BRIDGE NOTES: Beefed-up barricades; bus survey; history presentation tonight

Three notes related to the West Seattle Bridge closure:

BRIDGE BARRICADES: Not sure how long these have been up, since we haven’t looked recently and they’re all a ways down their respective ramps, but a tipster pointed out that the access points to the high bridge now all have chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. We photographed two today.

This is in addition to the movable barricades originally placed when the bridge was closed on March 23rd.

BUS SURVEY: A reader who’s been talking with Metro to advocate for a bus route from West Seattle to the University of Washington has set up a survey. It’s NOT official but its results will be shared with Metro. If you want to take it, go here.

HISTORY PRESENTATION TONIGHT: Retired civil engineer Bob Ortblad, who’s stirred some discussion for espousing an underwater “tube” solution for the bridge (and has previously suggested one cross-Sound too), has a free online presentation coming up at 6:30 tonight: an updated version of his 2017 “Who Built Seattle?” lecture, plus “the lurid history of the West Seattle Bridge,” its “current demise, and controversial future.” Register here. It’s free but you’re also welcome to make a donation to fight sarcoma, of which Ortblad is a 12-year survivor.

38 Replies to "BRIDGE NOTES: Beefed-up barricades; bus survey; history presentation tonight"

  • Bradley May 16, 2020 (6:42 pm)

    A tube makes far more sense than another high bridge, as long as the depth of the Duwamish is sufficient in that area. In 30 years of waiting for marine traffic to clear the Spokane swivel bridge, I’ve never seen a barge tug or any other Duwamish vessel come anywhere close to the 140 feet high bridge maximum. The high bridge is unnecessarily high and any replacement should be lower and sturdier.

    • Joe Grande May 16, 2020 (8:25 pm)

      As a retired City of Seattle bridge operator who spent a number of years operating the SW Spokane Street Swing Bridge, I Can assure you a number of crane barges, container barfed, and freighters come within a few feet on the high bridge, all depending on the tide. Additionally the Coast Guard determines the clearance of a bridge not the City of Seattle. 

      • Bradley May 16, 2020 (8:53 pm)

        Interesting. But even more reason to sink a tunnel bridge or build a 4-lane drawbridge: unlimited height clearance. Plus, no fragile, expen$ive, towering 140-foot+ roadway in the sky.

        • Rob May 17, 2020 (12:46 pm)

          West Seattle had two draw bridges side by side there in he past. To my recollection they were damaged by water traffic. The last one was irreprrable.  That is why the high level bridge was built.  If we put lower level draw bridges back in we will just be asking for problems again. 

          • Bradley May 17, 2020 (3:23 pm)

            The 1st South and new South Park draw bridges have no such problems with vessels colliding into them. Neither does the current Spokane Street swivel bridge directly underneath the crumbling high-rise. 

          • Joe Grande May 17, 2020 (6:59 pm)

            The old draw bridge was taken out by a 19,977 ton bulk cargo frighten going up river in a storm. The 1st Ave and South Park bridges don’t have this kind of large vessel tragic. If you think traffic is the pits when the high bridge is working and the low bridge is open imagine both low and high bridges open at the same time. Additionally how do we connect to Fauntleroy Way?      

  • Jill May 16, 2020 (7:16 pm)

    I also noticed the speed limit signs on W. Marginal are now 30 MPH decreased from 40.  Not sure when that happened?

  • West Seattle Hipster May 16, 2020 (8:29 pm)

    A tube tunnel makes the most sense.   Lisa Herbold, take care of us like Jeanette Williams did.

  • Joe Z May 16, 2020 (9:17 pm)

    I would rather get dropped off at the SODO light rail station than ride a bus all the way to the U-District. An express bus through the 99 tunnel would be more valuable.

    • Chemist May 17, 2020 (2:15 am)

      Plenty of express buses run at peak times and a wsea to uw one would be helpful.  Would you enjoy transferring in sodo if buses were two or three times more crowded, especially on the return trip.

      • Joe Z May 17, 2020 (7:40 pm)

        The problem is that a bus to the U-District will be unreliable due to traffic so I would rather get dropped off at the nearest light rail station (SODO) and have a predictable commute the rest of the way to the U-District. I already do the transfer via the C-line but having the bus drop off in SODO would make trips south (i.e. airport) easier. The extra 10 minutes of walking from the 21 stop on 1st kills the efficiency of that transfer. 

    • Go gull May 17, 2020 (7:33 am)

      Oh, that’s an idea… what about shuttles or buses regularly running from various points in WS across the low bridge to a few direct destinations, like the SODO light rail stop, Downtown, SLU, and UW?

      • heartless May 17, 2020 (5:58 pm)

        We could call these shuttles “Buses” and perhaps, just maybe, now bear with me here, let not just select employees but ANY citizen on them (perhaps with a nominal fee to offset some of the costs).  I think we’re onto something.

        • Go gull May 17, 2020 (8:30 pm)


          To clarify, my thinking was more specifically a handful of pick up stops in WS, and then those shuttles or buses drive direct to just a few select destination stops outside of WS. So for example, one stop would pick up in Admiral and then go straight to the first stop at Sodo light rail. Another shuttle would pick up in Westwood Village and go straight to Sodo… Another at Morgan junction…. and so on.

          I was thinking this could be an additional offering to our established bus routes, without all the usual stopping of a typical bus route, with the goal of helping to move more people more quickly out of WS to other connections. People would have to walk or bike a bit further to get to one of these stops in their neighborhood, but the more direct aspect of the ride might be worth it. The regular buses could keep running for those who prefer. I know this isn’t revolutionary, and maybe it’s a terrible idea, just trying to think outside our current transit routes… but maybe just more buses on existing routes makes better sense.

          • heartless May 18, 2020 (8:09 am)

            I knew what you meant, and agree it’s an idea worth pursuing, sorry for the tongue-in-cheek response.  Shuttles with just one or two pick-up locations and one destination would be a real boon for a lot of people, especially those who just need to get from Alki/Admiral/etc., to light rail.

  • Steve M May 17, 2020 (6:20 am)

    I know we need a more immediate solution, but I strongly hope the city prioritizes light rail to West Seattle. It was already on the Sound Transit project timeline for 2030. Given the current situation, can the city make that happen sooner?

    Those interested in advocating for this can email them here ( or call (206) 903-7229.

  • Mj May 17, 2020 (7:28 am)

    The City’s own speed studies show numbers on a sign is not effective, a 30 MPH limit on WMW is not reasonable.  The 40 MPH limit was appropriate and needs to be reestablished.  I ask SDoT for a Traffic Study on this change? Further the money being spent would be better spent fixing pot holes or other maintenance work

    Joe Z I was thinking the same more feeder busses to SODO light rail

  • Mj May 17, 2020 (8:46 am)

    For those promoting a tube tunnel please explain how you are going to connect to SR 99 and SR 5?  At grade crossings would create choke points! 

    The only section of the WSB needing fixing is the mid span and fixing/adding a support structure, requires refined clearance, under this section would be the quickest and most cost effective approach.    

    • sna May 17, 2020 (10:30 am)

      Anyone pushing for a tunnel has little understanding (or willful ignorance of) the current bridge situation – what’s broken, what’s not, on/off ramps, connections to other roadways, ect.. 

      Simply put, a tunnel option would be 5x more expensive and take 5x longer than replacing the cracked spans.

      • Bradley May 17, 2020 (1:01 pm)

        Some of us pushing the tunnel option are experienced engineers and have no “willful ignorance”. The worst, most short-sighted option is attempting to shore-up the current high-rise. Spending that kind of money for a 10-year fix is insanity. We need a total replacement.

        • sna May 17, 2020 (3:22 pm)

          A tunnel means tearing out and replacing 2 miles of existing and perfectly fine elevated roadway, it’s on ramps, off ramps, and potentially having to buy new property for new roadway.  It’s far far more expensive and time consuming than replacing the 1/4 mile high bridge — especially if you can reuse the existing high bridge piers.  

        • WSJ May 17, 2020 (3:41 pm)

          Then why are the tunnel proponents not talking about how much extra work it would be to re-route all the additional surface traffic (and rail, and existing Spokane routes) at grade and into a tunnel? The tunnel itself might be “easy” but connecting it and making a coherent system given the existing multiple raised approaches is enormously complex, and never brought up.

        • Vic May 17, 2020 (4:01 pm)

          I’m not an engineer and even I understand that the bridge would need to be shored up even for it to be demolished and replaced. Not just for it to be repaired. Shoring up/stabilization needs to happen regardless. Surely with your knowledge on engineering (however you didn’t say structural engineering was your specialty so I can’t assume that) you must get that already…

          • Bradley May 18, 2020 (12:22 am)

            I’m a mechanical engineer with decades of experience with large airframe structures. The laws of physics are the same regardless of the medium. The bridge doesn’t need shoring-up if it’s going to be demolished. The only reason SDOT is mentioning a shore-up is in case it’s decided by bureaucrats that they want to salvage it for another decade. A safe demo should be carried out ASAP and planning for a replacement already under way. Every day the failed structure remains standing is one more day of traffic nightmares and one more day of danger to anyone underneath it. 

  • Christine May 17, 2020 (8:46 am)

    Could Bob do some more lectures please? I would like to attend and would donate. Today’s lecture is fully booked and I saw the announcement late. Thank you. 

  • Mj May 17, 2020 (5:10 pm)

    heartless I have seen and reviewed the City’s study as well as other speed studies.  The data is clear. inappropriate speed limits reduce safety and do not material change speeds.

    so heartless when a speed study does not show the PC answer it is flawed?

    • heartless May 17, 2020 (5:55 pm)

      I don’t have much time for you right now, sorry–but please follow this link (at end of comment) to the previous thread where I thoroughly analyzed and rebutted your “data.”

      Please note that saying “inappropriate speed limits reduce safety” is absolutely meaningless, because you have not now nor ever operationally defined “inappropriate”.  Indeed, that very sentence is a tautological nightmare. 

      But when you make actual claims, such as “speed limits reduce safet and do not material[sic] change speeds,” well then you’re completely wrong.  I am no novice when it comes to empirical data-sets, I have spent an ungodly amount of time looking at your evidence, and, to put it briefly, it was lacking. 

      Unless you have new studies to submit, my old answers should suffice, check specifically the end of the comment thread:

  • Mj May 17, 2020 (7:10 pm)

    heartless – I too tire of this discussion.  An innapropriate speed limit is one that is not supported by technical data and proven studies.  Posting 30 MPH on WMW is not appropriate, the 40 MPH limit is the appropriate speed limit per technical criteria and I am not aware of any issues or data  that exists justifying the change?  

    • BBILL May 17, 2020 (10:52 pm)

      “not supported by technical data and proven studies”  Where does that rabbit hole end?

    • heartless May 18, 2020 (8:03 am)

      I was mostly decrying your statement about how posted speed limits have no influence on traffic speed.  So that’s the first bit.

      As for inappropriate speed limits being potentially dangerous–I agree with you!  If, for example, an on-ramp to I-5 was given a 10mph limit, that’d be dangerous!  I think you are completely right that speed limits should be carefully researched, and that too low limits can have negative consequences.

      But that doesn’t mean any and all speed limit decreases are dangerous, and I’m not sure why we should assume lowering a speed limit is more dangerous than raising one…

  • Joe Z May 17, 2020 (7:43 pm)

    One interesting anecdote I have heard from a Sound Transit source is that the engineering for the light rail Duwamish crossing is going to be challenging/expensive due to the silt. It will be interesting to see what comes of that, my thought it is that it may give Sound Transit motivation to partner with SDOT on the replacement rather than go at it alone. 

  • Don Brubeck May 17, 2020 (9:27 pm)

    Just a few of the issues for an immersed tube tunnel besides the obvious one that it requires so much more demolition and rebuilding of connecting viaducts and roads than just fixing or rebuilding one span of the bridge:  Dredging the river and making a cut on each side for a tunnel will cut off salmon runs and a tribal fishery base. It will cut off a  huge percentage of Alaska’s supply line, which enters the water just up the river. Supplying Alaska is still one of the basic reasons for Seattle’s existence as a city and seaport. It will require closing West Marginal Way just when we need it most. It will require slicing through rail, truck and marine access to vital industries including the cement plants and the steel plant’s source of recycled metals needed for the concrete and rebar for those tunnel sections.  And, the river is a Superfund site with contaminated sediments. Does all this sound fast, cheap and painless?

    • My two cents ... May 18, 2020 (7:13 am)

      @Don Brubeck – LOL, details, details, details. Isn’t it just easier to say build a tunnel and that be in the end of it? ;) Thanks for noting some other factors that will have to be taken into account when people are talking about a tunnel.

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