(2012 WSB photo by Christopher Boffoli, from original pad-replacement work beneath the bridge)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Another big road project is on the way. This one isn’t new – but it’s a year later than first planned. It’s the re-replacement of earthquake-safety cushioning under the Fauntleroy Expressway of the West Seattle Bridge, expected to happen last year, delayed until this year, now set to start in a few months.
If you don’t recall the backstory: Back in 2014, we reported on the revelation that 600 “bearing pad” cushions had been installed two years earlier on the Fauntleroy Expressway end of the West Seattle Bridge with a design flaw that made them too soft. The city caught the flaw; the design consultant didn’t fix it, and they paid almost $2 million for that error. In the meantime, the city decided that since the pads were going to be re-replaced anyway, they should be built to a newer standard of toughness.
The city insists the too-soft pads are not a safety risk; it’s just a matter of how long they will last.
We lost track of the project until it came up at the Southwest District Council meeting earlier this month, with a mention that SDOT was about to start community outreach about the work. The brief discussion that ensued involved some confusion – others at the meeting thought the re-replacement had already happened, and wondered if this were a round of re-re-replacement.
So we went to SDOT, which confirmed this is the work that was expected to start in April 2015. “City crews were on site for several weeks around that time doing some early preparation work for the installation,” acknowledged SDOT spokesperson Marybeth Turner. But – “We didn’t begin the installation when we had first planned because it took longer than anticipated to reach agreement on the design for the new and improved replacement pads, to work through the related design implications, and to reach agreement on the construction cost with the contractor.”
674 pads are to be re-replaced, and that will require up to 50 nighttime closures of the Fauntleroy Expressway – toward the west end of the bridge. Turner says they’ll probably be 9 pm-5 am weeknight closures, and more information will be available when scheduling is finalized. The work involves – as shown in the 2012 photo atop this story, from the original replacement work – jacking up sections of the bridge to remove the existing pads and place the new ones.
We have asked a followup about how – or whether – these closures will be coordinated with the eventual expected two-week Alaskan Way Viaduct shutdown, when the Highway 99 tunneling machine goes under the AWV. No reply yet.
ADDED: That reply is in now. SDOT’s Turner says, “We are aware the construction schedules for SR99 closures (for tunneling under the viaduct) and work on the Fauntleroy Expressway may coincide. We are now assessing the traffic impacts of the Fauntleroy Expressway project.”