we will.

  • CandrewB November 22, 2011 (5:23 pm)

    If I am not mistaken, they started the whole thing around five years ago with closures under the Spokane Viaduct. Of course I am no expert, but road projects seem to take three or four times longer out here than they do back East.

  • Keith November 22, 2011 (5:26 pm)

    I’ve read that second paragraph in the SDOT statement over and over and I still don’t get it.

  • JJP November 22, 2011 (5:28 pm)

    Will the contractors have to pay a fine for all of these delays? I’m always hearing about the bonuses contractors receive for getting a project finished ahead of schedule.

  • CMP November 22, 2011 (5:44 pm)

    This is not what I wanted to read! This is quite possibly the world’s most annoying and never-ending detour. I’m just baffled that 99 North got a new onramp in 42 days at the stadiums, yet this is taking two years. Nice.

  • WS Steve November 22, 2011 (5:45 pm)

    Keith: it means they’re refinishing the old surface of the viaduct so the new lanes will be the only lanes for a time. The onramp can’t be used during that time. Which means the delay, it seems, doesn’t make a lot of difference since we’d only have the onramp until they got the new lanes completed.

  • Tyler November 22, 2011 (5:46 pm)

    huge buzz kill!

  • metrognome November 22, 2011 (5:47 pm)

    Keith — the existing roadway that we drive on every day was stripped a number of years ago and needs to be resurfaced. The 1st Ave on-/off-ramp project actually widens the WB side by 41 ft between 6th Ave S and E Marginal Way. The on-/off-ramps will be done before July, but can’t be opened because the main roadway traffic will be diverted to the new lanes so the roadway can be paved.
    Delays in custom steel work are quite common in construction; try Googling it or talking to an actual engineer … because of the delays they’ve already experienced, I would guess this schedule is pretty conservative.

  • getwithit November 22, 2011 (5:57 pm)

    I was wondering how long it would be before someone would chime in with a complaint about how it was better back where they came from. If your lifestyle is such that you can’t separate your car from your butt it’s probably safe to say you shouldn’t be living in the seattle area.

  • Bob Loblaw November 22, 2011 (6:00 pm)

    Hmph. I shall be taking my specialized steel girders business elsewhere from now on, thank you very much.

  • Been There November 22, 2011 (6:03 pm)

    The Seattle/Washington political machine does not give a rat’s butt about West Seattle. It is the “red headed step child” of the city. Yet the community keeps right on voting for the weasles that screw it over. Amazing!

    Don’t forget. Bend the knee. Bow the head. Tug the forelock. Pay the tribute. Keep your mouth shut. Or else!

  • Aman November 22, 2011 (6:05 pm)

    Between the Neighborhood, City, County, & State “Politico’s” WHO has West Seattle’s ‘back’ covered?

  • dawsonct November 22, 2011 (6:17 pm)

    The 99 N ramp is temporary, so it shouldn’t have taken as long to complete.
    CandrewB, look up Boston’s Big Dig sometime. Not much to crow about in the efficiency dept. with THAT one.
    My guess is, that the complexity of a project may have something to do with the amount of time it takes to complete it. Spokane Street is a fairly complex SERIES of projects, and they have managed to keep it open over and under for most of it’s length pretty much the whole time they’ve been working on it. It IS inconvenient as hell, but it needed to be done, and done right so we won’t need to redesign it for a number of decades.
    We are entering into the end stages of this project and there will naturally be some major disruptions as everything is tied together, but in total, I think the city has done a pretty good job of keeping things moving through the life of the project.
    Seems like the culprit in this specific delay was the mill that hasn’t delivered the girders, not the contractor or anyone with the city.

  • MMB November 22, 2011 (6:19 pm)

    “Good options?” They are options, is all.

  • clark5080 November 22, 2011 (6:22 pm)

    Were we not supposed to get a 4th ave off ramp for the westbound traffic also?

    • WSB November 22, 2011 (6:26 pm)

      No, a 4th offramp was never in the cards. 1st is an offramp and onramp. Previously it was only an onramp.

  • PSPS November 22, 2011 (6:54 pm)

    Who is this “steel subcontractor?” And is the fabrication actually being done offshore like China? I know much of the steel (well over 50%) for the tunnel project is being fabricated offshore and barged in. Isn’t that wonderful?

  • JayDee November 22, 2011 (6:58 pm)

    OK: First they *screw* up the ramp structure and have to demo it entirely losing 6-8 months by my estimate. Now even with the lead time caused by the “mistake” they can’t get the specialized steel on time? Wasn’t someone tracking the critical path items?

    I am interpreting what they really mean is they can’t get the specialized steel at the price point they locked in 3 years ago when prices where low so now they have to wait in line. My two cents — an onramp completed, oh, lets say a few months ago would make the current 99 hassles easier to deal with.

  • D-mom November 22, 2011 (7:02 pm)

    CMP, I agree. The 1st Ave on ramp was torn down and rebuilt in just a couple of months. Why is this one taking so much longer? As for a “good option”, there isn’t any for those of us that have to get to West Seattle from SoDo.

  • I. Ponder November 22, 2011 (7:09 pm)

    Didn’t they build a First Ave. S. ramp once and have to tear it down because it was built wrong?

  • let them swim November 22, 2011 (7:37 pm)

    a delay in receiving the material? how long ago was it known to be needed? from the very beginning of said project. lets see some heavy fines for this stupid/plain stupidity excuse.
    from the beginning those materials were known to be used and now they are late. no excuse. fine the company with max. penalties.

  • Star 55 November 22, 2011 (8:05 pm)

    Total BS!!!! Fire the contractor and get someone on the job who can deliver.

  • curtis November 22, 2011 (8:32 pm)

    Please, enough whining. Stuff happens. It sucks, that’s for sure, but the steel not arriving on time does not a conspiracy make.

  • Nadoka November 22, 2011 (8:47 pm)

    * Cancel the steel work.
    * Design concrete girders to replace the steel.
    * Fabricate the concrete girders (this can be done quickly).
    * Install the concrete girders.
    * Complete the decking over the girders.
    * Clean up the mess under the existing work area.
    * Let the legal folks work out the money damages.
    * Don’t let the mayor near any decision making on this.

    — the concrete girders would be built locally.
    — SDOT should give us all a new detailed schedule very soon.
    — SDOT needs to be looked at very carefully – not an impressive group of people and not good stewards of our money and needs!

  • e November 22, 2011 (8:59 pm)


    isn’t there a steel mill right by the bridge at Luna Park? I swear I was staring at steaming beams of glowing iron in the cold rain and I said in traffic in the morning trying to get to beacon hill.

  • Chris November 22, 2011 (9:18 pm)

    SDOT needs to move to design-build. I have worked on several for WSDOT and we have finished ahead of schedule because there are incentives to do so. And this is not a complex project.

  • J November 22, 2011 (9:18 pm)

    We need a state wide audit! $500,000 was spent on cell phones never used by Olympia in one year. Force the government to be accountable for spending our tax dollars. I’m sick of hearing about horrible product at top
    Cost – toll bridge, construction projects, the Mayors numerous phone calls costing 10 cents per call (he’s made 90,000 calls this year)!

  • LB November 22, 2011 (9:38 pm)

    Regarding the 1’st Ave ramp screwup, it was only the bottom (base) of the ramp that had to be torn up and redone.

  • recudo November 22, 2011 (9:53 pm)

    is there a delayed completion fee the contractor will be assessed?

  • KeithN November 22, 2011 (9:56 pm)

    I guess on a positive note, I’m going to continue to build iron legs by having to bicycle past this mess in the mornings until this gets sorted out… hey…520 gets tolled in a couple of weeks…yippee!

  • west seattle steve November 22, 2011 (10:19 pm)

    @ e,
    The steel mill by the bridge is a recycling mill. It produces a lot of re-bar for local construction, but not the quality of steel needed for a beam like this.

    @ Nadoka,
    Concrete beams would have a deeper section than steel. There are probably clearance or span length issues that needed custom beams to clear 1st Ave S traffic.

  • Nadoka November 22, 2011 (10:51 pm)

    Luna Park Steel Mill makes rolled sheets, bars and beams.
    They don’t do complex bending, forging and fabrications.

    The can give us the re-bars quickly. The cement plant across the Duwamish can give us the cement. These are not gigantic girders.

    Question for the WSB or the maybe the SeaTimes – where is all the steel being used in the Spokane and 99 viaducts coming from? Seattle taxpayers subsidize the electric bill for the Luna Park Mill…..

    • WSB November 22, 2011 (11:10 pm)

      I got the info for this basic story late today. Collecting followup questions for tomorrow (and if those who can answer are off for the holiday, next week). – TR

  • chris November 22, 2011 (11:30 pm)

    If this were China…one month for the whole kit and kaboodle. Total B.S.

  • I Wonder November 23, 2011 (12:16 am)

    The Big Dig in Boston was a much more complex project than this. It makes Spokane street look like a lego kit. Not to say they didn’t have issues, but really?? This is a connector road. The BD was a major bridge, arteries, subways, 3 level interchange and tunnel. You are way off base.

  • robert November 23, 2011 (5:19 am)

    a case of excess stupidity .what is wrong with buy american. use american material and quit supporting a country that hates us and votes against us all the time in the u,n.

  • East Coast Cynic November 23, 2011 (5:31 am)

    Been there, for what it’s worth, I voted against 2 incumbents on the city council because they weren’t pro public transit enough for my tastes; but they were re-elected anyway.

  • redblack November 23, 2011 (6:08 am)

    chris: and that kit and kaboodle in china wouldn’t be built to american engineering standards.
    however, if this was california, it would be, and it would have been done long ago. remember when the I-580 to I-80 ramp failed in oakland? caltrans had it rebuilt and in use before the concrete was fully cured.
    seattle and washington need a real transportation authority. there doesn’t seem to be a sense of urgency with this project.
    yeah, i know. just more pie-in-the-sky idealism and kvetching…

  • Rick November 23, 2011 (7:50 am)

    If this ramp isn’t supposed to be open before summer, I’m concerned as to when “summer” actually is, seeing how we haven’t really had one the last couple of years. Oh well…..

  • godofthebasement November 23, 2011 (9:11 am)

    A lot if anti-China sentiment in several of the above comments, but did any of you check where the supplier is actually located? Nope, you’re just jumping to conclusions. Also, the computer or smart phone you write your comments on was almost certainly made in China, so you’re also hypocrites. That’s what you get for jumping on the xenophobia bandwagon.

  • metrognome November 23, 2011 (10:17 am)

    redblack — you’re blowing smoke; just because two different project involved roads doesn’t mean they are at all the same. I’m assuming you (and all the other uninformed critics) have mistakes at your job(s) — I also assume you will be turning in your resignation as soon as possible.
    robert — and what if no steel foundry in America is capable of making that piece? Or the cost is two or 3 times higher?
    The biggest problem in this project is that SDOT hasn’t learned to be as transparent and forthcoming about problems, the way WSDOT has learned to be. They should have issued more public updates, esp. when the problems were discovered. In this day and age of instant communication, acting like it’s the 50’s just makes you look foolish.

  • todd_ November 23, 2011 (10:23 am)

    There are some city officials (Dow Constantine and Tom Rasmussen for example) that live in West Seattle. I wonder if they have any political pull with improving the commute for their constituents?

  • WSB November 23, 2011 (10:52 am)

    Dow Constantine is county executive and the county has nothing to do with this project. Tom Rasmussen, however, is not only a West Seattle-residing city councilmember, he also is chair of the Transportation Committee on the council and certainly a good person to communicate with regarding issues like these. – TR

  • Seaviewer November 23, 2011 (5:29 pm)

    There’s an old saying in engineering circles:


    Pick two.

    Well, fast is clearly out the window. We have yet to see if SDOT can deliver on the other two. I have my doubts.

  • Whoa November 24, 2011 (11:40 am)

    If it were a bIke lane it would be done by now.

  • redblack November 27, 2011 (8:00 am)

    metrognome: i just came back to this thread.
    for one thing, i’m as much an “uninformed” critic as you are an “informed” apologist. i get the email alerts from SDOT. (which have slowed to a trickle and were never very forthcoming about the full scope and schedule of the project anyway.) i read. i comprehend. i observe. i pay attention. and i have an opinion, which i think is well-informed.
    the fact is that that ramp was originally slated to be complete in the second quarter of 2011. then the old structure would be ground down and resurfaced. it’s now the fourth quarter of 2011, and the latest best estimate by SDOT is that the ramp will be completed in the third quarter of 2012. still gotta resurface the old structure. at that pace, the NB lanes of 99 through SODO will be half-finished before the SSV is fully complete.
    PCL/mid-mountain was 3 months ahead of schedule in hitting their last major milestone – the 4th ave off-ramp. what happened since then? can’t blame utility relocation for that one.
    and for the record, i wasn’t comparing the I-80 on-ramp’s scope and purpose so much as i was comparing california’s transportation authority’s ability to knuckle down and keep major routes flowing. or know when to shut them down altogether and fast-track a project. like i said, SDOT doesn’t seem to have that sense of urgency for SSV.
    it is fair, however, to compare the new SB 99 lanes through downtown: utility relocation, pile driving, and bridge deck construction in tight quarters without completely closing a major arterial route.
    skanska and WSDOT have that sense of urgency, and they finished that phase of the project early.
    yeah, i’m frustrated. it’s a pain in the butt for me, personally, to be sure. SDOT/PCL should have had that ramp open before 99 was cut in october. it would have made the whole closure more bearable. but not only that, how many hours and dollars of seattle’s time and productivity were lost because that project wasn’t completed on time?
    but to compare my job to a massive, multimillion-dollar transportation project is kinda goofy and misses the point entirely. sure, we have delays, and as a small contractor, we pay the price.

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