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:
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.