WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE CLOSURE: Low-bridge restrictions to start tomorrow

That’s the traffic on West Marginal Way SW, below the now-closed high-rise West Seattle Bridge, as seen this evening from the walking/biking lane on the low bridge. While we took that photo, regular passenger-car traffic continued using the low bridge, as it did when we checked this morning, despite SDOT saying it would be off-limits to that traffic during the closure of the high bridge. SDOT spokesperson Ethan Bergerson told us tonight that the restrictions “should be in place tomorrow (signs were not posted last night due to the phasing of our work).” According to an SDOT Blog post tonight, people who work on Harbor Island have been added to the list of who can use the low bridge once the rules kick in:

(Map provided by SDOT)

SDOT also published a detour map and reiterated the main options:

All vehicles are prohibited from crossing the high-rise span of the bridge between I-5 and Fauntleroy Way SW. Motorists should use the First Ave or South Park bridges. See map above for alternative route suggestions for getting to the First Ave bridge. We’ve alerted navigation services likes Google Maps and Waze about the bridge closure and they should reroute you over the First Ave or South Park bridges.

As for the many questions raised by the out-of-the-blue announcement that the high bridge would be closed for assessment and repairs because cracks made “live-load traffic” too dangerous – no new answers today. We hope to be able to ask those questions in an interview as soon as tomorrow. We have also requested photos of the problem.

Also asking questions, District 1 Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who says she didn’t hear about the closure plan until a call from the mayor a few hours before the announcement. Here’s an excerpt from her reply to concerned constituents, as shared with us:

I have asked the SDOT Director why vehicle traffic is being limited on the lower bridge, and how soon it can be opened for traffic, given lower traffic volumes in Seattle due to COVID19 guidance and specifically to reduced traffic volumes to West Seattle via the West Seattle Bridge, in light of the Governor’s latest COVID19 Shelter in Place order. My office has requested that SDOT appeal to the Coast Guard to make fewer bridge openings of the lower level bridge to allow for more buses and cars to cross, like they did in early 2019 when the Alaskan Way Viaduct closed and the SR99 tunnel was not yet open.

My office submitted a preliminary list of questions to SDOT. The Council has requested a public briefing to the Council as soon as possible. My questions are below:

Please explain the decision to not allow cars on the lower bridge (compared to when e.g. the AWV closed and before the SR99 tunnel).

Please describe what analysis SDOT will be conducting to decide when to re-open the Spokane Street (lower) Bridge, and what criteria you will be using.

Has SDOT received word from the Coast Guard about flexibility re: times the bridge can remain open w/o or with limited closures?

Please provide a timeline of SDOT’s inspections of the West Seattle Bridge that lead to this decision.

Please explain SDOT’s procedures for providing information to the Council regarding ongoing inspections for potential significant problems that could lead to closure of major roadways or structures.
Southern access points to the peninsula will see significantly increased traffic. What steps will SDOT take for safety at the intersection of Highland Park Way SW and SW Holden, that already have safety problems?

Below are additional questions that get into the weeds of the budget and SDOT notification to Council of the impacts of changes from the Federal government related to load ratings that have led to higher scrutiny, and now closure, of this bridge:

When SDOT completed its November, 2018 Move Levy Workplan (or levy “reset”), the work plan included 16 bridges for seismic work (section 12 of the report), including several in District 1: Delridge Way SW Bike/Ped Bridge, the north and south Admiral Way bridges, and the Andover Way SW ped bridge (and ironically the 1st Avenue South Bridge that SDOT is directing West Seattle commuters to). It did not include the West Seattle Bridge.

The 2020 SDOT Capital Improvement Program (CIP) budget referenced work on the 16 projects in its listing for Bridge Seismic work. The SDOT CIP noted it was analyzing bridge loads of 69 separate bridges due to 2013 and 2016 federal requirements from the Federal Highway Administration. Today’s press release referred to new 2019 requirements.

The 2020-2025 CIP (page 188) references federal changes in 2013 and 2016 to load requirements; today’s press release says “In 2019, however, the Federal load rating for this type of bridge changed”. When did this change take place?

The November 2018 Move Levy Workplan (i.e. levy “re-set”) noted 16 bridges scheduled for seismic improvements from 2019 to 2024; the 2020-2025 SDOT CIP “Bridge Seismic – Phase III” item noted the 16 bridges. Why was the West Seattle Bridge not included in the 16 bridges?

How many other, of the 69 bridges subject to new FHA load requirements, have been triggered for enhanced inspections by bridge integrity specialists to ensure the safety of our city’s bridges

Please provide the most recent list of SDOT’s assessment of Seattle’s bridges (including ratings).

Lots of questions – so far no answers. We’ll continue pursuing.

64 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE CLOSURE: Low-bridge restrictions to start tomorrow"

  • 34th and G March 24, 2020 (8:39 pm)

    And when the 1st Ave Bridge has to open, the traffic jam will never end. 

  • Commuter513 March 24, 2020 (8:54 pm)

    So…their solution is to redirect all of West Seattle traffic to a bridge that is ALREADY needing improvements? Yeah…they better pull every SDOT construction employee off every other project until this is finished. This is not an option any longer. The 1st Ave bridge is not rated for this level of traffic for an extended period of time. My commute to Mercer Island was 45mins (up from 20 normally) and that was with 50% (or more) of the city already working from home. Its going to be absurd if there is no solution by the time they go back to the office. 45mins is going to turn into 1.5hrs! 

    • m March 24, 2020 (10:07 pm)

      Day and Night 24/7!!  #FixTheBridge!!

  • NoLongerPatsFanPNW March 24, 2020 (8:57 pm)

    Have to admit, reading that list of questions leads me to believe Ms Herbold was not busy watching out for her constituents.  It reads like “let me put my shocked and angry face on” and now ask questions.  The quality and durability of the bridge should have been top 3 in her ongoing agenda items, and it wasn’t like this was the first inspection.  Deeply disappointed – look at the list – read the aloud and reflect – which of these should she have been asking BEFORE?  Seems like we need to have our own council monitoring SDOT and make sure Lisa knows what’s important.    Shouldn’t she know what the inspections and resulting ratings were?  

    • Ice March 24, 2020 (9:41 pm)

      This is not a legitimate criticism of Herbold in the slightest. She’s not an engineer. What is she going to do? Go inspect the bridge herself? What preventative measure could she have taken that wouldn’t have been better handled by SDOT?

      • NoLongerPatsFanPNW March 24, 2020 (10:35 pm)

        Sorry, disagree with your assessment.  Read the questions she asked.  She should have had staffer monitoring the situation and starting to sound alarm bells with the higher standards and increasing frequency of inspection.  Very few people in government have the appropriate engineering degrees but you do have to be very aware of your district’s vital needs and stay on top of them.  This is a lesson learned after playing two rounds of SimCity.  It’s all about the infrastructure.  SDOT is a known performance issue and if she isn’t to oversee it for us, who is?

        • Sherm March 25, 2020 (10:24 am)

          Monitor what “situation”? The point is that SDOT apparently did not make the Council aware that it had concerns. 

      • Frustratingwest Seattle March 26, 2020 (2:56 am)

        Open the bridge, this is ridiculous! We have kids to take care and don’t want to be in the car even more hours. Use the tax money we’ve been paying on our tabs. Thought that’s what it was for, roads!!!  Oh whoops maybe my car tab money was for a bus I don’t use because I drive.  Fix the bridge!!!

    • chemist March 24, 2020 (10:22 pm)

      Sounds like the duty of the sustainability and transportation committee that herbold was on years ago but was led by Johnson and O’Brien prior to recent elections.  

    • junctioneer March 25, 2020 (8:40 am)

      I disagree with your conclusions but wholeheartedly agree her tone reads like she typed it up in a rush while she was angry and comes across as immature and adversarial. Not a great look. Also not putting too much stock in it though.

    • KinSEA March 25, 2020 (1:54 pm)

      Your assessment is valid, but I find that a lot of people (commenters here not excluded) seem unable to objectively assess the performance of their elected officials. A major access point like the West Seattle Bridge should be a significant priority for any official elected to represent District 1, to the point of being proactive in ensuring that the structure is sound and that budget is accordingly allocated for maintenance and repair. Lisa Herbold does not seem like a proactive representative to me. I know a very few (but vocal and politically active and biased) people will defend her—or, at least, punt the blame onto someone else—but that seems more like rationalizing to me than any actual, valuable insight into her performance as a representative. In my experience interacting with her, she seems to get flustered a lot when she is reacting (rather than being proactive) to something, and hence you get these rushed, half-baked communications from her. Just my opinion. 

      • Vvv March 28, 2020 (4:48 pm)

        Totally agree with you.  People tend to not feel comfortable critically analysing people who are supporting them in office.

        I thought the same thing while reading the questions (all of them). There are some great References to past evidence citing issues that ironically also point out that Herbold was not aware of some of these issues even years ago.

  • Frost March 24, 2020 (9:04 pm)

    Maybe I missed it but when is SDOT saying they will re-open the main bridge.  Time is of the essence.

    • WSB March 24, 2020 (9:28 pm)

      That would be one of the many questions that remain.

    • Jethro Marx March 24, 2020 (9:44 pm)

      Ooh, let’s all guess like the jar full of jelly beans thing. A turkey feather trophy to the winner! I’ll say August 20th, 2021.

      • NoLongerPatsFan March 24, 2020 (10:38 pm)

        If that’s the time it takes to replace those columns, then you’re probably right.  I’m putting my money on full bridge replacement and a date that ends in 22.

      • KM March 24, 2020 (10:40 pm)

        July 11, 2020. I’m an optimist.

        • Megan March 25, 2020 (6:48 am)

          I suppose it depends on the severity of the repair needed (and whether SDOT has engineering staff who can actually draw up the designs and specs for this work in-house), but the solicitation for the construction services (once the design is done) will take months, and then once notice to proceed is issued it will probably be about 4-6 months of actual construction work.  If SDOT doesn’t do the design for the repairs and hires a consultant for that work then add about another year and a half (at least) for that process prior to even starting construction.

  • DrM March 24, 2020 (9:45 pm)

    1) Redirect the majority of ferries from Vashon/SouthWorth to Coleman

    2) Add ferries from Fauntleroy to Coleman Dock

    3) SIGNIFICANTLY increase the frequency and hours of the West Seattle Water Taxi.

    • Mully March 25, 2020 (10:32 am)

      Great idea to get a walk on ferry route from Fauntleroy Dock to downtown. Then SDOT has time to make repairs to many impacted commuter routes via West Seattle. Parking near Fauntleroy is an issue, but hopefully they could figure that out.  They need to look at options like this now, while commuting out of this area is way less than normal.

    • Jill March 25, 2020 (3:24 pm)

      And significantly increase and expand bus service from West Seattle to the water taxi terminal and the Fauntleroy ferry dock. Or maybe have the taxi stop also at Fauntleroy? 

    • Frustratingwest Seattle March 26, 2020 (3:00 am)

      That’s a great idea. More water taxi from alki point where do we park for that? Ridiculous!

  • Citizen March 24, 2020 (9:58 pm)

    SDOT is clearly incompetent in creating a detour map. The Ferry alternate route between Sylvan Way SW and Highland Park Way SW takes drivers south on Delridge Way SW and east up a pedestrian stairway to get to Highland Park Way SW instead of correctly directing drivers along the arterial street / roadway from Sylvan Way SW to SW Orchard St east across Delridge Way SW continuing on Dumar Way SW and SW Austin St then right / south on 16th Ave SW then left / east on SW Holden St (Fire Station 11 corner) to Highland Park Way SW. Unbelievable!!!!!! SDOT just pull up your own snow route map (it’s an Emerald snow route) to get it right!!

  • bridge user March 24, 2020 (9:58 pm)

    Vessel traffic has the right of way. That answers one of Herbold’s questions.

  • Mel March 24, 2020 (10:07 pm)

    It sounds like Councilmember Herbold would prefer that buses, emergency vehicles, and freight (i.e., supplies our peninsula and the port count upon) go pound sand in favor of a perpetual low-bridge traffic jam. The move to restrict was wise. It’s an insanely horrible situation – I agree with most of her other questions – but this is what is needed to keep people and goods moving.

    • West Seattle Lurker March 24, 2020 (10:40 pm)

      Exactly. And her job as a council member is to explain to the people of West Seattle the vital importance of that freight movement. She misses the chance to unify and lead, instead pivoting against the city who pays her salary. We’re all in this together right? 

  • dsa March 24, 2020 (10:14 pm)

    I have not found out where the damage is yet except they say a post tension cable is frayed.  Whoa, if one of those is frayed to the extent of weakening the compressed concrete, that is clearly a signal to clear the bridge immediately.  Where are these post tensioning cables?  I am hoping they are in the longitudinal girders shown in Tracy’s photo above, or on the other side of the river.  Those would be a world easier to fix or replace.  I know the WSDOT  (different agency) has replaced girders for different reasons in the past.  It’s not easy, but if the trouble is the main river crossing, this is trouble that won’t quit for a long time IMO.

  • dsa March 24, 2020 (10:20 pm)

    What a ridiculous detour map SDOT made.  I think we know the routes out of WS.  What is needed is prioritization at key intersections and on ramps and or traffic cops to help us at the bottlenecks.

  • PedroTheLion March 24, 2020 (10:32 pm)

    Seems like some people will finally wake up to the reality that our city council cares more about their social cause of the day than keeping our city running for the people.  Now that they have squandered the most prosperous time in our city’s  history and have done little to improve our infrastructure; we all better hope our economic boom continues because there isn’t money for basic maintenance at this point. I assume we are going to have to get in line behind Magnolia for a new bridge – oh wait, the city already said it didn’t have money to address that problem, so funding for a new problem like the West Seattle Bridge should be forthcoming. In short, we have clueless leaders in Seattle who have no idea how to solve or address problems or issues that impact a majority of their constituents; but are great at slinging mud at economic engines like Amazon. You get what you vote for people – and we’ve got some dim bulbs.

  • The Klaptain March 24, 2020 (10:50 pm)

    Ships have the right of way and when they are loaded will transit the waterway during times of higher high water to take advantage of the most available depth of water for under keel clearance. Unfortunately for all commuters, these times of high water don’t just happen before and after rush hour. 

  • Carole March 24, 2020 (11:06 pm)

    1 took the W Marginal to Michigan to I5 leaving the Junction at 7:30am.  Because of accident near I90 diverted to Columbian Way to get up to Pill Hill.Took 75 minutes to Polyclinic Madison. This was a necessary appointment but fortunately just a one time thing. Any way cars can travel UNDER the high bridge (not using low bridge) to get to 1st or 4th or 6th or Airport Way before heading north?And even with lighter traffic people were still speeding and running red lights.

    • Sixbuck March 25, 2020 (12:58 am)

      Yes, if you have a Ride The Duck vehicle. It’s a bridge. It goes over a river (water). Only other ways are other bridges that go over the same river, a river that starts in the mountains and ends at Duwamish Head. 

      • neighbor March 25, 2020 (8:12 am)

        Since Ride the Ducks has closed, those vehicles are probably for sale. Calling all enterprising Uber/Lyft drivers…   :-)

  • 1994 March 24, 2020 (11:23 pm)

    Traffic signals at the north end of the 1st Ave S bridge need to be adjusted to manage the increase in traffic, as do the signals on Michigan St. Maybe Marginal Way northbound traffic needs to be re-routed to 4th Ave and not allowed north to 1st Ave S…..what a mess! Not sure there is much SDOT can to do keep things MOVING.

    • Matt P March 25, 2020 (12:07 am)

      They never make proactive traffic light adjustments just like they never test bus lanes before throwing them up and then doing surprised Pikachu face when it blows up on them.

  • Steve March 25, 2020 (12:05 am)

    I left a comment on this very blog a few months ago urging congestion pricing on the West Seattle Bridge. Hopefully they implement such a scheme to keep traffic light and flowing. If there is too much demand a price must be determined to keep the supply flowing. Our roads are basically like Soviet bread lines. We aren’t charging the right price so the whole thing is falling apart.

    • Brian March 25, 2020 (6:48 am)

      The answer to this isn’t to put a toll on the road. The answer is to put hefty fees on developers who create density without considering the effects on infrastructure.If you build a tower that has 20 parking spots where previously there was two houses that had, say, 4 parking spots then that needs to be accounted for in the form of cash money from the person responsible for the development. This won’t happen because the city is in bed with developers and isn’t interested in holding them accountable. I cannot stress how braindead stupid it would be to put “congestion pricing” on a public roadway that is the ONLY high capacity entry/exit from the peninsula. Just monumentally short sighted and dumb. Astoundingly naive. 

      • Rich March 25, 2020 (9:20 am)

        Very well stated!

      • CAM March 25, 2020 (9:23 am)

        So the problem isn’t you wanting to use a freely available government resource, the problem is everyone who arrived after you feeling entitled to also getting it for free?

        • KM March 25, 2020 (12:22 pm)

          Nailed it!

      • Ice March 25, 2020 (2:32 pm)

        Using developers as a scapegoat is a completely ridiculous dodging of self-responsibility. If this problem was even caused by traffic (which, let’s keep in mind, it may not be. I don’t claim to know) than anyone who made the choice to be on the bridge contributed this happening. If there is traffic, and you are in it, then you are contributing to it. That is the nature of traffic. Don’t want traffic? Don’t drive.

  • GT March 25, 2020 (7:01 am)

    Anyone else still really excited that the 35th Ave intersection is almost done? It looks super-duper and can handle all that additional traffic heading to and from downto… wait. 

  • vincent March 25, 2020 (7:53 am)

    Good thing the turning circle at hightland park/holden has been obstructed for so long, its not like it would be useful now.

  • Super Dummy March 25, 2020 (8:21 am)

    I have a fleet of white cube vans for sale at reasonable prices. These cube vans are loophole so you can drive alone over the West Seattle bridge with a load of TP on your daily commute. 

  • scsnopov March 25, 2020 (8:43 am)

    Call me crazy. But I saw this coming….Maybe we should start fighting for the development of West Seattle to stop. I’ve been saying for the last 2 years out of 13 years living here… when is the over crowding and building more and more apartments going to stop??? Obviously our bridge and roadways were not constructed for so much use/weight. Stop the over Development!! West Seattle is full. Thxs

    • Sal March 26, 2020 (1:06 am)

      Seattle is dust. West Seattle would have to become its own municipality to protect itself from being over developed. You would have to elect a mayor of West Seattle. Medina is doing it right.

  • RS March 25, 2020 (9:00 am)

    Just to clarify- can we still take Spokane St to W Marginal Way? I had assumed that entire area would be restricted since a lot of the back up is before the turn to the lower bridge, but the map makes it look like that route is still an option. 

    • WSB March 25, 2020 (10:12 am)

      We haven’t gone out today to see if signage/routes had changed but as of yesterday you could.

      • JJ March 28, 2020 (11:48 am)

        As of Sat Morning (28th), still lots of single occupancy non-emergency/transit vehicles using the lower bridge. Is enforcement/signage coming? 

  • S - in West Seattle March 25, 2020 (9:51 am)

    Just spray the whole bridge with Flex Seal and call it good. 

  • Elisabeth March 25, 2020 (10:00 am)

    This needs an Federal investigation.  Let’s organize and create a petition or a law suit.  There are lot of people in WS that work far away and there is no public transportation available.  We’re going to lose our jobs and our source of income.  We can end up on the streets.  This is an extremely serious matter and we deserve answers.    

    • Jenn March 25, 2020 (11:43 am)

      I agree with you.  The bus, water taxi and riding a bike is not an option for me.   I don’t know how I am going to get to work if the bridge is not open.  This is a major crisis for people like me. 

    • Aaron March 25, 2020 (2:27 pm)

      Yay! Finally someone realizes that biking isn’t the answer to everything and that this will play a huge role for many who have to commute by car to work. Commutes have been okay this week but dreading what happens when the normal volume of commuters are back on the road. 

    • Tsurly March 25, 2020 (6:21 pm)

      Is moving closer to you job an option?

  • zephyr March 25, 2020 (11:22 am)

    Do you have a link to a larger version of that map for the detours?  It does enlarge a bit when you click on it,  but it’s not large enough to read the street names easily.  Thank you, WSB for all you do.  We are so lucky to have you all. 

    • WSB March 25, 2020 (12:43 pm)

      Follow the link to the SDOT Blog post toward the top – you may be able to blow those images up further. That’s all I have so far.

  • Sean W. March 25, 2020 (11:47 am)

    As a medical provider (acute care MD) at one of the down town hospitals currently on the front lines of our Covid crisis, I would hope that access to the lower bridge would also include my vehicle, rather than increase my commute to hours from minutes.  (in anticipation of the suggestion-we have specifically been asked to avoid mass transit to prevent additional exposure risk)  It is unclear how this issue will be addressed, and I am dreading my attempt to travel this route tomorrow at 0620, when a traffic “enforcer” tells me to turn around….. 

  • Daphne March 25, 2020 (2:03 pm)

    Where can we lodge a protest and demand the bridge get fixed? Is there a meeting? An email address? A Facebook page? This MUST be addressed immediately. Not like the utter waste of time that is the Avalon project. West Seattleites this is an EMERGENCY. 

    • WSB March 25, 2020 (2:23 pm)

      It’s not as if this is not going to get fixed. What we are short on currently is information.

  • Sal March 26, 2020 (12:57 am)

    Why exactly are there 24 hour restrictions on the low bridge?

  • RicoSuave March 28, 2020 (11:05 am)

    We should build a tunnel!! Trump will pay for it. Robots could build it.

  • Vvv March 28, 2020 (4:51 pm)

    Thank you West Seattle blog for staying on top of this please keep the updates coming including answers to those questions.

    • WSB March 28, 2020 (5:04 pm)

      Next big informational opportunity will be the Monday briefing. We’ll see what questions remain after that …

Sorry, comment time is over.