(2012 WSB photo by Christopher Boffoli)
How did more than 600 “bearing pad” cushions get installed on the Fauntleroy Expressway end of the West Seattle Bridge with a design flaw that made them too soft? The City Council Transportation Committee got a few more answers in a briefing this morning. The agenda including that briefing is what led to our report last Friday about the problem, which means that much of the work done two years ago, requiring multiple nighttime closures so the bridge deck could be jacked up for bearing-pad installation, will be re-done next year.
First: What exactly was the problem?
The committee was told that SDOT caught the flaw – the wrong number requiring the necessary “stiffness” for the bearing pads – when it reviewed the design consultant’s specs. The consultant was told to fix that numerical error. But it didn’t – and the city did not re-check the specs, so didn’t know that the bearing pads were made to the too-soft specification.
The design consultant’s failure to fix the number cost them $1.9 million. But, as reported here on Friday, the city decided that since the pads had to be re-replaced anyway, it might as well get them built to a newer toughness standard that had emerged since the original order. The new pads, the committee was told this morning, cost three times as much – they include steel. So that extra cost, plus the cost of some repairs needed on the Fauntleroy Expressway, means the city will spend an additional $2.6 million. (And that number could change – downward or upward – the council committee was told today.)
It was reiterated in the briefing that the bridge is safe; as an SDOT spokesperson told us last Friday, it’s an issue of wear and tear – the bridge will last longer with tougher bearing pads.
As for the additional repairs the bridge is going to get – the briefing this morning mentioned falling concrete and cracked girders, because it’s “an older bridge.” If it’s not fixed, water will get into the rebar and potentially lead to a “real structural problem.” (This part of the bridge was built in 1963 – more than 20 years before the main part of the high-level bridge, completed in 1984.)
Also mentioned at the briefing: You’ll see some crews out this month doing inspection as part of the preparation for this work, which could require up to 20 nighttime closures; SDOT says it won’t be as impactful as last time, when some of the closures were combined with closures needed for work on the Spokane Street Viaduct project, which has long since been completed. (This WSB report from 2012 takes a closer look at how the work was done.)
And yes, SDOT has learned a lesson, it was acknowledged at today’s briefing: When they ask a consultant to fix an error, they’ll check to make sure it got fixed.