West Seattle Bridge cracks still growing post-closure, and other news from our quick Q&A with SDOT’s director

(Looking east under the high bridge from Marginal Place)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Ten days have now elapsed since the sudden, shocking news that the West Seattle Bridge was unsafe and would be shut down immediately. SDOT warns in a new online FAQ that “we anticipate a lengthy closure.” Monday’s City Council briefing suggested that means months, not weeks.

So, many questions remain.

We were able to ask a few of them in a brief conversation this morning with SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe (a West Seattle resident). Our allotted time was short so these are by no means all the questions that we (and you!) have – but it’s a start. (We also have questions, mostly technical, out to SDOT in writing.) Exact quotes are marked as such.

TR: What’s happening right now, today, regarding the work toward finding out what’s wrong and getting a temporary shoring plan?

SZ: “Our roadway structures division lead Matt Donahue has personally visited the bridge just about daily … we are still trying to understand what exactly is going on with cracking on the bridge … we are still inspecting every day after taking the live load off the bridge; we are still trying to understand what is causing the cracking to happen. Our repair and interim shoring plan has to respond to the structural issues that we are facing and so we still have to understand exactly what’s going on and make sure that our repair plan is responding to those issues. So we’ve got the same consultants [WSP] that have been part of this … going back to last year when we started analyzing this cracking in more detail have still been with us working on continuing to understand what’s been going on and what our repair strategy can and should be.” As for when they will know they have enough information to proceed with a temporary shoring plan, that’s dependent on their “modeling” matching “what we’re seeing in reality” during those daily inspections, to “understand where the stresses are appearing in the bridge and how we can address that.” The modeling involves analyzing how the bridge is reacting to forces including gravity, wind, load compared to how it “should be responding” to those factors, and what it can tell them about “where the bridge is going over time.”

TR: What has SDOT seen since the must-close-the-bridge-now discovery on March 23rd?

SZ: “We have still seen some crack growth.” They’re installing stress-monitoring instrumentation – real-time monitoring should be in place within a week – and are also “mapping” the cracks to see if they’re growing at the same rate as before the closure.

(Signage at west end of lower bridge, a small part of the white sheet covering the old green sign)

TR: The low-bridge restrictions are being ignored. When will a decision be made on enforcement? And when will the signage be improved?

SZ: “We implemented the detour plan [on March 23rd] extremely quickly and there are certain things that we have limited capacity, especially right now in terms of our public-health emergency response … We are working to improve the signage over the next week or so and increase some of the size, make sure there’s better signage, and hope that that in part can lead to better behavior. … Enforcing the restriction is not necessarily an easy task, and what we have been working on over the last week with the Police Department is … there has not been active enforcement of the prohibitions but police have been out there at various points, observing, having a presence, but then also figuring out… how we could safely and effectively enforce the restrictions.”

(Screengrab of SDOT camera, tweeted Sunday by @kazzmere)

TR: What about measures to keep people off the high bridge? We’ve received multiple reports of people seen walking, running, biking, skateboarding on it. Will there be better barricades (etc.)?

SZ: “There likely will.” Police were dispatched on Sunday to check out two reports of people on the bridge. “It is not … open to pedestrians, it is closed because it’s unsafe to be up there right now, for anybody; we don’t want anybody up there at all, it really is a hazard to people … We recognize that we may have to upgrade the fencing to make sure that people aren’t up there … we’ll do that as we need to.”

From there, we went back to the high bridge’s condition:

TR: Which side of the bridge are the worst cracks on?

SZ: “Both … the south side of the bridge [eastbound] is in a little bit worse condition … that’s potentially because it’s getting more solar exposure … hotter from the sun … but again, we don’t know exactly what all the causes of the deterioration are, but that could be one part of it.”

TR: Given the unique nature of the bridge, have you been in contact with anybody involved in building it?

SZ: Not sure about that but knows they’ve “reached out to folks who were part of SDOT over the years” and they’re also talking with WSDOT “and some of their bridge experts.” Part of what led to the discovery of this problem was consulting firm WSP bringing in some experts – “I believe from Toronto” – and some “academic bridge experts … so we’ve got a lot of eyes on it, and we’re looking for all the best advice and thoughts that we can get … Building a bridge like this, maintaining it, repairing it … there’s no one way to do it, and we’re looking for the best ideas of how to do it effectively.”

We were over our allotted window by then, but SDOT had indicated they wanted to clarify the pre-closure timeline a bit, so we asked about that last.

SZ: “The late February notification was an indication that we needed to think about reducing the number of lanes on the bridge by the end of 2020 – over time. It wasn’t an immediate ‘hey, do this right away’. March 19th was more of a ‘hey, this is a big issue'” and recommending full closure. That led to Donahue going to the bridge daily over that weekend and then Monday (March 23rd) morning, when he “went back inside the bridge – and a lot of this you can only see from inside the bridge – that takes some effort to actually (get) inside the bridge, make sure people can get in and out safely – so when he went back in with the WSP consultant and another one of our bridge engineers, that’s when he confirmed the growth of the cracks and also recommended full closure.”

TR: So the February 21st “think about reducing lanes by the end of 2020” wasn’t a life/safety matter?

SZ: No, and they knew what an effect even lane reductions would have on West Seattle, so they were talking about implementation, mitigation, “starting that conversation” but “in a month in the middle of our public-health emergency we had not been able to have a lot of those discussions that we would need to have to be able to implement even a lane reduction … and then it became a public-safety concern very quickly.”

As noted above, we have other questions pending with SDOT, and have requested an interview about the traffic plan – from monitoring of the detour routes to strategies that might be deployed when “stay-home” time is over and traffic starts getting back to something resembling a normal level. So watch for more followups.

Our ongoing coverage is all archived here, newest to oldest. SDOT’s project page is here, including the new FAQ.

116 Replies to "West Seattle Bridge cracks still growing post-closure, and other news from our quick Q&A with SDOT's director"

  • bolo April 2, 2020 (4:10 pm)

    Very clever method you used there WSB, the way you ordered your questions. I’ll be using that sometime in the future.

    Looks like the cracking had been slowly migrating over time, benign, but a recent catastrophic explosion of cracks made it acute.

    Kind of like the virus situation. Month ago it was like, “just a few cases, it will disappear soon” to now “this is serious, very serious, 100s of 1,000s will die.”

    Let’s hope the patient can be saved.

    • Wendell April 2, 2020 (4:17 pm)

      “just a few cases, it will disappear soon”

      With all due respect, this is a very poor analogy. An oncoming pandemic was well documented in January.

      • bolo April 2, 2020 (6:09 pm)

        Yes we know that, but at the time (and afterwards) we were being told it was a nothingburger, sure to disappear shortly. By a very highly placed governmental official.

  • Joe Z April 2, 2020 (4:10 pm)

    Is there any chance the section from 35th to Admiral can be opened to pedestrians and bikes? Would make a nice social distance sidewalk/bikeway. If this closure is going to last for a long time maybe it can be connected to the bike path along Spokane by taking out some fence and building a temporary connector (via the Harbor/Avalon ramp on the westbound side)?

    • Questions April 2, 2020 (5:08 pm)

      I’m guessing that’s a no. Aside from the liability and the fact that the bridge is still cracking, engineers and crews will need access to the full bridge to plan and execute the work required. Nobody has time to wrangle people off the bridge to get work done or worry about whether it’s still safe for pedestrians and bicyclists. 

      • Joe Z April 2, 2020 (7:22 pm)

        It’s not really the bridge though. There’s no need for any crews to be between 35th and Delridge. 

    • WGA April 2, 2020 (10:16 pm)

      Does anyone remember riding their bikes on I-5 when the Express Lanes were closed to vehicles for Bicycle Sundays (mid-80’s)? What I remember most was how rough the road surface was. And the expansion joints were like little obstacles. When traveling on cushy car tires at 50-6o MPH you really don’t notice, but on skinnies it was another story. And some pretty good potholes. I’m sure there is some amount of hazard/liability to open that section up to bikes. Also, the side railings may not be high enough for bike/pedestrian code.I recall walking on the Viaduct after it closed for good last year and they kept people 3 feet away from the sides. Those railing were really low!

      • SUDS April 3, 2020 (1:48 pm)

        Rode up and over early this morning. It was AWESOME . and while not smooth as silk, it the surface was plenty fine, with joints not a problem at all.And a hell of a good work out.

        • WSB April 3, 2020 (1:51 pm)

          The bridge is NOT open to non-motorized traffic and, SDOT reiterated, is a safety risk, so please DON’T do that. Also, sightings then lead to police dispatches (I heard one earlier today for people walking on the bridge) and those resources are needed elsewhere.

        • Fredrik April 7, 2020 (1:57 pm)

          Haha awesome!

  • Question Authority April 2, 2020 (4:20 pm)

    The “better behavior” will happen when the violation ticket comes in the mail and not before then.  The me, me, me crowd will just keep flouting the restrictions until their knocked off their high (but I’m special!) horse.

    • Nick April 7, 2020 (1:02 pm)

      Why are there restrictions at all right now. Buses are empty and so are the roads. The only people commuting are essential business. Shouldn’t the city accommodate that? 

  • Mj April 2, 2020 (4:29 pm)


    Bike routes exist on both Admiral and Avalon, and I suspect keeping the bridge clear of pedestrians, even sections not affected, as desirable. Hopefully construction vehicles will be using the corridor to bring materials to provide a fix in the near term.


  • Marcee Stone-Vekich April 2, 2020 (4:33 pm)

    Hi, Back over the years when occasionally driving over the bridge in morning rush hour, I noticed extreme vibrations on the bridge, towards the top, heading East, when traffic was absolutely stopped. It sometimes freaked me out. I chocked it up to trucks or buses passing by. I retired on 2/1/2019 so I haven’t driven over at that time in quite a while. Anyone else get paranoid about that shaking?Marcee

    • Alki resident April 2, 2020 (4:49 pm)

      Yes, thought we were having an earthquake. 

    • ITotallyAgreeWithYou April 2, 2020 (4:59 pm)

      Yes,  Marcee! I too noticed that. The times I experienced it, there was nothing around to explain it away such as big trucks which made it all the more unnerving. I don’t remember if it was a particular time of day or side each time but my commuting times for work and leisure are mostly non traditional hours. 

    • Marcee Stone-Vekich April 2, 2020 (6:04 pm)

      I wondered at the time: “Is this normal? Should I contact someone?” I wish I had and I wonder if anyone did? It would be a good thing to investigate. 

    • West Seattle Steve April 2, 2020 (8:40 pm)

      Bridges vibrating mid-span is normal. I don’t know any bridge that doesn’t. I don’t think it would be possible to build a bridge stuff enough to avoid the vibration that would hold it’s own weight.

  • Mark Schletty April 2, 2020 (4:37 pm)

    Let’s see. It took bringing in outside experts to discover the severity of the obvious problem, but they are now talking to people who used to work at SDOT to figure out what to do about it. See anything wrong here? Come on Mayor, fire these idiots and bring in some outside experts to run SDOT and get this mess fixed properly.

    • WSB April 2, 2020 (5:21 pm)

      They ARE working with outside experts. My question might not have been in enough context for you. I’ve been reading tons of technical articles and was genuinely curious if this has been such a mystery that they were tracking down people originally involved (The project won an engineering award, according to one article).

      • Eddie April 2, 2020 (5:39 pm)

        There’s a plaque on the low bridge touting some design award that the low bridge won.

        • WSB April 2, 2020 (7:51 pm)

          The low bridge is a unique bridge in entirely different ways. Anyway, re: the high bridge …
          “In 1985 the bridge won a Honorable Mention Award from the Consulting Engineers Council of Washington.”

    • WSJ April 2, 2020 (7:13 pm)

      “They’re so stupid, they had to bring in experts!”… “we should fire them and bring in experts!” Do you have absolutely zero self-awareness Mark? 

    • Glendafrench April 2, 2020 (8:45 pm)

      These kinds of comments always just make me roll my eyes. If any problem anywhere ever happens it’s “fire them all!” And bring in some magical “outsiders” who can magically “fix” this better than whoever was already here.  To me this sounds like: problems noticed originally in 2013, they kept a closer eye on them, things started getting worse, project manager climbed inside the bridge daily, said it’s getting unsafe,  the Director (who is a relatively new outsider) ordered it closed and now they are talking to all bridge experts and people involved in the original build. I’m not sure exactly what your “solution” would give us that would be better than what is currently happening? Sometimes structural problems happen that couldn’t be foreseen or design around. That’s called life. I’m just glad they closed it before something catastrophic happened. 

    • WR April 2, 2020 (8:51 pm)

      Mark I fully agree. Well said.

  • beanie April 2, 2020 (4:51 pm)

    Thank you for conducting this interview and for continuing to push for answers! The West Seattle community appreciates the blog keeping us informed on such a big issue, especially with everything else going on.

  • Jort April 2, 2020 (5:01 pm)

    I understand the human inclination to assign blame, and if somebody screwed up, I’m sure that will get discovered. But, again, I am a “solutions-minded” person, and I would strongly encourage my fellow West-Seattleites to begin their personal mental adaptations regarding solutions. But one important thing to remember: if the bridge is out for “months,” that means a dramatic and substantial change to the lifestyle of every single West Seattle resident who chooses to drive. The limitations of geometry, math and reality will simply prohibit us to replicate the same volume as personal automobile traffic as before. It’s time for us to get deeply creative. Am I happy about this? Absolutely. Because here’s the thing: there is no feasible way, at all, whatsoever, to replicate the old lives we lived, when everyone who wanted to drive their car during rush hour could do so. You can wish a thousands wishes that you will still be able to drive from Alki to downtown in 20 minutes, but those days are done, bye bye, gone, for ALL of us, and each of us will need to start our creative adaptations soon. Free e-bikes for everybody! Trust me, you’ll like it. Yes, even you!

    • Vincent Gorjance April 2, 2020 (5:52 pm)

      I vote for a zipline from the Totem pole viewpoint on Admiral Way to Pioneer Square and a return from the top of Columbia Tower to the Alki boat ramp.

      • Jethro Marx April 2, 2020 (8:36 pm)

        You’ll want to revisit your calculations on cable sag- I think you’d be in the water about halfway to Pioneer Square and you may pull the Columbia tower off-kilter on the way back.

        • Ice April 2, 2020 (9:25 pm)

          Why do always have to rain on our magic zip line fantasy parades?

      • David Clarke April 2, 2020 (8:56 pm)


    • winniegirl April 2, 2020 (6:14 pm)

      I certainly understand your point of view. And, that may be a workable solution for some people. But some of us don’t work downtown or anywhere near downtown. Or are physically incapable of what you are asking.  I, for one work about 20 miles away and I have to be at work at 5am.  There is no way that I’m taking that bike ride. And, a bus solution at that hour is not really workable. And, no.  I can’t sell my place – especially now.  But, I was certainly considering it pre-pandemic/bridge closure. Part of being solutions orientated is recognizing that your solution is not the only solution.  The people who are capable of meeting your requirements have already heard your message.

    • chemist April 2, 2020 (6:33 pm)

      Speaking of adaptations that may be necessary.  I would feel safer about our emergency response vehicles being able to get through if they had a dedicated lane on the lower bridge reserved for emergencies.  I think it could happen if we temporarily removed the barriers for the trail for bikes/peds on the low bridge.  We could provided a shuttle-service on all the transit that is going through that area.  You’d be willing to sacrifice, right Jort?

      • Jort April 2, 2020 (9:49 pm)

        Thanks for the creative  idea, Chemist! But it’s not necessary and actually very bad! There’s PLENTY of room for emergency vehicles, as well as transit, on the lower bridge. The only thing that would impede emergency vehicles and buses is congestion caused by personal, private automobile drivers who are breaking the law! It’s probably not a great idea to remove a scalable, efficient transportation option just to make accommodations for automobile enthusiasts breaking the law. Furthermore, those same selfish, illegal drivers would not hesitate for a moment to clog up the emergency vehicles-only lane, as they already clearly demonstrate by their aggressive flaunting of the law. What makes MORE sense is aggressive anti-car enforcement and making alternative transportation options easier and more accessible. And, of course, retaining the cycling/pedestrian lane, which appears to be part of the structure of the bridge and won’t be as easily removed as your intentionally provocative comment might suggest. Thanks for the ideas, though!

        • Chemist April 2, 2020 (10:58 pm)

          So maybe we could help encourage alternative transportation by deploying some of the assets SDOT has in bikes?  They’ve got about 500 of the Pronto bikes in storage in South Lake Union (that we paid $1.4 million for, plus another $1 million to repay the loan from the feds).  We could just let them be free-floating and encourage folks in West Seattle to pedal them to work and back.

    • Sam Z April 2, 2020 (6:37 pm)

      The 20 minute drive downtown was very real when the tunnel opened and there wasn’t a bus lane.

    • AH50 April 2, 2020 (6:57 pm)

      So.. let me get this right? Anyone who has lived here for years (50 for me) doesn’t realize that we can’t go from WS to dtwn in 20 minutes all of sudden? (Here’s a note… not one person reading this has not known that for years!)   And U saying that everyone over here should ride a bike? What about the those of us who live in S.WS? Bike to SeaTac with my luggage? Or are cars only ok to go south way?  “solutions minded”? Lol. According to Jurt we should all b walking. Would segways b ok?  A troll 

      • WSJ April 2, 2020 (7:34 pm)

        If you live in the S part of WS, then taking the 1st Ave S bridge is probably adding only a little time to your travel anyways.

        • AH50 April 2, 2020 (7:46 pm)

          So I guess U didn’t get my point. Oh well, better luck next time WSJ. 

    • WR April 2, 2020 (8:57 pm)

      I often have to lug 500-1000lbs of maritime equipment to work.  You want to explain how an e bike helps with this? Or a bus?  Most commuters could probably change but not everyone.  It bothers me so much that some don’t consider that. 

      • Jort April 2, 2020 (9:51 pm)

        Looks like you’re taking the long way to work, now. Ouch! Your situation is extremely unique, and for your sake, I hope you advocate for car-reduction solutions for the rest of West Seattle so that you don’t spend eternity in traffic going over the 1st Ave. bridge. It’ll be for your benefit if fewer people are in traffic in front of you!

        • Alki April 7, 2020 (12:40 am)

          Jort I don’t think that it’s all that unique. I have between 4 and 6 sales calls per day. That is how I make my living. That is how my family affords to eat and affords to put a roof over their head. Taking a bus or riding a bike just isn’t an option as unfortunate as that might be. a lot of people that I know are in sales just like me that live in West Seattle. I know you like to poke fun but taking a step back I know you also know that your way is not a way that can work for everyone.

      • Janelle April 2, 2020 (10:03 pm)

        WR, I can see how that would feel frustrating.  However, the comments encouraging people to consider bike commuting are intended to be directed at those who this may be a reasonable option for, not people like you who have to haul a lot of equipment to work.

        It’s a suggestion for those with the circumstances and capability to make this a reasonable consideration.  There are many different people with different circumstances and lifestyles that bike commute and it works great for them. It might be easier for some than others, and not a reasonable option for some. 

        If it’s truly not a reasonable option for you, then I think you can tune out these suggestions which are intended to encourage and benefit others, who it may actually work for.  Just because it doesn’t work for you, doesn’t mean it might not be a good suggestion for others, and it might help free up some traffic on the roadway for you!

    • CMT April 2, 2020 (10:03 pm)

      This is seriously the moment you have been waiting for Jort.  Your single-mindedness is actually admirable and so is that of tsurly, always reminding us (at the height of our frustration) how his/her bike commute is not subject to the impediments that we non-bicycling mortals must withstand. But I will never ride a bike to work. Ever.  I sometimes wish I could be that person but it really just seems so awful – getting hot and sweaty and out of breath riding a bike.  I don’t want to ride in the dark. Or rain. Or snow.  Or hot weather.  I don’t want to have to wear “gear.”  I don’t want to take my life in my hands with cars whizzing by, inches away, not paying attention.  I don’t want to lug my work materials on a bike getting all squished.  Thankfully for me, I don’t rely on the bridge for my commute anymore and if I did, adjustments would need to be made, but sadly they would never involve riding a bike.  I don’t think I am alone and that is why I don’t think biking in Seattle will ever progress beyond a minimal segment of the population.  But hopefully there are a lot of better people than me and electric bikes will become an appealing alternative for many.

      • Tsurly April 3, 2020 (4:08 am)

        Please get you facts straight. I don’t always ride my bike to work, some days I run :)

        • CMT April 3, 2020 (8:35 am)

          I stand corrected!

          • tsurly April 3, 2020 (10:36 am)

            In all seriousness though, what I say on here (and I assume Jort as well) is never directed at individuals with disabilities or who work out of there vehicles or carry cargo; it’s directed at the many able-bodied people who are able to make some lifestyle changes that could benefit the majority and particularly those who must  drive. If you are familiar enough with my commentary to call me out on something, then you know I have stated this many times over.

          • CMT April 3, 2020 (1:36 pm)

            I appreciate the sentiment, but not always the delivery.  I think you have good points to make but sometimes they get lost in what comes off as a superior/sanctimonious tone.   My comments can veer in that direction on certain topics too, so I understand.  I get it, you are passionate – after all, you have made changes for yourself and the common good, even though it isn’t always convenient, and as a society we should all be taking at least some steps.  Your comments are much more inspiring though when they talk about your positive experience with biking and offer help and advice.  

    • SUDS April 3, 2020 (1:53 pm)

      Wish I could agree, Jort. I’ve been riding my bike to work from Admiral district to SLU for three years now, yet whenever I get the opportunity to drive, I LOVE EVERY MINUTE OF IT.  So while I do it, and am in better physical health for it, I prefer my car. Simple as that. Just because you love it, don’t preach to others that it’s great for them. That’s what gets non-bikers to hate us – the lack of empathy and understanding of the depth of affinity for the convenience and comfort of a vehicle, even in the face of a two hour traffic jam.

      • Jort April 3, 2020 (2:12 pm)

        Oh, I don’t really care whether non-bikers hate cyclists. That’s their issue. Like it or not, West Seattle residents are going to have fundamentally divorce themselves from their pre-bridge closure way of thinking, whether they hate cyclists or not. There will be a new reality: if you want to get around, you’re not going to drive like you used to. Whether that’s a new bike, improved transit service, or something else, the reality is just extremely simple and inarguable: the reign of the car in West Seattle is on hold until that bridge is fixed. If people choose to sit in 90 minute traffic jams because they’d rather waste their precious minutes on this planet in congestion than admit a cyclist is right, that’s their issue and I’m not going to solve it. For their sake, I hope they’re willing to sacrifice their pride and stubbornness in service of a happier life. But, again, not my call.

  • WSJ April 2, 2020 (5:41 pm)

    When is Director Zimbabwe removing the lane narrowing poles on West Marginal Way at the Duwamish Tribal building, so we can have 2 lanes southbound from the north end of West Seattle to the 1st Avenue bridge?  It is not an option to reduce car capacity on this now critical arterial.

    • HGD April 7, 2020 (3:22 pm)


  • Jon Wright April 2, 2020 (5:47 pm)

    Gosh, it’s almost like it is a more complicated and nuanced situation than all the armchair structural engineers and “fire them all!” crowd would have us believe!

  • dsa April 2, 2020 (5:55 pm)

    Where is the information on this (copy/paste): 

    West Seattle Bridge cracks still growing post-closure,…

    • WSB April 2, 2020 (7:29 pm)

      In the story.

    • dsa April 2, 2020 (7:44 pm)

      I asked because I have not found it.  So the bridge is just sitting there with on traffic on it and yet it seems to be falling apart anyway.  It seems very significant.  I wanted to read more on that.

      • WSB April 2, 2020 (8:00 pm)

        As I tried to make clear, I had very little time (10 minutes, though they let me push a few past that) and had several questions I wanted to be sure I asked, so there wasn’t time to belabor just one point, but at the heart of it all is, that’s WHY they haven’t started repairs yet – the bridge is still cracking and they don’t know why. Remember, as reported multiple times at the start of all this, 80 percent of the bridge’s regular load is dead load … its own weight. Don’t know how that compares to the “average” bridge, if there is any such thing. Anyway, the other questions I have out are more technically oriented. – TR

    • dsa April 2, 2020 (8:36 pm)

      Honestly, I don’t know how you achieve so much in so little time.  You are truly amazing at your job.  I did not mean this to affront you.  What worries me is that if the bridge continues to deteriorate while it is unused under dead weight only, there is likely a very serious issue.  Incidentally I was on assignment on the I-5 ship canal bridge one night around 1AM when we had the northbound direction closed for repairs. Traffic was minimal as this was long ago.  I was standing near the crest and noticed the rhythmic bouncing the bridge was doing.  I felt quite uncomfortable and decided to get off the bridge.  That bouncing was due to live weight.  If WS bridge is actively failing under dead weight…

  • RE April 2, 2020 (6:02 pm)

    As always, WSB, great job keeping the community informed! Please look into whether conversations have started to add more water taxis and times once the now through 5/4 stay at home order is lifted. Thanks!

  • KT April 2, 2020 (6:11 pm)

    …”So we’ve got the same consultants [WSP] that have been part of this … going back to last year when we started analyzing this cracking in more detail have still been with us working on continuing to understand what’s been going on and what our repair strategy can and should be….”  Analyzing this cracking going back to last year and still no idea what to do.  There’s a confidence builder.  

  • wetone April 2, 2020 (6:16 pm)

    One question I would like asked to SDOT and WSP.  Do you think pile driving at T5 is having any impact to high or low bridge?  

    • AH50 April 2, 2020 (7:37 pm)

      I agree..Great ??’s & also all the recent (8 yrs) of construction heavy trucks? 

  • Trickycoolj April 2, 2020 (6:21 pm)

    I recall from the council briefing earlier this week the engineer mentioned that these kinds of cracks are associated with sheering and this type of structure wouldn’t show visible or obvious deformation before a total failure, it would just continue until it sheered off.  So, what kinds of considerations are there for people who work right next to the bridge below along Spokane St? I guess we have another month of stay at home order, but the engineer’s description was very worrisome. 

    • WSB April 2, 2020 (7:24 pm)

      That’s why I asked about real-time monitoring so they’d know to sound an alarm if something was imminent.

  • Anne April 2, 2020 (6:55 pm)

    No not me or my husband Jort-not EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN WS  are able to ride a bike-e-bike or not. But rant on Jort  rant on.

    • Jort April 2, 2020 (9:53 pm)

      You’re right! But the vast majority of people who choose to drive their cars actually CAN ride a bike. EVERYBODY can take transit. Literally everybody; it’s part of the fundamental mission of the transit agency. So, since we’re not going to be driving over the bridge for the foreseeable future, you can start taking transit! It’s really not bad, and I hope it becomes easier and more accessible for you, your husband, and everybody affected by this closure in West Seattle.  

      • Anne April 2, 2020 (10:34 pm)

        No. Not literally everybody can take transit either. You  continue to issue these blanket declarations-but they do not apply to everyone-as much as you might want them to.

      • m April 2, 2020 (10:51 pm)

        No, Jort, not everyone can take transit for their job. My job in child welfare requires that I routinely drive through multiple counties on any given day to work out of two offices, visit children in foster homes, attend court hearings, and attend meetings in numerous  DCYF offices. 

        • Jort April 3, 2020 (9:46 am)

          If this is the case, then you sure better start hoping that the city provides meaningful, easier alternatives for the vast majority of solo car commuters who primarily use the bridge. I look forward to your support of free e-bikes for all!

          • WS Island April 3, 2020 (10:38 am)

            Everyone CANNOT take transit. It’s infuriating to me that the solution is always ‘ride a bike!’, ‘take transit!’ with zero acknowledgement of the fact that it is not feasible for a large majority. I’m physically unable to ride a bike. I’m physically unable to run. I’m physically unable to take transit. There’s a reason I have a DP placard. And there are a LOT of us. 

          • Canton April 3, 2020 (11:27 am)

            Hi Jort, how much are you paid for your anti-car activism? Just guessing this sort of distain is monetarily  motivated. Asking  for a friend  that doesn’t  know how to drive.

          • Jort April 3, 2020 (2:14 pm)

            WS Island, if you’re disabled, Metro has valuable programs designed JUST for  you and other folks like you: https://kingcounty.gov/depts/transportation/metro/travel-options/accessible.aspx. I strongly encourage you to reach out and learn more from Metro about transit options available for disabled folks.

          • Canton April 3, 2020 (9:52 pm)

            Hi Jort. Would you like to reply to the possibility, that you are a transportation troll? Are your ideals for local transportation financially  motivated? 

      • Your Mother April 5, 2020 (11:33 pm)

        Hi Jort. Have you considered that the way you communicate might be counterproductive to the goal you are wanting to achieve? The unfortunate tone in your comments makes me want to throw my much loved and trusty bike in to a deep and fiery pit, buy a 1988 Suburban and drive it around just I me and myself while yelling “Jort made me do it!!!” Just think… I could stop for people huffing it up Admiral way and be like, “don’t worry! Jort will never know!” They could throw their bike in the back of the land yacht (I could name “her” Jort!) or better yet, just on the side of the road for someone to steal, and then drive them to wherever they need! Perhaps to a Chevy dealership! My new “essential service” will be named the “Jort Express”. It will become so popular that the action of giving a ride to a person struggling to get up a steep hill on a bike will be forever known as “Jorting” or “to Jort”.

        • Alki April 7, 2020 (12:46 am)

          That is actually hilarious. I found that very funny to read.

          • Your Mother April 8, 2020 (12:17 am)

            At your service…

        • Ken April 8, 2020 (2:41 am)

          This was an absolute riot! 😂  Thank you Your Mother!  Rather looking forward in spotting the “Jort Express” trekking up Admiral Way.

    • AH50 April 2, 2020 (11:38 pm)

      Hi Anne & M. I agree with U both 1000%. My best advice is to ignore Jurt. He/she is a troll.  I’ve been on this blog for a few years n that’s why they do.  The person is a troll who just likes to stir things up. Stay healthy!  Take care

  • Graciano April 2, 2020 (7:04 pm)

    I remember when they were building the bridge, we would sneak up on it at night and go down inside of it… :D

  • WSJ April 2, 2020 (7:11 pm)

    I can just picture the ignorant armchair engineering crowd sitting at home reading “we’re modeling things and investigating the cause” and thinking “stop messing around and just %#!*& fix it!” as if this is some kind of weekend project like the time they propped up their backyard deck. As other rational people have said, this is going to be a long process; channel your energy toward figuring out how you’re going to deal with this change to your routines instead of angrily toward a problem almost none of us are capable of appreciating, understanding, or giving advice about. 

  • psps April 2, 2020 (7:34 pm)

    It certainly isn’t very comforting knowing that “bus lane” zimbabwe is involved in this.

    • WR April 2, 2020 (9:03 pm)


    • Bryan April 4, 2020 (1:42 pm)

      Do you mean that’s the guy responsible for the Non-Function Junction?

  • wsneddy April 2, 2020 (7:46 pm)

    Tracy/WSB: What sharp questions, and nice job staying on this story. Literally nobody else in the city is putting the pressure on this and reporting out like you are. Thank you, thank you!
    Everyone: There’s no option but to fix the bridge. I’m enjoying all of the other ideas, those might help in some ways, but not having a bridge is not an option. The bridge must be fixed asap.

  • Jeff April 2, 2020 (7:46 pm)

    You can argue all you want with the specific solutions presented, but the core of what Jort says is neither activism nor hyperbole; it’s just straight math.    It is not, in ANY reasonable way, possible to reroute all the usual traffic to other bridges.  It just can’t be done.   Even if they find a solution and work on it around the clock, it is going to be several months where things will not resemble “normal” at all.   

    • AH50 April 2, 2020 (8:12 pm)

      “West Seattle resident who chooses to drive.“.“Am I happy about this? Absolutely. Because here’s the thing: there is no feasible way, at all, whatsoever, to replicate the old lives we lived, when everyone who wanted to drive their car during rush hour Did so”. “Free e-bikes for everybody! Trust me, you’ll like it, Yes, even you! “         Jorts quotes! Not activism? Or just a troll? we all know we will have to be creative during this time of bridge closure, as long as it takes, not sure anyone was disputing that. U own a car?  

    • Carshamed April 3, 2020 (3:24 am)

      I don’t think any reasonable person is arguing that things are not going to have to change with the bridge closed.   My issue with Jort is that s/he represents a certain type of smug urbanist who cares about ideals with little regard for individuals.  I bought my house because it was within walking distance to the Junction, right on the bus line, and considering I work from home, I was even thinking about selling my car when my elderly parent with dementia and major mobility issues came to live with me.  There is now no way I could do without a car, and having Jort gush about what a hoot it is that people are going to have their lives severely disrupted because s/he thinks everyone should be on a bike makes me hope that s/he ends up in a situation like mine.  Try taking transit from West Seattle to First Hill, sometimes 3 timer per week, pushing a severely confused person up a hill in the rain then waiting for the next bus to come.  Or take the bus to Issaquah because that’s where the specialist is, and then find a Lyft to get the confused person and their wheelchair the rest of the way to the hospital.  And that’s an entire day I’d have to take off work instead of a half day so that I could comply with a Jort-sanctioned virtuous transportation mode.   There are a lot of us out there in similar situations.  Like invisible disabilities, the person you judge driving a car may be dealing with a situation that can’t be solved by glibly declaring “e-bikes for all”.

      • wscommuter April 3, 2020 (9:01 am)

        Jort is a worn-out troll; he/she shows up on any transportation stream with the same silliness.  And more to the point, that vein of opinion is a powerless minority view. Certainly entitled to his/her opinion as any fool is, but not worth spending time engaging.  Your comments are well-taken and obvious.   Anyone with a brain realizes that we are necessarily an automobile-based transportation system … and I say that as a bike-commuter most of the time.  I’m grateful I can travel by bike; I also realize I am a fortunate minority.  And when I do need to drive, I feel zero guilt at doing so.   

      • Jort April 3, 2020 (9:44 am)

        For some reason, every time I bring up the widespread feasibility of alternative transportation, suddenly every person who has a car also has a disability, is caring for someone with a disability, etc. I have never said that we will remove automobiles entirely, but we can remove the vast, vast majority of automobiles from the road. The vast majority of drivers are fully capable of making their trips via transit, biking or walking. For your sake, I hope you begin advocating for better transportation options for that vast majority of people, so that minority, specialty car use-cases like the one you describe can continue. Many, many other advanced societies all around the world manage to de-prioritize solo automobile-driving, even with elderly and disabled populations. We can too, it just takes courage and a fundamental change in mindset. Thankfully, the long-term bridge closure is going to force, not nudge, that change in mindset. Begin adaptations now!

        • Mark Schletty April 3, 2020 (10:12 am)

          Oh, Jort. Do you even read the comments here? Yes, a number of people who need cars have disability oriented needs for a car. But the majority have other needs for a car that have nothing to do with disabilities.  Since you think you can claim, without any documentation, that the “vast majority” of drivers don’t need a car, I think I will just clam that the vast majority of drivers have no other reasonable way to do what they need to do.  If they did, they would already have been doing it.  If the current virus situation doesn’t make you urbanists rethink your ideas about super high density, no cars, mass transit only,  there is really no hope for you.  Areas like that are experiencing the highest rates of infection and death. No “one way only “ theories hold water. And your stating that the bridge situation, that will make so many miserable, makes you happy ,makes me sick.

          • Jort April 3, 2020 (11:32 am)

            I’m sorry that you’re sick. In reality, cities big and small all around the world have found ways to move the healthy, sick, young, old, disabled, able-bodied, parents, office-workers, retirees, everybody without relying on the planet-destroying, least efficient method of transportation available: personal automobiles. Seattle hasn’t been forced into having to convert to this kind of transportation system for a variety of reasons. With the high bridge closed, that luxury is now over. There is literally no feasible way to accommodate the pre-closure driving habits of this peninsula, so dramatic changes will happen, and you will be forced into those changes. Feel free to get angry and call names, but this is a mathematical reality, one that you can scream about forever but will. not. change.  Yes, I am glad for this. It’s better for our city our citizens, and our planet, and will hopefully serve as a model for all American cities to change their destructive driving habits.

      • KM April 3, 2020 (10:11 am)

        I will never understand why people are offended by encouraging and subsidizing alternatives to driving for the majority of commuters. For those who must continue to drive, including your situation caring for family, it’s nothing but beneficial. I also have disabled family members and cannot do many things for their care via transit or a bike (and they cannot drive due to their disability, so transit is a lifeline!) I drive mostly when I have to, and thankful to everyone who chooses alternative transportation when they can, and I will continue to return the favor. Feel free to call me names as well!

  • J April 2, 2020 (8:18 pm)

    Every engineer/architect/builder knows that all they need to do is install the sky hooks. That will fix everything.

    • Janelle April 2, 2020 (10:20 pm)


  • K. Davis April 2, 2020 (9:04 pm)

    We will be inconvenienced while the bridge gets fixed.  It will be painful for the months that takes.  Then we get back to normal.  The anti-car people get their moment.  The rest of us will get on with things.  

    • WS Transit Rider April 4, 2020 (8:48 am)

      K., the normal that we’ve known is gone forever. We have to adjust and adapt to our new realities.

  • 1994 April 2, 2020 (9:08 pm)

    Here are my armchair traffic engineering suggestions to keep WS moving:1. Undo the road diets recently implemented. It was just paint anyway per SDOT.2. remove all street parking on Delridge, Roxbury and 35th 3. make 2 lanes of travel each direction on all streets named in #2 (when the high bridge is ready to open the streets can be road dieted again)4. adjust the traffic signals on the north end of the 1st Ave S and 16th Ave S bridges to keep traffic moving north5. WashDOT to ask I-5 northbound drivers to remain on I-5 and stop using the 599 or 509 and 1st Ave S bridge as a ‘quicker’? way to downtown.

  • valvashon April 2, 2020 (9:50 pm)

    As a bit of a bridge nerd, my quick research indicates that a 80% of the weight being the bridge itself (the “dead load”) isn’t that high of a percentage for a 140 foot span, especially given the height that this bridge is required to achieve.  Think of the difference between this 140 foot span and a 140 foot span over a deep valley, or even a non navigable waterway.  The vertical rise here is quite high, which definitely contributes to the weight.  A shorter span will definitely weigh less (dead weight) but will have to be able to carry more load (live weight) so the ratio of dead weight to live weight will be closer.  Think about it this way- is it likely a 75 foot span, one way each way, will likely be loaded fully with heavy trucks at some point?  Yes, of course, so the total load it will need to be able to support will include a much higher percentage of live load, given that a 75 foot two lane span will not weigh as much as it’s likely to need to support.Now, will a large, long bridge such as the West Seattle Bridge, be loaded fully with only heavy trucks at any point?  No, and bridge designers take this into account leaving more of the weight to be supported by the bridge as weight of the bridge itself (the “dead weight”).

  • ROBERT GOULET April 2, 2020 (10:35 pm)

    I remember when the bridge was being built, there was a story and a real concern about something used in the concrete, possibly fly ash?  Could that have contributed to current issue?

    • WSB April 2, 2020 (11:10 pm)

      That was detected and removed, according to the trade/technical articles I have come across so far.

    • Jethro Marx April 3, 2020 (11:10 am)

      This is something they will be looking into, as the concrete composition can be sampled and tested easily. The fact that a poured section was called out as defective and redone is either a sign that quality was overseen correctly or an indication that the other sections are suspect, depending on how pessimistic one is. I’m curious if the crack region is over water? 

    • dsa April 3, 2020 (12:37 pm)

      Any weak section of concrete pour should have been discovered decades ago.  I know that on a state WSDOT project that when the concrete is delivered several test samples are taken and stored for analysis later.  What they do is to determine the compressive strength of the concrete at various ages.  They use a big vice type thing and squeeze the concrete cylinder until it cracks and record the pressure.  I forget the exact timings, but it is something like 2 weeks, a month, 6 months, a year, and maybe another.  Weak concrete in the WS bridge should have shown up if there is any.  I expect they are reviewing those records.

  • sna April 3, 2020 (12:24 am)

  • WS resident April 4, 2020 (9:15 am)

    HOLY SH*T I’m just now finding out about this !!! Excuse my lateness I’ve been sick with the ABSOLUTE WORST cough, fever and lung congestion in my ever loving life. I’m mostly past it now. I turned off the news for 3 weeks, glad to be back.hopefully they can fix the bridge before the stay at home order is lifted so we can all take the bridge again soon, as I’m this summer.

  • miws April 4, 2020 (10:11 am)

    I’d forgotten about the issue with the concrete in the building of the bridge… ___Mike

  • skeeter April 4, 2020 (11:17 am)

    Hi JORT and TSURLY.  I
    really appreciate the value you add to these conversations.  Please keep it up.  I live in West Seattle and work in SoDo/Harbor
    Island.  My employer provides free car
    parking.  I used to bicycle one day a
    year – on bike to work day.  Then I
    decided I’d try biking a couple days a week from May to September.  And I found that pretty fun.  Then one day in September 2018 while I sat in
    traffic on Delridge for 4 cycles of the light trying to move a couple hundred
    feet I decided I was done driving a car. 
    I started bike commuting every day of the week year-round.  My life has been better in every way. 

    One of the things that makes me happiest about biking is I
    know there are so many people who cannot bike. 
    By not using my car I’m freeing up space on the road for the sick/elderly/disabled
    etc who need to drive.  That brings me a
    great amount of joy.     

    Keep on posting.  I
    love your comments!

  • Theo April 4, 2020 (3:15 pm)

    Has anyone been talking about taking this opportunity with the full closure to do other bridge repairs including fixing the plethora of potholes in the bridge decking?  It will be far less disruptive and cheaper than after the bridge reopens. Apologies if I didn’t catch this in all the discussion.

    • WSB April 4, 2020 (3:56 pm)

      Last week’s briefing included a note about low bridge maintenance that has to be done. Otherwise, SDOT says they need to understand the problem so they can make the first stage of repairs just to make the bridge safe for permanent repairs, let alone maintenance crews.

  • Thomas M April 5, 2020 (7:19 am)

    TUNNEL.  It works at the English Channel, the Bosporus, Chesapeake Bay, Alaska Way Viaduct, S. Lake Union to UW, Boston, and even Bangkok  They even built a Bertha-Sized tunnel 134 miles under lake Michigan (for cooling water to a power plant).  A couple of miles across the Duwamish flat is in no way impracticable.  Keep the hoofers happy and build in corridors for transit and for foot and bike traffic…  Turn the Fauntleroy extension into a large Park & Ride, with shuttles.  The High Bridge was an abonimation to start with,  start planning its ultimate demise.

    • Jasper April 6, 2020 (11:31 am)

      And how much will that toll be?

  • JBG April 5, 2020 (10:28 am)

    My betting pool guess for closure time for the high bridge: 12-18 months. That is if it not fundamentally flawed and will require significant demolition and reconstruction.  Then about 2-1/2 years. Any bets?

  • West Seattle April 5, 2020 (12:05 pm)

    So your telling me that for years they have been monitoring the cracks and never even thought to bring in the people who built it??? This guy never even thought to ask??? Wtf Seattle ? SZ: Not sure about that but knows they’ve “reached out to folks who were part of SDOT over the years.

    • WSB April 5, 2020 (12:25 pm)

      Considering it was built 40 years ago, it would be a safe bet that most if not all of those involved were either retired or dead.

      • Clarke Stockwell April 7, 2020 (1:12 pm)

        View looking East from near Pier 16I had the privilege of working on the West Seattle Bridge from 1982 to contract completion in 1985. I was a Seattle Engineering Department Civil Engineer assigned to work with the USACOE who was managing the construction contracts on behalf of the Federal Highway Administration. I was assigned to assist the COE field staff with the inspection of the construction. We inspected the construction to assure contractor compliance with the contract plans and specifications. My initial area of the work was the Main Span Superstructure from Pier 15 to Pier 18. This included the section crossing the river from Pier 16 to Pier 17 and the two back spans from Pier 15 to Pier 16 and Pier 17 to Pier 18. Besides the structural work, we also handled all of the other various elements of the work. The work was both challenging and difficult at times. With that stated, my opinion is that the current problem is a result of increasing loading beyond the design specifications or intent. Perhaps it is much like the Galloping Gertie of the Tacoma Narrows. The big busses and heavy trucks with long wheelbases are creating a dynamic load wave that acts much like an earthquake with peaks that exceed the design specifications. The Bridge is being slowly destroyed by overloading and overuse. The solution will require reducing the loads back to the original design plus stiffening the portion of the bridge that is deteriorating. It is flexing and twisting beyond the intent of the design. The City needs to bring back the design team and solve the problem. All is not lost, but the politicians may need to rethink budgets and priorities.

  • Don April 6, 2020 (11:20 am)

    Concrete is a great material to use for the vertical parts of a bridge because they are basically only under compression. But not quite so good, particularly over time, for horizontal parts as the loading is different . I’ve spend a lot of time in Houston Texas and they had similar cracking of horizontal beams  on highway bridges. The problem there was so bad that the broken concrete was falling on the cars driving under the bridge.  They eventually replaced the concrete with steel which which is better suited for the loading experienced in that application. 

Sorry, comment time is over.