(January 2012 photo by Christopher Boffoli for WSB)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Remember the work done to toughen up the Fauntleroy Expressway end of the high bridge in 2011-2012, to make it more earthquake-resistant?
We’ve just learned that much of it has to be re-done because of parts that weren’t as strong as they should have been.
This is revealed in the slide deck that accompanies an item on next Tuesday’s City Council Transportation Committee agenda (thanks to the texter who pointed it out before we’d gotten a chance to read the agenda, which was just published this afternoon).
We’re still working to find out more – a challenge with government shutting down for a 3-day holiday weekend – but here’s what we know so far:
The problem, according to the slide deck, is with the bearing pads – cushions inserted between the bridge deck and supporting pieces such as columns – which should have been designed to be “stiffer.” This city webpage reminds us that more than 600 of those pads were replaced during the $2.7 million project. We took a closer look at the work in January 2012; much of it happened during overnight closures of the southwest end of the bridge.
One slide indicates this potential problem was noticed at final inspection of the work two years ago. Since then, it says, they’ve been working to develop a new pad design and putting together other logistics. That slide also mentions “Additional funding through existing Bridge Rehab Program; balance approx. $2.6M, pending design & additional scope.”
Preparation for replacement is scheduled for later this year; then the new bearing pads will be ordered and installation will begin next spring, with, “overnight & limited weekend structure closures.”
Again, we’re asking around right now to see if we can find out anything more before the holiday weekend. The Transportation Committee meeting with this item on the agenda is at 9:30 am next Tuesday (July 8th).
ADDED 6:07 PM: Our inquiry to SDOT was answered by manager Bill LaBorde. In a phone conversation, he confirmed that all 670+ of the bearing pads will be replaced, and that the $2.6 million cost is in addition to the original project cost.
One key clarification: He says that some of that cost – he didn’t have the breakdown handy, so we’ll expect it next week – is discretionary: The replacement bearing pads are being designed to an even-stronger (and costlier) industry standard that has come out since this project. Since they were redesigning and remaking them anyway, he says, they decided to go with the upgrade, which will extend the bridge’s life. Another part of the added $2.6 million will cover some “repair work” that needs to be done, separate from the bearing-pad replacement.
As for the original design flaw, he says that the design consultant was to blame, not city specifications – we asked, so if they had designed the bearing pads to what the city specified, no replacement would be needed? Yes, replied LaBorde.
Last but not least, we asked if this had been mentioned publicly since its identification as “an issue” in July 2012. LaBorde says it had been mentioned in SDOT directors’ reports at some previous Transportation Committee meetings. (We still have a message out to committee chair Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, and that’s one of our questions for him.)