WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE CLOSURE: Monday briefing confirmed

(West Seattle Bridge cracks, from sdotblog.seattle.gov)

When the safety shutdown of the West Seattle Bridge was announced Monday, a City Council briefing was promised. As noted in our Wednesday followup, City Councilmember Lisa Herbold said it appeared that would happen next Monday (March 30th). Now the agenda is out and that’s confirmed – 9:30 am Monday, during the council’s regular “briefing” meeting, It’s billed as “Presentation on the Condition of the West Seattle Bridge,” with SDOT officials. The council meets by phone these days but it’ll still be live on Seattle Channel, online (we’ll carry the feed here too) or cable 21, or you can dial in to listen at 206-684-8566.

53 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE CLOSURE: Monday briefing confirmed"

  • Joe Z March 27, 2020 (10:37 am)

    Those empty lanes leading up to Fauntleroy sure look like a good spot to put light rail tracks for a much lower price than bulldozing through the Avalon/Delridge neighborhoods. With funding likely to be reduced it seems like something Sound Transit should consider–if they widen the road a bit they could probably make it like MLK with 4 car lanes, the tracks in the median, and an at-grade station at 35th (before continuing with the current alternatives into the Junction). Obviously they still need a new high light rail bridge but it would be much cheaper and a lower impact.

  • Jason kadushin March 27, 2020 (10:47 am)

    Is there a way for public questions during this session?  I literally can’t imagine a city closing its most used roadway with as little information as we’ve gotten.  And, if not for “stay at home” we’d all be up in arms.

    • WSB March 27, 2020 (11:30 am)

      The council briefing meeting does not include a public-comment period. I don’t know if they’ve yet worked out how to do that in the main weekly meeting Monday afternoons.

    • J March 27, 2020 (11:47 am)

      I’m glad the city has kept me and my car from crashing into the river below in a catastrophic bridge collapse. I’m sorry you don’t feel like you have been involved in enough blah, blah, blah first. Perhaps you would like to go be up in arms at midspan and talk some more about process. I’ll stay off the bridge until real experts feel it is safe. I can see the cracks in the photos. I trust they did what they felt was right. They may have released little data, but at least it appears honest, logical, and in the public interest. I wish our federal agencies were acting with the same swift, compassionate integrity.

      • Derek March 27, 2020 (11:50 am)

        Still should have had some notice and they need to be working around the clock getting a replacement going and announce the schedule so we can plan around this. 

        • tsurly March 27, 2020 (1:42 pm)

          Don’t wait for a schedule, take some ownership of your life and develop a plan now. Shaking your digital fist at SDOT isn’t going to do a thing. I’ve made the assumption that the bridge  is going to be closed for months and have planned accordingly. 

      • Commuter513 March 27, 2020 (12:38 pm)

        The issue many people have is the amount of time SDOT knew there had been an increase in cracking (as early as Aug. 2019) and they did nothing. A full closure like this should be the last ditch effort. They had MULTIPLE options to mitigate the situation before it got to this point: weekend/night closures to allow for repair work, lane reductions, weight reductions, flow reductions. They chose to ignore it until it was obvious it couldn’t be pushed aside any longer. 

        • AMD March 27, 2020 (3:08 pm)

          They didn’t do nothing.  They mitigated the cracks with caulking (as they do cracks in bridges all over the city that turn out to be no big deal).  They monitored it, then pulled the plug when it was clear that it was not going to stop and was only getting worse.  Had they closed the bridge in August when they first saw cracks, these forums would instead be filled with armchair engineers saying it was irresponsible for the city to close a major thoroughfare indefinitely for what was normal wear and tear.  They didn’t ignore it in the slightest; if they had cars would still be driving on it.  I’m sorry the reality doesn’t justify your anger, but they followed the same logical and reasonable steps with this bridge that they do all over the city.  No one died.  It’s going to get fixed before that can happen.  I’m not sure what else you expect of SDoT, short of psychic powers.

      • Catey March 27, 2020 (12:38 pm)

        Since they apparently left it until the very last possible minute to keep me and my car “from crashing into the river below in a catastrophic bridge collapse,” no, I’m not inclined to just trust them to manage everything without answering questions. Part of acting with “swift, compassionate integrity” is communicating with the public, answering their questions, and insuring that the people are able to continue functioning with an understanding of why they acted as they did.  And, if they’d been doing their jobs, maybe their action wouldn’t have needed to be so “swift.”

        • stop the ranting & raving March 27, 2020 (4:33 pm)

          Just because the decision was made to close the bridge now, does not mean …’they apparently left it until the very last possible minute to keep you and your car from crashing into the river below in a catastrophic bridge collapse.’  Yes, they want to avoid that. No, that does not mean the next day it would have happened.

          Some months ago, they noticed some cracks during regular inspections, they monitored it, there were some repair efforts, as time went on the cracks continued and then suddenly more recently, got much worse, they called in someone with an expertise in this particular style of bridge, they were more informed at that point, and the decision was made by experts in the field to close the bridge.  

          Just when would it have been more convenient for you to have the bridge closed and dealt with?  Should they have asked the public’s permission before making this decision?  No.

          Please allow our DOT and public leaders to do their job, and stop ranting.  All the complaining and finger wagging is clogging up our community hub here with negativity during a trying time.  If you actually have questions, raise them!  Otherwise, please accept the situation and spare those of us who already have. The complaining isn’t going to change anything.  

          Consider, maybe this is an opportunity to look ahead and put forth ideas and suggestions for a future, better bridge…

          Also, have people completely lost perspective, …there is a pandemic happening.  Perhaps focus on something you have more control over, staying well!

          • CMT March 27, 2020 (7:40 pm)

            Because no one ever vents in the comments, right?  It’s like one of the stages of grief.  I’m sure the idiots responsible for this debacle (and by that I mean the lack of notice, reserving judgment on whether or not anyone was negligent in oversight) would love for everyone to move along but, accepting that it was necessary, people rightfully want to know why this happened in the manner it did. Knowing that others share the same frustration can be cathartic.  

          • stop the ranting & raving March 27, 2020 (9:35 pm)

            It’s one thing to be frustrated, and to vent. It’s another thing to rant and rave, and to twist and make up stories, just because you’re outraged at being inconvenienced, and ‘how dare you not be given proper notice and be allowed to ask all your questions before a necessary action was taken!’ I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one growing weary of this.

            I don’t have a problem with people expressing concern or frustration or venting (I’m doing that now), it’s the next level ranting, and the resorting to blaming and insulting, as a way to manage stress, while not even having all the information or patience to wait for it.

            I’m finding it tiresome, and I spoke up because I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one feeling it.

            Maybe there could be a happier medium here of venting but without being so over the top outraged.  Just my observation and 2 cents today, take it or leave it.

            I just want everyone to stay well.

      • CMT March 27, 2020 (3:00 pm)

        You cannot truly be suggesting that this was handled appropriately.  No amount of dismissive blahblahblah apologist comments will change the glaring incompetency and disservice to the people that live in West Seattle.

        It IS possible to be glad that no one got hurt AND observe the failure here.

        • rpo March 27, 2020 (6:08 pm)

          As per the info released by SDOT, the cracks were normal until the beginning of the month. So bridges get cracks and they all get monitored. When the cracks suddenly increased over the last few weeks, they closed the bridge. So, what could SDOT have done better? 

          • Catey March 28, 2020 (7:31 am)

            I don’t believe for a single minute that they were properly monitoring the cracks and then, gosh!, out to the clear blue sky! cracks magically appeared such that the bridge had to be closed with hours’ notice.  Unless there was a massive earthquake we all missed. 

          • Stop the ranting & raving March 28, 2020 (10:16 am)

            You’re choosing a narrow narrative that justifies your anger at being inconvenienced.

            You can continue to be outraged and assume the worst in the situation, or take a deep breath, and consider the possibility that what they are saying is true, and wait for more info to come forward before blaming.

            I wish I could ‘magically’ help all of you enraged folks to calm down a bit! 🧚

      • Deborah March 29, 2020 (9:39 am)

        The Federal government is doing all they can. States are on the front line. If you aren’t happy reach out to your Governor.

  • Deb March 27, 2020 (11:59 am)

    Jason Kadushin – The District 1 Council Member Lisa Herbold developed a list of questions for SDOT and put them in her weekly Blog that was sent out March 25, 2020.  I’ve copied some of the questions below. CM Herbold requested that she be sent any questions you’d like SDOT to answer. Her email is lisa.herbold@seattle.gov. The link to her blog is: https://mailchi.mp/seattle/west-seattle-bridge-closure-governor-inslees-stay-at-home-order?e=95593a9eaeDeb Barker (WSTC Board Member)My questions so far are below; please send me any questions you’d like SDOT to answer.

    • Please explain the decision to not allow cars on the lower bridge.
    • 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 work from the Coast Guard about flexibility re: times the bridge can remain open w/o or with limited closures?
    • Can SDOT allow vehicle traffic on the lower bridge overnight? I have heard from more than one person whose work shift begins at 3 p.m., when traffic is lighter.
    • I have heard from several COVID-19 first responders (firefighter, ER nurse) who must leave the peninsula for work, and from an immunology researcher at UW working on COVID-19. Could the lower bridge be opened for them?
    • 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?
    • Can traffic signals at the 5-way intersection at West Marginal Way and Spokane Street by the Chelan Café be adjusted to better serve new traffic patterns? One constituent said they had to wait through 5 light cycles to get to Spokane Street from West Marginal during the afternoon with relatively light traffic.
    • Can SDOT work to encourage cars traveling east on Roxbury down the hill to South park to turn left onto the onramp to Highway 99 between 7th and 8th Avenue South if they are traveling north, instead of proceeding into South Park?
    • Please describe what actions you are taking to restrict access to the West Seattle Bridge, specifically by people trying to access the closed bridge by foot.
  • Steve March 27, 2020 (12:15 pm)

    I for one would like to thank the city for building a high bridge in the first place, and allowing free access to all automobile drivers for the past 36 years! I’m glad I don’t have to swim or take a ferry across the Duwamish.

    How motorists feel about this right now is basically how it feels to be a cyclist in any city. If you want to ride a bike somewhere, you have to take roundabout ways all over the place. But drivers, whose cars are much faster to begin with, usually get straight shot, limited access routes with no traffic control. If you ask for a safe bike lane on an arterial, motorists ask why you don’t just ride on the side streets that don’t go by any businesses and is 50% longer with more hills. Direct routes are only for motorists I guess.

    One time I participated in one of Cascade’s “Emerald City Rides” which closed off the I-5 Express Lanes and half of the Aurora Bridge to drivers so thousands of cyclists could ride in the rain early one weekend morning. It was so incredible how fast it was to get from the U District to downtown on I-5 on a bike! If you want to do that route normally on a bike there are so many steep hills, stoplights, stop signs, long detours, etc. I think drivers should acknowledge the massive privilege they have in our cities. Going 60 mph from A to B is not a human right. This too shall pass. Think about how great you’ve had it for decades, traveling faster and more frequently than all of our human ancestors.

    • KM March 27, 2020 (2:41 pm)

      Well said, Steve.

    • Biked19yearstodowntown March 27, 2020 (3:46 pm)

      Definately well said.  I guarantee electric bike sales will skyrocket.

    • Neighbor March 27, 2020 (4:25 pm)

      I agree. Thanks for the good points you mentioned. Car drivers have had this privilege for so long. Wonder what happens if we don’t replace the bridge. What could we do instead? I noticed with lighter traffic now, some people are driving like bat sh-t and speeding. Maybe build the bike bridge here. 

  • dsa March 27, 2020 (12:58 pm)

    That is the photo that concerns me the most.  The bridge does not look repairable to me.  I would not be the least bit surprised if that is what the message is Monday.  Wrapping the girders seems not doable since that requires opening the top deck driving surface.  But that deck is full of support of it’s own that can’t be moved.  The only thing I have thought about that might  strengthen the bridge is pier to pier bolt on scabs to the girders that would increase their web depths.

    • Kate March 27, 2020 (6:50 pm)

      You said exactly all the things that I am thinking.

  • Marty2 March 27, 2020 (1:23 pm)

    Rapid Ride C-Line Service started in September 2012, cracks first noticed in 2013.  Probably just a coincidence.

    • Chris March 27, 2020 (2:28 pm)

      That is an interesting observation. Do you think the bus line creates back ups on the bridge so that there is more weight sitting on the bridge because the cars aren’t moving?

      • Scoobly March 27, 2020 (3:30 pm)

        I think marty2 might be referring to the Rapid Ride bus itself. Their weight exceeds the design loads for most of our road surfaces (see the road damage on Barton St. and 26th ave). I imagine after years of having  concentrated loads moving at a very slow speed across the span would take it’s toll.

    • AMD March 27, 2020 (3:15 pm)

      The RapidRide C Line replaced the 54 which also went over the bridge downtown.  The 54 ran every 5-6 minutes during peak hours and every 15 minutes through most of the day (except Sundays), the same frequency as the C Line.

      • West Seattle since 1979 March 27, 2020 (3:57 pm)

        The buses that ran the 54 route weren’t as heavy though. How are other bridges that have Rapid Ride buses going over them constantly holding up?What about heavy trucks?? Though they don’t go through as frequently as the Rapid Ride buses.

        • Joe Z March 27, 2020 (4:56 pm)

          The average weight of a car sold in the US is 30% higher now than it was when the bridge opened.

        • Pdxmark March 27, 2020 (5:10 pm)

          You can’t blame them on the “rapid ride” busses,  all the newer buses are all the same model for the 60 foot version, and since I they have battery backs on top of them it adds to the weight of the busses.if the 54 was still around, it would be using the same type of bus the C line is using now.  It’s the same with the 120,  21 they all use the same bus model.

        • Marty2 March 27, 2020 (5:38 pm)

          I thought the RapidRide was more frequent than the 54 throughout the day, it would be interesting to compare how many trips over the bridge were made by the 54 in a one week period versus the RapidRide.  Also, the 54 was a mix of articulated and standard buses, the RapidRide are all articulated.  The articulated buses tend to oscillate up and down while traveling, standard buses do not.  I’m not an engineer, just asking questions.

        • Susan March 27, 2020 (5:49 pm)

          Don’t forget that the high bridge carries more vehicles by far, than any other bridge in the city.  (Aurora bridge, 60,000 trips/day.  WS bridge, 100,00 trips/day)  Substantial increase in WS crossings are due to ferry traffic and the housing /apartment explosion in WS.   

    • stop the ranting & raving March 27, 2020 (4:48 pm)

      Interesting thought about the busses, thanks for sharing.

      I’m wondering if climate change has played a part in the deterioration.  Think about the erratic temperature swings and weather patterns over recent years.  

    • bolo March 27, 2020 (5:36 pm)

      And what about those 1,000s of heavily loaded dump trucks, constant all day, every day, for months, from the Lowman Beach sewer outfall cistern project?

      Are the garbage trucks over the weight limit, requiring waiver?

      Lots of heavy vehicles that maybe were not planned for in the bridge design specs, not only the accordion buses.

  • Jethro Marx March 27, 2020 (1:28 pm)

    I could go on at length at a moderately educated level about crack propagation, material properties, and physics, but let’s talk about the elephant in the room: the crack array obviously looks like a scorpion or lamprey or that weird Klingon ear bug from The Wrath of Kahn. Can we at least get a graffiti artist up there to make it look cool while we wait for a fix? 

  • TJ March 27, 2020 (1:30 pm)

    Nowhere have I seen anything on having to tear the bridge down and rebuild it. Yet I see comments on here that it’s all of a sudden a years long situation when the longest I’ve seen is “months” (maybe). It can be repaired. I am certainly anxious to hear what they say. 

    • East Coast Cynic March 27, 2020 (7:04 pm)

      Metro people believe the bridge may be closed up into 2022.

  • Jack March 27, 2020 (1:40 pm)

    Just being The Devil’s Advocate here.Our economy needs people to have access to fast direct traveling across our city with thousands of reasons I couldn’t begin to post here.  The City has bent over backwards to accommodate bikes everywhere and still the bike commuters are 4% or less.  Expecting even a 20% increase in bike commuters is just a dream and unrealistic.  People with multiple stops or multiple work sites hauling their equipment will never depend on a bicycle for their job.  The reason they built these multi lane roads and freeways is because there’s a need for them and the alternatives don’t cut it for them.

    • stop the ranting & raving March 27, 2020 (5:00 pm)

      People with multiple stops or multiple work sites hauling their equipment will never depend on a bicycle for their job.” This actually isn’t true.  Add the word ‘most’ in front of that, and it’s more accurate. ;)  

      There are people who have bikes set up for cargo and do bike commute, some who have multiple job locations.  True this doesn’t work for many, but more people could bike commute than do, and might really enjoy it if they gave it a try.

  • Chris K March 27, 2020 (1:49 pm)

    I feel better knowing that Lisa is on top of this.

    • wscommuter March 27, 2020 (4:50 pm)

      Please tell me your remark was sarcastic.  

  • Blbl March 27, 2020 (2:15 pm)

    It is their job to keep the bridge in working order and maintain traffic flow. I pay for and expect nothing less. Closing the bridge like this is a colossal and epic failure.

    • KM March 27, 2020 (2:45 pm)

      Though we all pay in taxes and fees to maintain roads, it’s hardly enough. In fact, if you are driving a personal vehicle, you are engaging in one of the most heavily subsidized forms of transportation out there. In other words, if you are primarily a car driver, you pay for too little and expect too much.

      • Blbl March 27, 2020 (3:14 pm)

        Like most of us, I think, I’m a car driver, bus rider, biker, ferry rider, light rail user, and carpooler, but primarily a pedestrian. I still expect to be able to use the bridge. 

  • Um, No! March 27, 2020 (2:57 pm)

    I think most  everyone understands the need for the closure or at least understands the motivation for it.   Listen, if it’s not safe,  it was the right thing to do.  I doubt may would argue with that. BUT,   we also have every right to be pissed off to the n’th degree on how this all came about!  Given what has been communicated to us  about SDOT knowing this was a potential problem for years, they should have been all over this years ago and implementing a fix over time that would be less disruptive.  It’s all well and good now with the Stay At Home mandate and minimal traffic.  Once traffic starts getting back to normal,  this is going to be an epic turd show.  West Seattle to downtown around rush hour in a vehicle?  2 hours maybe? And please, don’t tell me to ride my bike or take the bus. I can’t do that with my job.

  • Ron March 27, 2020 (5:37 pm)

    While the bridge closure is an inconvenience to all of us, please consider the alternative to NOT repairing it. The Italians learned the hard way that design and maintenance make a big difference.

  • orwell March 28, 2020 (1:04 pm)

    https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/infrastructure/structures/bridge/09040/002.cfm#toc320285342During the construction of the bridge and up to 20 years after numerous stress sensors were placed and charted both deep underwater and up on the supports.  After 20 years, most underwater had failed but many stress point gauges may still be read (though must have a person read) and the charts updated.  Even after just 20 years especially the east side exhibited excess stress than desired.  This report went nationwide.It would be instructive for those gauges to be read and info added to these many charts.

  • Orwell March 28, 2020 (1:21 pm)

    WSB, From the archival reports,  funding attempts for the original high-rise bridge were hampered by the issue that the bridge is not a state or federal road and completely owned and managed by the City and must be funded by City, and others fought against as a WS benefit only …  Perhaps you have the sway to propose a hypothetical to Lisa H that all studies done, repair contracts done and cost known to be 2 million, ( low enough?)  if all done except the funding, how long would the City need to find the money?  Where will they find it?  How will they win fight against other advocates for City $$ who think $$ only benefits WS?  This if course was the initial 10 year battle. Will Funding be the longest wait as this years budget is fixed?

  • thebeavs March 29, 2020 (12:56 pm)

    I’m sure it was a massive coincidence that the closure/cracks announcement came 90 minutes before Jay Inslee announced an official shut-in for Washington state.

Sorry, comment time is over.