(Added 2:27 pm: Archived video of meeting)
9:33 AM: Five days after announcing the West Seattle Bridge will be out of service until at least 2022 (WSB coverage here), SDOT is briefing the City Council on the situation during councilmembers’ weekly Monday morning “briefing meeting,” which has just begun. You can click into the live Seattle Channel feed above. Here’s the slide deck they’re using – almost identical to the one from Wednesday.
9:38 AM: The briefing is introduced by West Seattle/South Park Councilmember Lisa Herbold. She reiterates her concern about “staying laser focused on the need to maximize mobility for West Seattle residents.”
She announces an “electronic town hall” for District 1 this Wednesday 4/22 5-6:30 pm.
9:44 PM: SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe starts the presentation, and says Heather Marx will follow him to talk about traffic mitigation. Both are West Seattle residents. He promises that this is a priority for all levels of city government, up to the mayor.
He reiterates that cracks in the bridge have continued to grow since it was closed four weeks ago but at a slower rate and they do not believe the bridge is in danger of collapse but they are preparing “contingency plans” in case that changes. They are installing real-time monitoring now and inspecting the bridge in person daily. He says they will be ready for a “worst-case scenario.” They’re working with “local stakeholders” including the port as they prepare for that. (Note added: An SDOT Blog post from last Friaay night has a bit more on this.)
9:52 AM: Councilmember Herbold notes that SDOT “sent a message” over the weekend saying that they could remove traffic from the low bridge if the high bridge is found to be unstable. She says she hopes SFD Station 36, under the bridge, is involved in planning too. Zimbabwe says yes, they are working with SFD on a plan.
He continues the short version of last Wednesday’s presentation, reiterating that they don’t know if repairing the bridge is technically or financially feasible, and that even if it is, its maximum life is 10 more years (it should have had ~40 more). He also reiterates that the bridge has to be stabilized/shored, no matter what. He’s also explaining the Pier 18 bearing “release of tension” that has to happen too. While they’re doing that and shoring work, he says, they’ll be able to determine the bridge’s future – whether it needs to be replaced sooner rather than later – and that should be clearer by spring.
Herbold says she’s been contacted by more than a few constituents (editor’s note -this has happened in our comment threads too) who have said (paraphrasing) “never mind worrying about repairs, just get on with planning a replacement.” Zimbabwe says that would have “a lot of different budget implications” from the current work toward getting traffic back onto the bridge sooner. He reiterates that stabilization is vital now no matter what. “This is a very complicated bridge,” he summarizes, noting (again, a reiteration from last week) that they’re bringing in an expert Technical Advisory Panel.
10:12 AM: Before turning it over to Marx to talk about traffic, Herbold asks about the advisers’ role. As he said in response to a question we asked Wednesday, Zimbabwe said they haven’t yet started to assemble the panel, which he says will be more of a “sounding board” than a “recommending” group.
Marx – who has been serving as SDOT’s downtown-mobility director – first recaps the low-bridge restrictions and some other work that’s been done so far, including the Highland Park Way/Holden signal installation, and 5-way signal work (as we reported last Friday, they’ll be repaving the 5-way next weekend, and Marx warns that means “limited access”). She also notes the current detour routes “cannot support the level of traffic we had before the stay-home order.”
Herbold asks about traffic volumes on the low bridge since enforcement began. Around 8,000 vehicles a day, says Marx. “When there isn’t enforcement, the violations of (the restriction)” are major. Marx asks West Seattleites to please not use the low-level bridge so emergency access is always possible. Herbold recaps that she continues to advocate for some alternate time-period access, but can’t make that happen unless people stop using the low-level bridge, period. Council President Lorena González, also a West Seattleite, echoes that, as does yet another WS resident, the other citywide rep, Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, who makes a request that Herbold has, about health-care and human-services providers getting an exception.
Marx says they’re working “closely right now” with essential businesses near the low bridge but says it’s difficult to designate who’s most essential “because we have actual limitations of how much traffic (the low bridge) can handle.” Mosqueda mentions reports of police officers pulling over people and asking for some kind of “essential worker permit” (this has come up in our comments too); Marx says that applies only to a “placard” available to “a tiny” number of ILWU workers at Terminal 5″ (as mentioned here). And she notes that overall, SDOT is working with Metro (no new details – the briefing is already over the allotted time).
Zimbabwe concludes with the budget slide shown last week – saying it’s “very early” – with a $33 million estimate through shoring, including associated costs (“accelerated maintenance” of the low bridge among them). What actual repair, if feasible, might cost – not included.
10:33 AM: Briefing over, council meeting is on to members’ weekly updates. We’ll replace the video window with the archived video when it’s available later today.
WHAT’S NEXT: As mentioned above, Councilmember Herbold is organizing an “electronic town hall” for 5-6:30 pm this Wednesday. That same night, SDOT is due at the online meeting of HPAC at 7 pm.
ADDED 2:27 PM: Archived video of the meeting is now atop this story.