Followup: More details of the Fauntleroy Expressway re-do plan

(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.

13 Replies to "Followup: More details of the Fauntleroy Expressway re-do plan"

  • Rick July 8, 2014 (12:04 pm)

    Accepted policy. Keep your mouth shut.

  • KT July 8, 2014 (12:09 pm)

    Again, no talk about holding someone responsible for not doing their job. Oh wait, they say they learned their lesson. Someone is responsible for not checking that the work was redone in a correct manner which will now cost the city millions. There is no company I know of who would accept this type of job performance. And where is the very fluid $2.6million coming from?

    • WSB July 8, 2014 (12:39 pm)

      Bridge Rehab fund.

  • Diane July 8, 2014 (1:00 pm)

    “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”
    does this mean the prep work will require 20 closures, on top of many more closures for the installations?

  • BT July 8, 2014 (1:32 pm)

    KT: Your statement “work was redone in a correct manner which will now cost the city millions” is not what the article says. It cost the contractor 1.9 million, not the City. The City is paying millions now because they changed their mind and want stronger materials that will last longer, and have other repairs to make that weren’t part of the original contract.

  • Twobottles July 8, 2014 (1:57 pm)

    Wow. After over 32 years as an engineer at Boeing (retired), I can’t imagine a scenario in which you ask a contractor to make a spec change and then don’t follow up to verify that the change was actually made.

  • dsa July 8, 2014 (3:09 pm)

    It does not say they will get a sample for testing prior to installation like they should.

  • pam July 8, 2014 (5:36 pm)

    When the city and the state wonder why we say no to additional taxes every time they ask – they should look at stories like this. It’s like lending your sketchy brother in law money over and over and he never makes a good decision on how it should be used. Eventually you figure out that enough is enough and close the purse strings.

  • Kc July 8, 2014 (7:02 pm)

    What more should we expect… This debacle is brought to yo by the same clowns that brought de icer gate on the same road way in the middle of the afternoon on a Monday night football game night… And the mayor “out” is none of this happened on my watch! Will heads roll? I doubt it

  • LivesInWS July 8, 2014 (7:45 pm)

    Ah, this never happens in private industry ….. LOL. Boeing Dreamsmoker, anyone?

  • ChefJoe July 8, 2014 (11:20 pm)

    Did you guys ever get a comment from Rasmussen, chair of the transportation committee and potential candidate for city council district 1 ?

    • WSB July 9, 2014 (12:38 am)

      He presided over the meeting – which reminds me that I need to add the video for posterity’s sake, assuming Seattle Channel has it available now. I did talk to him about it (and a few other things) after his appearance at tonight’s Admiral Neighborhood Association meeting to talk about the Park District measure on the upcoming ballot (our story on that is coming up tomorrow). He observed that there seemed to be fault on both sides – the consultant for the error, SDOT for not checking to be sure it had been fixed. We certainly haven’t heard the last of this one, as the new pads now have to be ordered and manufactured before the installation next year …

  • sam-c July 22, 2014 (4:28 pm)

    just reading this in my reader now. did they name the design consultant? did the consultant’s insurance pay for this mistake?

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