VIDEO & AS-IT-HAPPENED COVERAGE: City Council gets briefed on West Seattle Bridge closure, learns SDOT knew for a month that lane closures were recommended

(Seattle Channel video from meeting- bridge briefing starts 14 minutes in)

9:33 AM: Click into the live Seattle Channel stream above for the City Council‘s weekly “briefing” meeting, featuring an SDOT presentation on the decision a week ago to close the high-rise West Seattle Bridge after “exponential” growth in cracks they had been monitoring for seven years, and what happens next. As previewed Friday, here’s the slide deck prepared for the meeting:

(Or see it here in PDF.) If you can’t access the SC feed, you should be able to listen in at 206-684-8566. We’ll be chronicling as it happens, too.

9:46 AM: After Council President Lorena González‘s weekly update, the bridge briefing has begun. District 1 Councilmember Lisa Herbold opens by mentioning that there’s “universal support” for the fastest action possible, as for West Seattle this is a “second emergency” layered on the pandemic emergency. Councilmember Alex Pedersen, who chairs the Transportation Committee, notes a resolution is set for this afternoon’s meeting designating this as an urgent capital project. Then SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe starts the briefing. He’s joined by other SDOT employees – all in separate locations.

He reiterates that the bridge had been inspected previously more often than required, adding that the bridge was built to last 75 years. He says there was no indication until recent weeks/months that anything impeding the bridge’s use was going on. “All of our infrastructure ages – usually it does so in a predictable manner … with very few surprises,” although there have been exceptions such as the Argo Bridge (4th Ave. S.) and Aurora Bridge. “For reasons that we don’t yet know,” the bridge became so dangerous it had to be closed, he says. “We needed to take this action swiftly and decisively.”

SDOT’s bridge manager Matt Donahue picks up from there. He gives some background on the bridge, opened in 1984. “Reinforced concrete bridges are … made to crack,” he notes. Bridges like this are supposed to be inspected every two years. After atypical cracking was first noticed in 2013, they hired an engineering firm. 2014-2019, they inspected annually and looked at “crack width data” – the cracking “continued to grow but not at an alarming rate,” 1/1000th inch or less. Then in 2019 came the load-rating inspection required by new federal guidelines that they had until 2022 to do, but because of the cracks, they moved the load-rating inspection up to 2019. “Two things happened – we’re doing this advanced analysis …and continuing to inspect the bridge … gathering more data …” so they built two models to analyze. While gathering data for that, they saw the cracking patterns start to change. In late February, their consultant recommended going down to two lanes in each direction. They were working on a plan for that when on March 19th, the consultant said the bridge should be closed. So they analyzed that over a weekend, went up to the bridge at 9 am last Monday, and the photo shows “what they saw when we got up there.”

10:07 AM: Councilmember Herbold says there should have been public/council notice when they moved to monthly inspections. Zimbabwe counters that they didn’t think until “very very recently” that repairs would disrupt “normal traffic patterns.” CP González (also a West Seattleite) asks for further clarification on that two-lane recommendation. February 21st, responds Zimbabwe. But it didn’t seem to be something that needed to be done immediately. Nonetheless, as she noted, that was a month before this, and there was no hint to the public or council that anything was amiss. She and Herbold express disappointment. Zimbabwe says the recommendation for closure was made March 19th, and then they confirmed March 23rd that it was needed. He acknowledges there could have been some discussion in the weeks ahead but says again there was no indication “such swift action” would have been needed.

Donahue resumes his part of the briefing, pointing to the cracking growth and saying that the kind of growth he saw last Monday was the kind you see in years, not days and weeks, “completely unacceptable. … Failure happens quickly and without warning” in this type of situation. Regarding repairs: They hope to fix it while some traffic is allowed on the bridge, and they will continue to inspect the cracks, in hopes the bridge can “at least handle its own dead weight” for now.

Councilmember Tammy Morales expresses concern about whether there’s a “chance the upper bridge could collapse at any moment” – Donahue says they don’t think so.

Counclmember Pedersen “echoes” the notification concerns and saying they needed to know – even that lane closures were being planned.

Councilmember Herbold asks for more details on repair options. SDOT reiterates that they are working on a “design-build” process to accelerate. Donahue says they are gathering data on how the bridge is handling the stress and strain and that has to be known first. Zimbabwe says, “We’re looking for any possible way to restore any amount of traffic” but they have to be certain it would be safe. Herbold says she wasn’t suggesting a rush but just wants to be sure this is treated as an “emergency.”

Back to Donahue, who now moves on to the “low bridge” slide. Parts of it are getting weekly inspections; a load-rating project started recently for this bridge too. The pedestrian gates will be fixed next month.

10:28 AM: Adiam Emery now takes over to address the “traffic management plan.” 20,000 vehicles is the maximum the low bridge could handle, which would be stop-and-go, so to be sure emergency vehicles can get through, they’re limiting other traffic to transit and freight. She mentions the Highland Park Way signal, and “traffic-count stations” to watch the situation elsewhere. How frequently will they be monitored and what info will be shared? Herbold asks. She also asks about low-bridge access for health-care workers and first responders to get to work. Emery says 15,000 vehicles took the low bridge last Tuesday, the first full day of the closure, but they aren’t ready to reconsider the restrictions yet. She says the traffic counts are being used to tweak signal timing and other things “on a daily basis.” Zimbabwe adds that “right now we’re in an extraordinary (low) traffic period” so they know things will change. “This is not a short-term issue.” (But, it should be noted, there’s still been no hint in the briefing of HOW LONG the repairs will take.) Emery says many more strategies will be required to manage the future traffic and a task force, also involving Metro and the port, is looking at that.

Back to Donahue for repair options. First the temporary shoring “to make it safe” for a contractor to even do more repairs – “carbon fiber wrapping” coated with an epoxy shell is likely what they’ll use for starters, also more steel reinforcement. They have to be careful in the design that the repairs don’t affect bridge clearance on the waterway, which could trigger a need for Coast Guard permits, which would add more time.

Enforcing low-bridge restrictions? Herbold follows up. Zimbabwe mentions the signage. “Our general approach to enforcement of all our traffic rules is to have people follow the rules (and for us to) have as light an enforcement touch as possible,” but that could change … “if everybody tries to use the lower-level bridge, then nobody will be able to use the lower-level bridge.”

Councilmember Mosqueda asks about worker safety regarding COVID-19 exposure on repair crews. Zimbabwe says they have implemented safety plans for all their projects But working inside the bridge is a close space so that’s a challenge.

10:48 AM: Councilmember González stresses the importance of getting information out in multiple languages since West Seattle/South Park is “incredibly diverse” in terms of languages spoken. She also puts in a plug for WSB. “The West Seattle Blog is critical for anything that happens in West Seattle,” agrees Zimbabwe. He then gets to the org chart, with (another West Seattleite) Heather Marx coordinating the project, Dan Anderson as lead communicator – he’s had that role for several major local projects – among others (see the slide).

Re: next steps, Herbold asks about funding needed. Zimbabwe says “Yes, there will be budget impacts,” but they don’t know enough yet about the shoring and repair options – “we expect that’ll be over the next few weeks” – to address cost. “Beyond where we are with shoring and repair, we also recognize” they have to talk about the bridge’s future – “not our immediate priority” though.

González asks about timelines: Zimbabwe says they don’t know. “It’s not going to be a short duration and I don’t want to gve the impression this is something we can handle in the next few weeks …I think it’ll outlast the public health emergency we’re in now. … I am very reluctant to speculate on (timelines) … any range I give would likely have problems.”

On followup he says they’ll know “over the next month or so … what we need to do.” So basically – this s our interpretation – plan on months.

11:03 AM: The briefing has concluded (running twice as long as originally expected). TOPLINES:
-They don’t know what caused the cracks to worsen
-They knew a month ago that they had worsened to a point where lane reduction was advised
-They don’t know how long it’ll take even for short-term repairs – it’ll take up to a month before they know.

We’ll get the archived video up as soon as possible (we recorded the briefing too in case the Seattle Channel turnaround takes longer).

1:35 PM: Video added. Advance the Seattle Channel recording to 14 minutes in to get to the start.

107 Replies to "VIDEO & AS-IT-HAPPENED COVERAGE: City Council gets briefed on West Seattle Bridge closure, learns SDOT knew for a month that lane closures were recommended"

  • lookingforlogic March 30, 2020 (10:14 am)

    Well, traffic calculations were considerably less than current usage.  Also the volume of heavy trucks for construction and freight has increased beyond original tolerance calculations.

    • WSB March 30, 2020 (11:23 am)

      On at least one front, actually, I was surprised to find while reading up on stories about the bridge’s construction (lots of trade-journal stuff), they expected 80,000 daily vehicles by 2000, and that’s close to what we had in 2019. Just one metric, but interesting.

      • chemist March 30, 2020 (11:51 am)

        SDOT’s map for 2014 said they were 107k on the high bridge and around 10k on the low bridge/spokane street.  The oldest map the city hosts online is 2004 and has similar volume of 107k indicated (although it’s tough to tell if the low bridge is counted/added into that number or not).  The latest online in 2018 indicates 99k volume.  Not sure where 80k is coming from, at least based on the volume maps SDOT is posting.

        • WSB March 30, 2020 (1:44 pm)

          It’s in the slide deck. 84,000 daily vehicles, 2019.
          Perhaps the increase in transit use dropped the # of cars?
          I’ll add that to my followup Q list.

  • Angry March 30, 2020 (10:17 am)

    Just tuned in … they’re 40 minutes into the meeting and still talking about whose fault it is.   That’s important, but let’s focus on getting the dang thing fixed ASAP and the heads can roll later.   This is going to absolutely cripple West Seattle and we need to get it fixed before the economy is in full swing again.

  • psps March 30, 2020 (10:19 am)

    I cringe whenever I see the name “zimbabwe” anymore since the bus lane fiasco.

    • Elton March 30, 2020 (11:34 am)

      +1 on thisI’m sure he’s a smart and well-educated individual – but the bus lane fiasco makes me deeply question his competence because it’s such a simple matter with a simple solution (don’t put the bus lane back) where he specifically advocated for the option that made everyone’s commute worse. Is there some political reason he would’ve wanted a bus lane there after seeing that it made traffic worse? It’s truly baffling.

      • sna March 30, 2020 (11:46 am)

        The bus lane not only made traffic worse, but it increased the load on the bridge from all the backups despite increasing concern over the mid span cracks.  

        • Jethro Marx March 30, 2020 (12:40 pm)

          Again, that kind of loading is not significant in terms of the cracking they’re seeing here. In fact there has not been a determination that overload of any kind is the root cause.

        • Greg March 30, 2020 (1:04 pm)

          The timeline of the accelerating cracks certainly matches

        • tsurly March 30, 2020 (1:05 pm)

          And here I thought one of the silver linings in the bridge being shutdown is we would no longer have to hear the bus lane “fiasco” griping. 

      • Azimuth March 30, 2020 (3:39 pm)

        When the repaired bridge opens again with reduced lanes they will double down on bus lanes.

    • Craig March 30, 2020 (12:35 pm)

      +1 as well on this. I lost my faith in Mr Zimbabwe. The bus lane failure was a hint at his problem solving and listening to citizens and showed a default to optics over practical action. I’m sure he’s a smart and personable guy, but those skills aren’t fixing our quickly growing needs, much less aren’t the ones that we need during a full blown double stacked crisis. 

    • WR March 31, 2020 (11:23 pm)

      What is the procedure for getting a new sdot director?  What’s that process?

  • C March 30, 2020 (10:30 am)

    Zimbabwe will earn a reputation for absolutely ruining traffic in and out of West Seattle. Let’s not forget it.

  • IslandLife March 30, 2020 (10:45 am)

    I find the lack of leadership on this bridge crisis appalling. There was no contingency plan for health workers or any other essential personnel that require ready access. The vague rules about busses and cargo vehicles being the only ones to use the lower bridge but allowing traffic to back up to regular vehicles because of the confusion is irresponsible. One would imagine that Lisa Herbold would be using every possible manner to communicate with residents to keep everyone updated on what’s going on but she’s nowhere to be found. And a full week after the closure the City Council decides they are ready for a briefing. Lisa should have been advocating for this issue to rise to the top of City Council business after the pandemic but it seems we lack representation that understands how this is affecting the lives of every resident. Shameful. 

    • Lagartija Nick March 30, 2020 (1:01 pm)

      Go beat a different dead horse. Lisa is not responsible for the bad decisions made at SDOT re; this closure. Furthermore, the council didn’t “wait a week” to have this briefing, SDOT took a week getting all the relevant information together to present to the council. None of this is the mayor’s/council’s fault. The blame for this lies squarely at Zimbabwe’s/SDOT’s feet.

    • AMD March 30, 2020 (1:27 pm)

      Just to clarify, emergency vehicles ARE allowed to use the low bridge.  It’s not just buses and freight.

  • Elton March 30, 2020 (11:09 am)

    “Councilmember Herbold says there should have been public/council notice when they moved to monthly inspections. Zimbabwe counters that they didn’t think until “very very recently” that repairs would disrupt “normal traffic patterns.”

    Unbelievable. They’ve been monitoring cracks in the bridge for a while because even though some cracking is normal they clearly believe there’s something to be a little concerned about or else they wouldn’t have moved to monthly inspections. Why did they feel it was appropriate to keep from the public the recommendation of moving to two lanes? Did they feel it was a flippant recommendation? I don’t get it. That’s one way to make us trust your team less…   

  • Andy March 30, 2020 (11:11 am)

    This shouldn’t take months to plan. Other bridges around the world have had similar issues, so this isn’t new. Just find the best solution and go with it. The desire to study every options to death before making a decision is wasting valuable time. Get on with sourcing for the carbon fiber wrap and move forward. This is an emergency. Who care the cost! The cost of delay will have a greater impact on everyone than the repair cost. Yes, there will be need for a long term fix, but get an interim fix in place in weeks so we can have some access to the bridge to limit the impact to the community. Also, why don’t we limit the lower Spokane Bridge to those who live in the north end and route everyone just north of the junction south to the two alternative options? Wouldn’t this help address the volume issue with the alternatives and the lower bridge? Why didn’t Lisa or another city council member ask that question. The city council and SDOT need to get creative and not drag their feet and worry about the unknown. Just get something done. How is other countries can fix roads and replace bridges in a matter of days, weeks not in months or years. 

    • Rumbles March 30, 2020 (11:39 am)

      “Also, why don’t we limit the lower Spokane Bridge to those who live in the north end and route everyone just north of the junction south to the two alternative options?”

      Really?  How do you propose to enforce a ridiculous idea like this?  Check everyone’s ID before they cross?  What would THAT traffic backup look like?  Come on, common sense people!

      • Andy March 30, 2020 (1:51 pm)

        I guess you live south of the junction. Basically anyone using admiral way down the hill get funnel to the Spokane bridge. Then you funnel the rest to the two other alternatives. This spread the amount of traffic to wall three vs. pushing all of us two smaller bridges that won’t be able to handle the 100K traffic. Also, think about the impact on there communities where these two bridges are located. It’s not unrealistic. Open your mind to outside the box thinking. 

        • Mark March 30, 2020 (5:20 pm)

          I too live north of the Junction, and propose we take this a step further: How about a sky gondola that transports those between Oregon and Hanford on the half hour, piping in Phil Collins.  Those north of Hanford will depart on the hour, with Earth, Wind & Fire.

      • KM March 30, 2020 (2:29 pm)

        If they could also let me through on Tuesdays and Saturdays between 11:04am and 8:53pm, that would be great!

    • WSJ March 30, 2020 (11:48 am)

      You dont seem to understand the way this is going to work. The short-term shoring work (likely CF wrap) is NOT a fix to get traffic on the bridge again. It’s to keep the bridge from falling apart while actual repairs happen. So the people doing the repairs and driving/working under it aren’t killed if the bridge falls down and takes the lower bridge with it. Once the shoring is done then a plan for repairs can be made and undertaken, which will take months. The impact of failure would be an order of magnitude worse than adding 30min to some peoples’ commutes. 

      • Sherwood K March 30, 2020 (1:01 pm)

        You make it sound like they will need to close the low bridge during repairs due to the possibility of the high bridge falling down. Is there any truth to that or am I reading too far into it?I’m just wondering what the impact of both bridges being closed would be.             

        • WSJ March 30, 2020 (1:52 pm)

          Not what I intended to say, but I can see what you mean.  In order for work to happen on repairing the high bridge, the shoring needs to happen to insure safety during repairs. From the meeting it’s clear that keeping the lower bridge (and waterway) clear and accessible is a priority for any repair plan.

      • Andy March 30, 2020 (2:15 pm)

        This won’t add 30mins. As you reported last week, with the lower traffic, some of the commutes were already 30 mins longer. Imagine all of us going back to work and funneling through two bridges that can handle about 20K per car per day each. So, all I’m saying is spread the traffic to all three bridges equally to keep traffic flowing. 

        • WSJ March 30, 2020 (2:55 pm)

          This will happen naturally as people look at routes and congestion. It’s literally impossible to enforce a take-a-different-route-based-on-your-home-address system. Saying “get creative!” Isn’t magic.

          • Andy March 30, 2020 (3:32 pm)

            Well they just have to factor the congestion with 100k cars on two smaller bridges. Also, what about limiting general access from 8pm to 5am/6am? We need more creative solutions then we will just funnel everyone down to the 1st ave bridge and South Park bridge. 

      • Andy March 30, 2020 (3:39 pm)

        Actually, If you just Google Carbon fiber wrap bridge repairs, there are examples of worst condition bridges that a carbon fiber wrap the only thing needed. I’m not saying this is the long term fix. But it can get the bridge stabilize and get some traffic on it and allow a longer term repair to occur. 

    • Ice March 30, 2020 (11:56 am)

      Sorry, but you shouldn’t get special privileges based on where you live.

      • ColumbiaChris March 30, 2020 (5:12 pm)

        Tell that to the folks on Mercer Island.

  • Silver March 30, 2020 (11:13 am)

    During the meeting, I heard the maximum daily traffic capacity for the lower bridge. What is the daily traffic capacity for Highland Park Way detour route? 

    • beanie March 30, 2020 (11:34 am)

      That’s a really good question.

    • sw March 30, 2020 (1:07 pm)

      Let’s just call it “WAY LESS.”

  • Um, No! March 30, 2020 (11:21 am)

    An nobody at SDOT will even get a slap on the wrist for this debacle.  Anyone associated with this needs to be shown the door.   But we all know that will never happen.  Unbelievable. 

  • Sam Z March 30, 2020 (11:28 am)

    Perhaps the cracking/deterioration of the bridge was accelerated by the objectively worse for everyone, stop-and-go, unnecessary traffic created by the 99 North bus lane that was installed after the tunnel opened.  Is anyone looking into that?

    • Olivist March 30, 2020 (1:20 pm)

      Agree! This would have been my first question based on that timeline. Seems like more than coincidence that exponential growth in cracks started when the unnecessary return of the NB 99 bus lane in September 2019. 

  • Mark Schletty March 30, 2020 (11:38 am)

    Please get rid of Zimbabwe and other top officials now before they completely screw up the fix up. The years of SDOT incompetence and misdirection need to end now.

  • Brooke March 30, 2020 (11:53 am)

    Zimbabwe and his team waited a month to cover their a$$. It’s time for Zimbabwe to be held accountable and fired. 

  • Ice March 30, 2020 (12:01 pm)

    It’s fairly interesting about awareness of the need for lane reduction. I suspect that the SDOT higher-ups thought that proposing a lane reduction would have been political suicide and that’s why they put it off. In retrospect, this is clearly a worse outcome for them.

  • KT March 30, 2020 (12:27 pm)

    So, in Oct-Nov-Dec last year they “started analyzing mitigation options”.  It’s almost April and still nothing.  And nothing for at least a month.  And we need yet another Seattle Task Force?  So Seattle.

  • Bellamay March 30, 2020 (12:28 pm)

    I watched most of the presentation and did not hear any talk about the recent pile-driving and its possible impact on bridge cracking–was this mentioned? 

  • Craig March 30, 2020 (12:38 pm)

    I really hope the lower bridge has been inspected for cracks, and it can stay open. Specifically hoping Zimbabwe’s team inspected and verified that it can take the huge increase in traffic that it’s taking now and for the next months of repair. If it closes we’re 3 layer screwed. 

  • wscommuter March 30, 2020 (12:41 pm)

    Thank you WSB – once again, detailed and substantive coverage.  Well  done.

    • beanie March 30, 2020 (2:37 pm)

      Indeed, thank you for all the coverage on both this and coronavirus and the normal news. You must be working some long hours. This blog has been an absolutely incredible resource during this very stressful time. I imagine neighborhoods without a resource like this are having a harder time getting current business info and the crucial community connections that we have.

  • Mj March 30, 2020 (12:43 pm)

    Capacity low level bridge about 15,000 vehicles per day.  The HPW alternative and other routes south maybe 10 to 20,000 a day, the South Park Bridge has the most spare capacity.  The capacity deficit is huge and cannot be replaced.  

    • Ice March 30, 2020 (2:57 pm)

      Traffic and Trip numbers aren’t some predetermined number that the roads are built to accommodate. The more road you have, the more traffic and trips you get. There is over 50 years of data backing that up. Here’s some really simple reading on the matter.

      Just like when the ‘viadoom’ happened, people were expecting the traffic apocalypse, and then what actually resulted wasn’t that much worse than the baseline. Sure, traffic might get a bit worse in some areas, but the 100,000 trips per day people were making previously are not going to magically move to the other exits out of West Seattle. People will just make different choices. Taken as a whole, traffic will probably go down. Above all, there is a huge element of personal responsibility in traffic. If you don’t want to sit in it, THEN DON’T DRIVE.

      • Andrew March 30, 2020 (4:18 pm)

        I agree with this point, but I also worry pushing maximum people onto transit during the CoV-2 outbreak. We are likely to get back to some partially normal schedule by May/June, probably work allowed with social distancing still recommended. The ideal behavior in this scenario would be a combo of telework and driving, avoiding packing people onto transit. But if the bridge is closed and bus/water taxi are the only option, a lot of people will take them, and that’s not ideal when we’re trying to keep a pandemic tamped down.

        • KM March 31, 2020 (8:27 am)

          In the midst of a pandemic, we have what we have now, which is not packed transit, but a stay at home order. With responsible coordination, we can still encourage and prioritize transit once is safe to do so. If this was a new norm, we’d have to rethink all forms of transportation and when people were allowed to leave their homes, as we are now. I don’t think we’re there.

      • WR March 31, 2020 (11:38 pm)

        You know what, “don’t drive” is not an option for everyone. There are lots of people who have to drive for their job.  Please please stop with the everyone stop driving comments.

  • Mark March 30, 2020 (12:43 pm)

    It will not be long before a number of class action suits are filed for a multiple of reasons.   If you think the commute time will be increased by 30 minutes – you live in “fantasyland”.   Try about 1 1/2 hours.   Not to mention the added cost in the commute.  Also think about folks trying to sell their homes in West Seattle.  Property values, to say the very least, will take a major hit in the next year.   With all that said, the real problem I have is the fact that the city council is letting the same people at SDOT – who put us in this mess in the first place- be allowed to try and fix it.  They should immediately look around the country for the most competent people and bring them in- after firing the ones responsible.  This is going to be extremely ugly and costly for everyone.  The virus is the only thing stopping the incredible outrage that would have normally happened with this kind of situation.

    • Joe Z March 30, 2020 (2:38 pm)

      I think my property value is going to go way up. I used to live next to a noisy, polluted highway and now I live in a quiet, peaceful neighborhood. I can hear the birds in the morning. The commute time to downtown on the bus is still 15 minutes like it was before. I’m optimistic that a year-long closure will accelerate the inevitable transition away from cars to alternative means of transit. Might buy an e-bike myself. Just wish they could use this opportunity to accelerate the light rail construction. 

  • Steve March 30, 2020 (12:50 pm)

    SDOT has gone above and beyond federal regulations and had an engineering firm on contract inspecting the bridge very frequently for years. On Feb 21st, the engineering firm makes a suggestion to reduce the lanes. SDOT, realizing drivers have very fragile egos, starts planning the lane closures (must alert many agencies like Metro, Port, etc and get feedback). March ~5th, major employers start telling employees to work from home, reducing stress on bridge naturally. SDOT staff also impacted by this order and timelines stretch out. March 23rd, the bridge is inspected and the contractor suggests they close the bridge ASAP.

    Honestly I think SDOT has done a fine job and I don’t see why you all are wanting everyone fired. If they had reduced the lanes a month ago (say a week after the contractor’s suggestion), they would still likely have had to closed the bridge last week. We’re in the same place, and you would likely be just as angry at everyone except yourself for your housing and transportation decisions.

    • Ice March 30, 2020 (2:20 pm)

      I think this is a pretty sensible analysis.

    • tsurly March 30, 2020 (2:54 pm)

      Well said. 

    • Elton March 30, 2020 (4:02 pm)

      “On Feb 21st, the engineering firm makes a suggestion to reduce the
      lanes. SDOT, realizing drivers have very fragile egos, starts planning
      the lane closures (must alert many agencies like Metro, Port, etc and
      get feedback”Your analysis was fine except for this part. It doesn’t seem like they even started planning the lane closures. They just thought it wasn’t something that needed immediate planning and moved on – that makes no sense to me. At no point in the past, that they told us at least, were they advised to reduce lanes on the bridge. Once someone makes a suggestion that severe (not as sever as closing the bridge, but pretty bad still), wouldn’t it make the most sense to start making those plans immediately?  

    • Matt P March 30, 2020 (4:18 pm)

      I was told to work from home March 5 and none of my timelines stretched out, so why should theirs have?  There’s nothing magical about WFH that causes time and space to distort.  1 month from recommending lane reduction to actually doing anything is a folly.    

      • KM March 31, 2020 (8:33 am)

        Work from home DOES distort overall load and traffic frequency on the bridge though, and that’s what matters. My personal timetable didn’t adjust in my job, but I work in media, not bridge structure management, so I’m not going to compare the two.

    • Alki March 30, 2020 (6:46 pm)

      These are exactly my thoughts. I think you’ve said it very well. I’m angry but at the same time while communication helps me figure out who moved My cheese it doesn’t actually fix the problem. This problem crept up on March 17th and 19th after they switched to daily inspections. trying to hold people accountable for things that are beyond their control simply isn’t a great practice. We have a group of people that are doing their best and I think we need to provide them a little bit of leeway. Remember the people working on this are also facing the covid-19 with their families. There’s enough stress to go around here let’s not make it worse.

  • sw March 30, 2020 (1:14 pm)

    Ok, so the bridge needs to be fixed.  The more immediate question is how will everyone get to and from West Seattle when we begin to come out of “stay at home?”  Lovely notion to identify Highland Park Way and Roxbury as routes to take – there is simply no way that they can accommodate a normal traffic load.  The main issue is getting across the Duwamish – what are some out-of-the-box thoughts about how else we can do that?  Can the Army Corps of Engineers put in a couple additional surface-level bridges?  Can transit be increased?  Can we run passenger ferries from Fauntleroy?  Is there a task force studying these options NOW – before they are needed?  The “fix” for the high bridge is going to take a lot longer than people think, and may involve fewer lanes.  There is a big new normal reckoning, and alternatives will be necessary.

    • WSB March 30, 2020 (1:17 pm)

      Yes, as noted in the story, there is a task force on the case now. Need more details about what that entails, obviously, and I’m amassing questions for a followup now that Briefing #1 is past …

  • Concerned WS March 30, 2020 (1:19 pm)

    Have the Seattle City Council members and our King County Executive who live in West Seattle been using the lower bridge to commute?  Hope they are leading by example. 

    • KM March 30, 2020 (2:35 pm)

      Lorena González has shared about her bike commute in the past, no clue about Lisa and Dow, but they are likely commuting very little at the moment, as evidenced by this video briefing.

  • NBL March 30, 2020 (1:25 pm)

    The bus commute downtown from Westwood got considerably worse when they closed the viaduct. Working from home has given me back the ten hours a week I was spending on a bus, and it’s crazy how much more I can get done with all the extra time. When normal traffic patterns resume without the WSB I don’t know if I can tolerate 90 minute bus commutes 2x a day for who knows how long. Probably time to bite the bullet and join the ranks of bicycle commuters. It will be much faster and traffic independent. At least I’m in the south end. Y’all up in Admiral and Alki are hosed. 

    • tsurly March 30, 2020 (3:02 pm)

      It may seem like a pain at first, but once you get into the swing of it, a bike commute will change your life. Moving at your own pace, not crammed on a bus full of people, not stuck in traffic (car or bus), getting vigorous, low impact exercise twice a day; it is living the dream.For us folks up in the north end, I’d argue that we have the easiest bike commute to downtown and beyond.

  • Kate March 30, 2020 (1:31 pm)

    The West Seattle Blog IS critical for anything that happens in West Seattle. Thankful this piece of our infrastructure is still in place. Thank you WSB!!

  • dsa March 30, 2020 (1:56 pm)

    The this  jumped out at me:  ” Zimbabwe says, “We’re looking for any possible way to restore any
    amount of traffic” but they have to be certain it would be safe. “

  • Thomas M March 30, 2020 (2:06 pm)

    Get the upper bridge fit for light duty (cars).   Start the TUNNEL.  Do it NOW. 

  • run_dmc March 30, 2020 (2:14 pm)

    You know who I blame for this whole fiasco.  All of us.   It’s one thing to support people who barely show up to do their job of leading the city when times are great.  But, it’s been pretty obvious for a while that we don’t have the kind of managers in place in this city who would be competent in a crisis.  (Since they haven’t been that competent when times were relatively good).  And, yes, we have unbelievably poor decision-makers at the top of our SDOT.  But, acting like the city council and our Mayor aren’t to blame for who is in charge at the SDOT completely disregards our system of local government and decision-making.  When city departments screw up, the city leadership is to blame if those same people stay in their positions.

    But, at the end of the day,  we voted most of these “leaders” back into office.  So, we are the ones to blame for all of this.  And, if we didn’t vote for them, then we also didn’t campaign hard enough against incompetent leadership when we saw it or run for office ourselves.  This is supposed to be citizen-led government (still, even in these times).  We get the government and the managers we deserve.  And, rather than blame everyone else, we should be looking at ourselves and starting a recall campaign/camping out at city hall meetings like so many other “activist” groups do/picketing outside the SDOT offices (when we all are allowed to go outside) and agitating for new management of SDOT, etc. etc.  Otherwise, we should probably stop complaining because nothing will change unless we hold city government accountable ourselves by demanding the people in office change.

  • Hassan Castro March 30, 2020 (2:25 pm)

     As a truck driver having west Seattle’s main connection to i5 closed Was the worst thing that has happened for drivers like myself(semi truck) small cars fly up and down west marginal 60+ mph when the posted speed limit is 40!! All the traffic even makes it harder for me to get in n out of my truck parking area, grown adults can’t even follow simple road rules don’t block driveways entrances, imagine there being an emergency??! lower bridge simply indicates for fright trucks emergency vehicles N buses!truckers are  already being monitored via electric logs the only thing u all are doing is clogging roads up that truckers need to deliver your goods to like toilet paper n hand sanitizer!! Honestly  if the city is going shut down a major route like this they should put officers on their detour route and inforce some kind of law so drivers can be accountable for all their irresponsible action I just wanna go home safely to my family 

  • Alki resident March 30, 2020 (3:03 pm)

    Watch the West Seattle real estate market collapse in 3,2,1… What a disaster, and I bet i’m not the only one seriously thinking about moving. We put up with a terrible commute for years because of the tunnel. Sounds like that was nothing compared to what is about to hit us. 

    • WSB March 30, 2020 (3:45 pm)

      It would be interesting to know how the bridgelessness 40 years ago affected the market. Will add that to the research. Meantime:

      -Not everyone commutes downtown. If you work to the south, taking 509 to 5 isn’t going to be any different. Depending on how backed up Roxbury gets, you might want to catch 509 further down the line instead, though.

      -Further argument for nontraditional shifts & telecommuting whenever possible. When we got here in the early ’90s, I worked swing shift for a couple years, and commuting was great … then I got “promoted” to day shift and it was bumper to bumper (yes, even way back then).

      Among other things. Just a few thoughts before everyone panics about everything.

      • run_dmc March 30, 2020 (4:08 pm)

        Just a small point, but you cannot compare the housing market now in West Seattle to 40 years ago.  Too many different variables between the two eras – like the fact that the population was much smaller 40 years ago, local economy (and national economy) was different, many people who lived in/moved to West Seattle likely did so because they were retired and/or working south – Boeing, etc. – and so didn’t need to commute for work over the low bridge, and the mortgage interest rates were vastly higher.  All of these factors would drive the market in different directions, but main fact is that there really is no way to compare just because one variable might now be similar to one other variable of 40 years ago. 

        • WSB March 30, 2020 (4:34 pm)

          Yes, but it’s the only frame of reference we have in the past half-century. The numbers probably aren’t available anyway but I’ll be looking, out of curiosity (which is my vocation). Also, this MAY be a lot shorter, unless of course the bridge somehow becomes unsalvageable … the bridgelessness back then was six years. And it was bridgelessness …the “low bridge” is even newer (1991).

          • uncle loco March 31, 2020 (7:04 am)

              West Seattle was not “bridgeless” 40 years ago. There were 2 separate adjacent bridges when the boat hit the north span. The south span was operable and in use while the high rise was being built.

      • Trickycoolj March 30, 2020 (4:11 pm)

        Those of us that work to the south are definitely impacted by bridge closures and northbound I-5 troubles.  Any time there’s something that blocks the high bridge everyone diverts to 1st ave anyway.  Unfortunately if you go 599 south to work you still have to slog down the hill with everyone else and drive by the 1st ave bridge.  If there’s problems on NB I-5 you won’t get over the South Park Bridge because East Marginal will back the bridge up all the way to 509 in South Park.  

        • 1994 March 30, 2020 (10:53 pm)

          My drive from SW Seattle to SE Seattle takes me via South Park ‘s Cloverdale St and over the new 16th Ave S bridge, then left on E Marginal Way S. On a bad day currently, well prior to the WS bridge closing, it can take 10 to 20 minutes to travel about 1/4 mile from Cloverdale St to E Marginal Way S. Then E Marginal Way S heading north is jammed up and it can take 5 minutes or longer to get to Ellis Ave to head towards I-5. SDOT is going to have to work some magic on all these traffic signals related to the 16th Ave S bridge and the 1st Ave S bridge – BIG! magic along E Marginal Way S.

    • Chris K March 30, 2020 (5:00 pm)

      I would love for the housing market to collapse, as I have been a longtime renter waiting for an opportunity to buy.  I’m not too optimistic that home values will drop that much, though.

  • mbn March 30, 2020 (3:21 pm)

    I wonder if they will try to merge the planning for light rail and long term repairs? Seems like an opportunity.

  • Dan March 30, 2020 (4:00 pm)

    I think it is important our leaders focus on solutions vs finding blame.   Blame gets us nowhere.   

  • Elton March 30, 2020 (4:06 pm)

    Maybe I missed it, but any word on changes on the water taxi front? More parking? More sailings? (after we’re past the COVID crisis, of course)  

    • WSB March 30, 2020 (4:38 pm)

      That is what the mentioned multi-agency task force (more details on that are among the many remaining questions) is said to be plotting – how water taxis, buses, etc., can help … albeit potentially with the ongoing complication of social distancing …

  • DRC March 30, 2020 (4:09 pm)

    A smart person would take the boat to Southworth  drive up to Bremerton and come across .

  • Alex March 30, 2020 (4:18 pm)

    I keep wondering if all the pile-driving for Terminal 5 caused additional vibrations on the bridge.  I am certainly aware that the constant activity was shaken nearby businesses and homes.

    • wetone March 30, 2020 (6:04 pm)

      Great point. One would have thought SDOT would have installed a monitoring setup in areas of high rise having issues as problems were known since 2013. But then it might of poo pooed Ports plan for T5 build up….;)

      • WSB March 31, 2020 (1:13 am)

        Matt Donahue talked about instrumentation for monitoring & analysis. Finding out more about that is on my tech-question list.

  • Lisa March 30, 2020 (4:57 pm)

    The broken bridge has me losing sleep vs. the virus.  This will cripple us and our ability to get back up and running after the virus.  We’ve already been hit so hard, this is a major blow.  Can we temporarily re-route the Vashon-Southworth ferry runs to downtown?  We don’t need those extra cars passing through WS and needing access to a bridge.  

  • WSJK March 30, 2020 (5:22 pm)

    The CC was amazingly deferential to SDOT during this briefing.  SDOT basically had no new information and showed an amazing lack of judgement in not updating the CC/public on monthly cracking checks.  They showed up w/o a solution, w/o a timeline to get a solution and w/o real practical plans to mitigate this issue.  Come w/ at least some ideas? Once the stay at home is lifted redirecting almost all of WS to the 1st ave bridge is simply not practical.   Sure they did the right thing in closing the bridge – that’s a no brainer and not up for debate but that’s just table stakes in running a city department.  

  • James Leptich March 30, 2020 (5:43 pm)

    It took ten years to finally make a decision on the Viaduct; there is no reason to expect any quicker decision on the WS bridge given the competence level of our elected officials. 30 days to come up with a timeline???? I understand that there has to be a significant number of inspections (and associated engineering performed) to determine the actual cause, but 30 days is ridiculous. 

  • LEL March 30, 2020 (6:54 pm)

    How about the car ferry from Vashon and Southworth being rerouted into downtown.  That would alleviate a lot of traffic through west seattle.  Also, what a about a car ferry from Fauntleroy to downtown for people who live in West Seattle.  Immediately, all the money for the stupid 1st ave street car needs to be pushed over to new ways out of WS.

  • 120rider March 30, 2020 (7:23 pm)

    I’m just sure those were all transit and emergency vehicles making us crawl across the low bridge today.  What a joke.  No enforcement means the hospital workers who are still forced to work and have to use transit don’t mind waiting on all you unselfish people while we expose ourselves every day. All so you can go pick up your 500 rolls of toilet paper.   um, er, uh what part of stay home is not sinking in for you?

  • Mj March 30, 2020 (7:38 pm)

    This closure sucks, but for next few weeks is not causing major traffic issues. The poop hits the fan, and there is no TP to be had, when things start to get back to a semblance of normalcy.

    I’m hoping a fix can be done timely.  If not adding midday bus service in Admiral area, increasing Water Taxi with parking like during the SR-99 closure need to be implemented.

  • GT1 March 30, 2020 (8:05 pm)

    Total troll BS title,  just watch the video.  No, lane closures were never recommended, just hypothetically suggested as a scenario for hypothetical situation.  Ya all knows USA has hypothetical scenarious for nuclear war, so what?  This whole thread is moronic, just watch the video and see how journalists just twist stuff around.  Trump didnt discover fake news, WR Hearst created it and seriously, is not the Bible fake news.  The bridge is closed, idiots clog the lower bridge.  So easy to fund repairs, issue $500 citations to lower bridge cheaters

    • WSB March 30, 2020 (8:27 pm)

      Excuse me, that’s a BS accusation. I watched the meeting live and just re-checked. 37 minutes into the video above, Matt Donahue says, “The first time we received an indication from our consultant partner that they were going to recommend going down to 2 lanes in each direction was February 21st.” Thank you – TR


      Even more clearly, at 31:58 in the clip above, Donahue says, “By late February, it had gotten to the point where our consultant partner that was working on it with us had recommended going down to 2 lanes in ether direction.”

  • GT1 March 30, 2020 (8:53 pm)

    So…we all have Good to Go windshield passes, right?  If not, go crawl back under your rock.   Put GTG sensors,  and all traffic license plate id cameras on the lower bridge….(maybe all bridges.)  Enhance the GTG user info to allow special categories, like health care worker, and other categories as make sense.  No toll, always free.  Max fine for violators.

  • Stickerbush March 30, 2020 (9:03 pm)

    they will continue to inspect the cracks, in hopes the bridge can “at least handle its own dead weight” for now

    I have a sinking feeling that the bridge will be closed for considerably more than a year, perhaps several years. It will be interesting to see if the cracks stop growing now that there is no traffic.

  • NonPsychoticCommenter March 31, 2020 (12:06 am)

    I thought the same thing as GT1 about using the Good to Go system.  (Which kind of worries me considering the rage disorder he/she apparently is dealing with.)

  • 22blades March 31, 2020 (7:00 am)

    I think this thread needs to take a deep breath. We’re all frustrated. Things could have been dealt better. The reality is, the HiSpan’s down for awhile & the LowSpan needs some action to protect public safety because like the Social Distancing failures, people just choose not to be disciplined until enforcement get ratcheted up or worse yet, some thing bad happens. We’ve already had 2 hints: the RV fire on West Marginal Way & the Marina fire in close proximity of the low span. I don’t know about you, but if I needed help on Harbor Island, I sure want the first responders from Fire Station 36 (at the West Low Span onramp) to be able to reach me. The transponder scheme sounds like a good idea but again, if they just see a car going across, they’ll think they’re good to go too.

  • Wallace Grommet March 31, 2020 (7:27 am)

    Did the bridge builders anticipate multiple daily crossings by fully loaded trucks carrying  40 tons of rebar?  I say not.

    • Cindi Barker March 31, 2020 (9:47 am)

       That is an interesting question. Tracy, one more thing to add to your research, what did the EIS for the bridge cover?The steel mill has been there many years before the bridge because constructed so surely steel mill traffic was part of the analysis.

      • WSB March 31, 2020 (4:56 pm)

        I have the EIS!

      • bolo March 31, 2020 (9:15 pm)

        Not only the steel trucks, but many other trucks have Supersized in recent years: Articulated buses, garbage trucks, dump trucks, concrete trucks, building crane delivery trucks, utility service trucks, etc. All supersized. And we already know at least the buses and garbage trucks are over the designed bridge capacity spec. (HS-20).

  • matty March 31, 2020 (1:58 pm)


  • WiseWoman April 1, 2020 (12:14 am)

    Maybe we can just start to travel like the Jetsons in our own drone cars… Where is Elon Musk when we need him to build us some Tesla flying drone cars??!! I say fire the Z guy at SDOT and the Mayor and the councils too. 

  • West Seattle Local April 1, 2020 (11:57 am)

    Are there any passenger personal drone services available for hire? I want a personal ride over the Duwamish to a prescribed desitination that can be summoned by my iPhone. Where is Uber or Jump when you need them ?

Sorry, comment time is over.