WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE CLOSURE: 3-scenario emergency plan finalized

(WSB photo from April)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

While the city’s been working toward stabilizing the West Seattle Bridge and determining whether it can be repaired, they’ve also been working on an emergency-response plan in case the bridge was deemed at imminent or near-imminent risk of collapse – which currently, they stress, it is NOT.

Most of this has been taking place out of the public eye, with the city working with “stakeholders” who have operations close to the bridge, such as the Port of Seattle. This came up during last week’s inaugural meeting of the community coalition West Seattle Bridge Now (WSB coverage here), when a port rep noted that this emergency plan was front and center right now. We’ve been pursuing more information from SDOT, and today they are announcing key points of the plan.

SDOT stresses that the bridge is “stable” and that the cracks’ growth has “slowed” since the bridge was closed to traffic March 23rd. But “out of an abundance of caution” they’ve devised this plan for how they would get the word out, and what people would need to do, if bridge failure seemed likely before stabilization work is complete.

What they’re releasing today is what SDOT communications director Michael Harold explained to us in an interview this morning is the “essence” of the emergency plan; the plan itself will be released “soon.” Today’s announcement first notes:

We’ve established an interagency task force to coordinate a unified emergency response if conditions of the high bridge reach critical thresholds.

The task force includes the City of Seattle, King County, Washington State, Port of Seattle, Northwest Seaport Alliance, United States Coast Guard (USCG), and the US Army Corps of Engineers.

If we must activate the task force’s unified emergency response, a unified command will be led by the Seattle Fire Department (SFD), the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), the Seattle Police Department (SPD), and USCG.

These and other agencies will work together to prioritize public safety and provide clear communication. SDOT will manage traffic operations to assist emergency response and provide consistent updates to the public. SFD will manage evacuation and, if necessary, rescue of people near the bridge. SPD will manage traffic control and assist with evacuation. USCG will manage maritime coordination and communication. Seattle Public Utilities and Seattle City Light will manage utilities to reduce impact on customers.

SDOT stresses that the “only section of the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge that currently has cracks is the highest span directly over the Duwamish River between West Seattle and Harbor Island. … The rest of the bridge is relatively stable and doesn’t currently show signs of distress.”

But just in case, the emergency plan addresses three potential scenarios:

1) Immediate evacuation to be used if the daily in-person inspections indicates enough of a change to warrant the immediate evacuation of a small number of properties, though we could
have hours or days before actual bridge failure.

2) One to five days notice to be used if the new remote monitoring instrumentation, which will be fully functioning in mid May, indicates enough of a change to warrant execution of evacuation plans within one to five days. If failure is anticipated, but not immediate, SFD and SPD will clearly communicate, via direct site visits and other platforms, when evacuation must occur.

3) Controlled demolition to be used if the change in the condition of the high bridge indicates the need for execution of an evacuation plan followed by a controlled demolition.

The #1 response would involve evacuations in what’s considered “the Fall Zone.”

In what Harold calls a “very conservative estimate,” this area was identified via “modeling potential cracking scenarios” plus adding a buffer zone – it’s an area “225’ north and south of the bridge, 225’ west of Pier 15, and 225’ east of Pier 18, and includes the Spokane Street Low Bridge, parts of Harbor Island, the Duwamish Waterway, and areas on and around West Marginal Way.” (This is the type of information that the “critical failure modeling” mentioned in Councilmember Lisa Herbold‘s update last Friday is addressing – not an estimate of when a failure could happen, but of how it might happen, IF it happened.)

Even if they don’t have to evacuate, some on Harbor Island could see travel affected, so: “It is recommended that people on Harbor Island who are non-essential leave the island using the eastern approaches if they receive any notification that the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge is at risk. Those staying should know that emergency response could potentially block vehicle access to the island.” (added 2:07 pm – traffic map)

The Fall Zone does NOT include any residential areas, not even Pigeon Point adjacent to the bridge, SDOT says. But SFD and SPD would close access to nearby roads.

A mailer is being sent later this week to all addresses within a quarter-mile of the “fall zone,” Harold says. But in the meantime, even if you’re NOT that close, everyone in West Seattle is urged to sign up for Alert Seattle – an opt-in service through which emergency messages are sent and one way through which the city will send any bridge-related emergency notification.

Today’s announcement also says any bridge-related emergency alert will also be sent through “Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) text messages … an alert system that sends text messages to all cell phones within a particular area. This is the same service that sends Amber Alerts. WEA will send text message alerts to all cell phones in the impacted area at the time of alert.” The Coast Guard also would send “an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast over VHF Channel 16 to warn mariners to avoid the Duwamish Waterway,
and they will use the USCG Alert Warning System to warn commercial operators and terminals on Harbor Island and the Duwamish Waterway.” Along with all those alerts, SDOT would also notify the media and publish warnings via its social-media channels.

But, Harold stresses yet again, they do NOT believe there is a risk of the bridge collapsing any time soon – they nonetheless have to be prepared. They’ve been installing instrumentation to enable real-time monitoring of the bridge status – in addition to continuing “near daily” inspections. We’ve asked how exactly that monitoring is being monitored, so to speak; Harold says they’ll be releasing those details this week too.

Questions? He says SDOT is ready to answer them via email or phone any time, 684-Road@seattle.gov or
206.684.ROAD (206-684-7623). Meantime, you also can find released-so-far info via the bridge-project website, where documents and information links are already archived.

105 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE CLOSURE: 3-scenario emergency plan finalized"

  • Bob Lang May 4, 2020 (12:31 pm)

    Just replace the 3 spans already and get this thing done.  7 months in Italy for an entire bridge.  3 spans should be much easier.  That way it won’t be a 10 yr bandaid.

    • Yup May 4, 2020 (2:37 pm)

      Remember to, the Italy bridge was a failure and collapsed.  They didn’t have to tear it down.  WSB will need to be shored up and then taken down. We are looking over a year just for that.So settle down people, it isn’t going to get done any sooner with complaining DAILY about it.  

      • Rick May 5, 2020 (4:42 am)

        Hey YUP, Your retirement checks are just starting to come in?

    • Eric1 May 4, 2020 (3:06 pm)

      Lol.  Everybody keeps bringing up quick bridge fixes that have nothing to do with the WSB.  Every bridge is unique from the distance spanned, what they are crossing, to the soils beneath the foundations.   I can pull up an unfavorable comparison out of my backside with equal validity.   It took 10 years to rebuild the Tacoma Narrows bridge after it failed.  Yeah. Yeah, it was a longer higher span, WSDOT bridge, 80 years ago, WW II etc… etc… we have SDOT, river bottom under foundations, and Covid.  The Italians have, well, uniquely Italian issues.   Let the engineers do their job. They are professionals and they don’t have an agenda to lie about the options they eventually come up with. We have been told multiple times that an answer is months out.  Why do people expect an answer today?  Wishing for an outcome won’t change the answer the engineers will come up with.   For all we know the bearing issue was caused by the Nisqually earthquake shifting a foundation and they will have to replace the foundations too.  Where would blindly replacing the center sections solution be in 10 years if the foundations are the actual problem and nobody looked because they rushed the job?  The bridge failure comes under the “life is a $#%^& and then you die” clause. My boss has the right attitude when it comes to getting crapped on.  She shakes her head and says “you just gotta deal with it”.  Because, in reality, nobody really cares about your particular predicament. 

      • West Seattle Mad Sci Guy May 24, 2020 (8:19 am)

        I like you. You’re the one I like. (Don’t ask. Watched a west wing episode last night where this was said and it’s what popped into my head after reading this)

    • My two cents ... May 4, 2020 (4:15 pm)

      @ bob lang: Are you saying that emergency plans for impacts resulting from a failure aren’t important or needed? Wow … 

    • Also John May 4, 2020 (8:07 pm)

      I retired at the age of 55 as a licensed civil engineer because of people like Bob.     My jaw would drop when a client (like Bob) expected something to be done yesterday.  Absolutely clueless how difficult and time consuming design and construction are.  I couldn’t take the attitude of ‘why aren’t you working 24/7/365 on my project’.   Every job is different and unique.

      • sna May 4, 2020 (10:41 pm)

        His timeline might not be realistic, but there is a valid point of deciding early on the replace vs repair option. And other important questions are:  

        Can we reuse the existing piers which would save time/money? 

        Is it necessary to replace all 3 spans or is just replacing the center span (where the cracks are) a potential option?  

        Is controlled demolition an option vs shoring if you decide to replace?

        • sna May 4, 2020 (10:48 pm)

          One other question: 

          Why is SDOT so confident that a repair would only last 10 years when non of the repair design work has been done?  I feel like they might regret saying this at some point. 

    • Eng May 5, 2020 (3:26 pm)

      Genoa bridge fell down in Aug ’18, they demolished the rest of it in Aug ’19, it is expected to open in July ’20.  How do you get 7 months?

  • WSJ May 4, 2020 (12:43 pm)

    Another day, another “SDOT isn’t doing anything!” Talking point put to rest. 

    • concernedcitizen May 4, 2020 (1:45 pm)

      People will stop complaining when we see a federal, state, county and city task force convened and money being set aside to repair or replace the High Bridge.  This is a crisis for Seattle and should be treated as an emergency.  I’m glad that we are seeing some movement by SDOT, but the city’s efforts need to be accelerated and combined with other resources to get this done ASAP.

      • Jon Wright May 4, 2020 (2:07 pm)

        No, people will never stop complaining.

        • Frog May 4, 2020 (3:32 pm)

          If nothing else, they can always complain about other people complaining.

          • Pdiddy May 4, 2020 (7:32 pm)

            I am going to complain to someone about you complaining about someone complaining about someone else. Oh damn now I need to complain about myself too! :D

      • AMD May 4, 2020 (2:33 pm)

        Let’s be honest, people aren’t going to stop complaining.  If it gets done in 6 months and even the slightest pothole appears, people will complain about the “rush job” and shoddy construction.  If it takes 2 years people will complain that it’s too slow, no matter what the actual engineering requirements are.  If it’s done in 3 months and there are no construction issues at all, people will still complain that they didn’t increase capacity or include room for light rail, or the bid process was shady, or the cost was too high or whatever.  People here complain about everything, which is probably why so many complaints get ignored.  How do you hear the valid ones over the constant din of nonsense, ill-informed, and ignorant complaining?

        • James Walker May 4, 2020 (3:53 pm)

          Couldn’t have put it better myself AMD.  The amount of sniveling over the bridge,  the 25 mph speed limits and the Stay at Home order kind of caught me off guard.  A majority of us in WS have it pretty good but you couldn’t tell by the comment sections.

          • CMT May 4, 2020 (7:59 pm)

            Seriously Janes Walker?  Adding 1+ hours to a person’s commute – one way – is a big quality of life Issue.  People have families that they will now have 2+ hours less with, per day.  Traffic is stressful.  People are not sniveling.  They are angry, disappointed and uncertain.  They are worried about their home values if they need to move in the short term.  They are worried about the impact on local businesses.  This was on no one’s radar.  Great if it doesn’t bother you and you get to feel superior but you are in the minority.  

          • WSJ May 4, 2020 (9:29 pm)

            It’s possible to be disappointed and angry without being ignorant and unreasonable. 

          • CMT May 5, 2020 (6:06 am)

            Just as it is possible to be informative without being arrogant and condescending.

        • momosmom May 4, 2020 (6:44 pm)


    • Matt P May 4, 2020 (2:17 pm)

      The Seattle process involves making lots and lots of plans before finally starting to do anything.  So while this isn’t nothing, it’s not putting to rest the fears everyone has about this process dragging out 2 or 3 times longer than it would in other places so that we’re without a bridge for a decade.

    • Chia pet May 4, 2020 (4:18 pm)

      SDOT is doing something WSJ! Completely unrelated, but they closed a few miles of residential streets so people who live on those streets can be on scooters and tricycles. What an accomplishment! Seriously stupid PR stunt. Am I supposed to get in my car and drive to those streets with my kids and bikes – park, and then enjoy them traffic free? This program affects so little people compared to the West Seattle Bridge closure.

  • skeeter May 4, 2020 (12:49 pm)

    Thanks for posting this. 
    Can someone please confirm something? 
    My concern was if the high bridge becomes unstable and in danger of
    collapse, the “lower” bridge would be closed. 
    Then we could wait months for the high bridge to actually collapse.  In the meantime, the lower bridge would not
    be available to busses, freight, emergency vehicles.  Fast forward to now.  If I understand this plan correctly, if the upper
    bridge becomes unstable to the point of possible collapse, the city would use
    explosives to do a controlled demolition of the unstable portion of the high
    bridge, to minimize the chance of the high bridge falling north onto the low
    bridge.  Under this plan, the low bridge would
    only be unavailable for a brief period of time. 
    Am I understanding this correctly? 

    • WSJ May 4, 2020 (1:41 pm)

      Basically, yes. Not really any alternatives, and because we don’t know how, or if, the upper bridge would fail, you have to plan for a all contingencies. 

      • skeeter May 4, 2020 (2:03 pm)

        thanks WSJ.  Sounds like I understand it correctly.Glad to hear the city is thinking about this possibility.  With the “high bridge” out of service, the “low bridge” is of critical importance to people who need to get to work by bike or by bus.  Not to mention freight going to/from T-5.

        • ACG May 4, 2020 (6:21 pm)

          Luckily West Seattle is a peninsula and not an island, so buses and bikes can follow the detours that have been established for commuters getting in and out of Seattle if the low bridge becomes unusable. WSB has the detours posted in lots of different articles if you need to reference the routes. It is inconvenient, yes, but not impossible. Bikers could take the water taxi, or put their bikes on buses if pedaling the detour is too far. Some emergency medical services may need to be routed to Highline Hospital in Burien instead of the downtown campuses, and Highline should prepare for that (at least I hope they would be setting up a plan in that situation).  Not the first choice of hospital for some, but in an emergency situation, that can be an option. I know nothing about freight and Harbor Island, but I’m sure someone is looking at options if there are any.  

          • Wsres May 4, 2020 (11:33 pm)

            I would take care of myself before utilizing Highline, one of the worst medical care facilities in the region. And buses are helpful, but have hi left west SEATTLE recently? Today at 12pm when 80k people aren’t going to work, it took me 1hr to get to Mercer Island and home again. Bus commuters will be like 2 hrs each way.

          • ACG May 5, 2020 (8:45 am)

            What you say is true… commute times will be worse. Duh. It is going to be worse for everyone. No one is happy. My point was to say that it is not impossible if the low bridge closes. Transit riders and bicyclists will have to adjust, as does everyone else. There is no magic flying bus or bicycle that will carry you over the water. It sucks, the commute will suck and you’ll need to deal with it. Sorry to break the bad news if transit riders and bicyclists hadn’t considered that reality yet IF the low bridge had to close. Highline may not be the hospital of choice for many (not mine either). But if you have a patient who is in cardiac arrest or having an ischemic stroke, time is of the essence and Highline could be an option.  Again, that’s my point- things are not impossible with no low bridge- but certainly not ideal.  If the low bridge closes and you still want the emergency vehicles to follow the detour and then head back into downtown for one of the hospitals there (to avoid the faster trip to Highline), then you probably should be sure to let your family know that so they can tell the paramedics In case of an emergency. Or have some sort of easily found directive for first responders if you live alone. You most certainly have that right to request to be taken to the medical center of your choice.

          • skeeter May 5, 2020 (10:27 am)

            If the low bridge closes, my guess is it will take at least 3 hours (one way) to take a bus from, say, the Junction to the 1st Ave South bridge once traffic resumes normal levels.  It will be complete gridlock in Highland Park with backups for a mile.  The only reasonable alternative will be the water taxi.  It is unbelievably critical to keep the low bridge open for busses and freight.   

    • BBILL May 4, 2020 (2:16 pm)

      Under this plan, a “controlled demolition” would only take place if the condition of the bridge deteriorated to the point where there is no other option.

  • sna May 4, 2020 (12:53 pm)

    It’s weird that the city has mislabeled the locations of piers 18 & 19 in these images.  What’s shown as pier 19 is actually pier 18.  And pier 19 is further to the east.

    • WSB May 4, 2020 (1:57 pm)

      I’ll ask SDOT about this.

      • sna May 4, 2020 (4:15 pm)

        They fixed it in their blog

        • WSB May 4, 2020 (5:24 pm)

          They sent me a note saying that – I’ve been out a while on other stuff. Will update above shortly. Thanks.

      • Bob Lang May 4, 2020 (4:34 pm)

        Please let us know this asap.  I’d they don’t know which pier is which, and mislabeled them, I will have lost ALL confidence in this dept.  

        • Question Authority May 4, 2020 (5:36 pm)

          Really, you want the replacement done right and even a misprint has you throwing in the towel.

        • BBILL May 4, 2020 (10:43 pm)

          The piers were not exactly mislabeled, but if you look at the image (still present at 10:42 pm), the location is a little off, and thus the “fall zone” is shown smaller than it actually is. I mean to some extent I agree, but the engineers probably are not the ones creating the graphics. None-the-less I’d hope a graphic artist could simply see that where they labeled the piers are not where the piers are.

          • WSB May 4, 2020 (11:34 pm)

            I replaced #2 with what the city corrected, hours ago, but apparently also need to replace #1. (They tried to send the fixed maps directly to us but the files were too large, so I have to just pull from their post.)

  • zephyr May 4, 2020 (1:19 pm)

    Thanks for such an excellent presentation of the information.  Those photos and graphics really are helpful. 

  • Js May 4, 2020 (2:00 pm)

    Go Genoa! Please send the spirit of Christopher Columbus and fix our bridge. Check out bridge in Italy. Same circumstances and they had fatalities. We can use Prime and save on shipping.Just OK your order.

  • Jennie May 4, 2020 (2:30 pm)

    Does anyone know how the Schmitz Park and Fairmont ravine bridges are holding up and if they have been checked recently?

    • MikeRussellFoto May 4, 2020 (3:32 pm)

      There were a couple guys in bright vests and hard hats appearing to be inspecting the Admiral Bridge over Fairmount Ave as recently as late last week. Could not see exactly who they were working for and didn’t see their vehicle parked nearby. But they seemed to paying close attention to one of the seams towards the western side, in the WB lane. Taking photos and such.

  • Richard May 4, 2020 (3:05 pm)

    The navigational clearance of the high bridge is 140 feet (the low bridge is 45 feet).  The U.S. Coast Guard’s “Bridge Clearance Guide” lists the Duwamish Waterway at 112 feet.  The guide also notes, “They (clearance guides) are not intended to be regulatory in nature or to form a legal basis for approving or denying a bridge permit application.”

    If a re-build is needed for the 3 highest sections I would hope they would consider lowering the bridge by 20 or 30 feet.  Container barges could still pass under a 110 foot bridge although they might “only” be able to stack 4 containers instead of 6 or 8.

    A 110 foot bridge would COST LESS, be completed MORE QUICKLY, & be SAFER especially in the event of an earthquake or very high winds.  I see no benefit for WS residents to have a 140 foot bridge when the Coast Guard guidance across the Duwamish is only 112 feet.

    You can google “Coast Guard bridge clearance guide” to review their 35 page Word document.

    • WSJ May 4, 2020 (4:19 pm)

       A 110 foot bridge would COST LESS, be completed MORE QUICKLY, & be SAFER especially in the event of an earthquake or very high winds.  ”A baseless, ignorant, and useless observation. The height of the replaces span has almost no impact on the cost and speed of a fix. If the existing foundations are used, why would lowering them help in any way?

      • WSJoe May 4, 2020 (7:59 pm)

        Does that mean that the replacement bridge must be 140 feet high underneath?  Or are you suggesting that the bridge should not be replaced?

        • WSJ May 4, 2020 (10:45 pm)

          The height of the replacement should be a small consideration on the overall plan. Permitting and right of way will be easier to deal with if the height doesn’t go lower, but cost, time, and structural design should be much higher priority. All things being equal, or doesn’t matter how high it is, but it will be harder to get it approved if it lowers the max height. 

      • WSJoe May 4, 2020 (8:13 pm)

        There must be an actual maximum height of vessels that have used the waterway.  That should be the basis for thinking about a replacement height, not what the Port of Seattle believed in the late ’70s would be the future height of container ships visiting container terminals that they planned to build in the ’80s.

    • BBILL May 4, 2020 (4:29 pm)

      Does a replacement that is just as tall need Coast Guard approval? Does lowering the bridge need Coast Guard approval? In terms of completion time, what options are quicker?

    • Joe G May 4, 2020 (5:54 pm)

      If you lower the height of the ‘high bridge’ you will need to close both cement plants as both get visited by 20k ton freighters a number of times a year. Additionally some tall cranes go up river and they just clear the high bridge now. The ‘low bridge’ was designed as a double leaf swing bridge to allow for development of the river. All that would stop. The ultimate ya or na rests with the USCG. If they want a 110 foot clearance they get it. Federal law is clear. No bridge can obstruct a navigable water way. It’s the same law that gives one sail boat or one tug priority over a long line of cars or a few bikes. 

    • Ken May 4, 2020 (6:04 pm)

      Don’t tell that to SDOT and the USCG.  They’d no doubt get together on some back room deal with the engineering firm and contractor to make a 180 foot or 200 foot bridge.  If a 140 foot bridge was never appropriate, nor required, you can be pretty sure that the alternative will be far more colossal.  Why?  Well, a lifetime of the unpleasant realities of living in Seattle pretty much indicates that’s how things are done around here.  

      • BBILL May 4, 2020 (10:46 pm)

        If there is a reason, a future need, for 180 or 200 foot clearance, then the time to change is when a new bridge is being approved.

  • GW May 4, 2020 (3:22 pm)

    I see no contingency plan in place for the 87,000 commuters who use the high bridge every day.  Where will they go?  The one lane W Marginal Way detour will be backed up for miles heading out as will the Highland/W Marginal Way intersection heading back.  A trip to Downtown Seattle will take 2 hours each way.  With lower bridge off limits to commuters, a plan is needed for when the stay at home order is lifted.Is there something I am not seeing or are we heading for a massive crisis that the City Council is not paying attention to.  Where is the plan?      

    • sw May 4, 2020 (3:34 pm)

      @GW – we’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you’re not a frequent WSB reader.  This has been discussed ad nauseam – the existing infrastructure simply cannot accommodate 87,000 car trips a day.  Period.  There is nowhere to put in “new” roads to accommodate traffic.  Additional bridges cannot be added over the Duwamish because it needs to remain a navigable waterway.  Things will be a mess for 2+ years, and you’ll have to find a way to be okay with it because there are no alternatives.

    • Um, No! May 4, 2020 (3:40 pm)

      Other than some tweaks to current lanes, lights and intersections I’m not sure what else they can do.  We only have a very limit number of  lanes of traffic to get off the peninsula.  It’s not like they can snap their fingers and create more roads.  Increasing buses will help a little but I’m guessing buses are not an option for a large portion of our community.  And before bikers chime in, neither are bikes.   Bottom line it’s going to be terrible for a couple/few years.   That being said,  I hope to city is active in making things move as best as possible.  Adjust light timing,  re-stripe lanes,  put officers at some intersections during rush hour, etc. It would be nice to see a a more detailed plan in this regard.  Things are quite now but in another few weeks when we move into Phase 2,  traffic will start to increase.  It’s coming fast. 

    • Jon Wright May 4, 2020 (4:18 pm)

      I’m afraid by holding out hope that there is some solution out there that will magically accommodate the 84,000 vehicle trips that used the West Seattle Bridge you appear to be in the denial stage of grief (see The Five Stages of Grief™️). There is no physical way the remaining roads can handle that many cars and there is absolutely nothing the City Council (or anybody else) can do to change that. Until the bridge is back in service, yes, driving in and out of West Seattle is going to be brutal. The sooner you get through denial, anger, bargaining, and depression the sooner you will get to acceptance and can start figuring out how you are going to adapt.

    • skeeter May 4, 2020 (4:29 pm)

      GW – you are asking good questions.  I do not think the city has a plan.  Personally I think your 2 hour estimate to downtown Seattle is optimistic.  Maybe at 8pm.  I do not have that kind of time.  I’m taking Jort’s advice and biking to work rain or shine.  The low bridge is still open to bikes.  For those not able to bike, I think the best bet is to drive to Andover/Delridge, park,  walk across the lower bridge, then take an Uber to your destination.  This will be *way* faster than attempting to drive across the 1st avenue south bridge.  

    • BBILL May 4, 2020 (4:34 pm)

      “Emergency planning” is about protecting life and property from reasonably expected events that do not happen every day. For example, there is no threat of you or your car falling off the high bridge when it is closed, so there is no emergency plan for that, but there is a threat that the bridge could collapse on people and property below, so thus, emergency plans are in place for such event. Also rain is a regular event, so there is no “emergency plan” for something that happens frequently. Beyond that, what type of “emergency planning” do you expect?

    • onion May 4, 2020 (4:35 pm)

      GW, The report and proposed emergency plan are just about one piece of the puzzle posed by the bridge mess. Tackling the traffic mess will have to be dealt with a larger, more complicated transportation plan. But I think you will agree that not having the high bridge fall down on the low bridge is an important consideration in any transportation plan that the city develops. 

    • Jort May 4, 2020 (4:39 pm)

      You are right – we are absolutely heading for a massive crisis that is totally and completely preventable! There is no possible way for the 100,000 vehicles that used that bridge daily to be absorbed into alternative routes.  This is not in any universe a feasible option! You could throw every dollar in the world into it and you’re still not going to be able to have everybody keep driving. Those vehicles will immediately need to be parked or put into storage. You could, however, develop subsidized transit and cycling opportunities for every West Seattle citizen, and greatly expand the infrastructure and frequency so that it is a viable option. The car will no longer be a viable option, flatly, period, end of story, no debate, so our city leaders need to immediately begin plans for how to get the entire population of West Seattle on and off this peninsula with buses and bikes, and soon. Anybody promising you a solution for you and your individual car is lying to your face. That world is a fairy tale unicorn world. 

      • chemist May 4, 2020 (6:55 pm)

        I agree with Jort on this, I want to hear from the city about a commitment to triple the number of peak hour bus seats in and out of West Seattle and institute measures to safely accommodate 10x the seasonal peak daily number of folks crossing the low bridge on bike (1,500 at the bike counter going to 15,000).  This might include bike speed restrictions/more dedicated traffic signals for bikes and revisions to places where bus stops and bike lanes intersect too.

      • CMT May 4, 2020 (8:03 pm)

        Agree with respect to buses.  While bike ease and safety should always be a consideration, it is unfortunately just not an option that many will consider in our rainy hilly city.

    • psps May 4, 2020 (4:55 pm)

      The usual Seattle plan is to ditch the car and ride a bike or take the bus. I guess if that’s not possible for you, then you’re just not “with it,” or something like that.

    • Plan? May 4, 2020 (4:55 pm)

      There is no way to move 100k cars across the Duwamish every day with just the 1st Ave and SP bridges. Period. No magic plan, no clever idea we just haven’t thought of, no quick fix. None. It’s physically impossible, and the sooner you accept that, the sooner you can start adapting to the new reality. Screaming about it being unacceptable just means you can’t accept it, the solution to which is entirely inside of your own head: acceptance. 

    • Ernie May 4, 2020 (5:25 pm)

      Obviously GW, there is no magical solution brought about by a “contingency plan”.  West Seattle is limited by being a peninsula with a fully developed road system and only two convenient bridges to downtown Seattle.  What would your contingency plan be to accomadate 87,000 vehicles?

  • Ms. Shaw May 4, 2020 (4:17 pm)

    GW – The way I see the contingency plan is that West Seattle HAS TO CHANGE the way we get on and off the Peninsula. Our normal way of doing things will NOT be normal for 2 to 10 years out. It wasn’t our decision to have the bridge fail. The only decision we have is to move out of West Seattle. OR change where we need to get to. OR change how we get there. OR change when we need to get there. But West Seattle has to change. And that’s even IF the City Council is paying attention. 

  • WSCurmudgeon May 4, 2020 (4:26 pm)

    The Morandi Bridge in Genoa collapsed 14 Aug 2018. 
    There was no warning, and 43 people were killed.   Consider that before you complain about this situation.

    As to time until replacement: The replacement bridge is not reopened to traffic. It is scheduled to reopen in July.  If you assume the 1st of July 2020, that’s 687 days after the collapse.  Given the size and complexity of the project, this is a record short time to rebuild.

    The WS Bridge closed 23 Mar 2020. 687 days will elapse 8 Feb 2022.  

    • Tsurly May 5, 2020 (6:44 am)

      Well said, and thanks for pointing this out. 

  • Mark Schletty May 4, 2020 (4:36 pm)

    The one thing I was earlier considering mentioning, at risk of being attacked by the engineering and SDOT fans, is something they did in Italy. They built the new bridge parallel to, and I think, about 20 feet from the existing bridge. They did it while they were demoing the old bridge. I don’t know if that is feasible here, but I do hope it is being considered. I’m pretty sure that would speed up the process if our bridge needs demolition. Sorry for not being an expert.

    • WSJ May 4, 2020 (5:30 pm)

      That depends completely on what the replacement looks like, which we have no way of planning yet because we don’t know what’s broken, or why. If the existing foundations and approaches are used, then replacing the span is “easy”, or if the whole thing needs to be torn down, it gets harder. The Genoa bridge lent itself to pre-fab sections because the whole thing was getting replaced, and there was space to build it that way. Until we know what needs fixed, it’s impossible to know what would be expedient, or cheap, for us. 

    • KM May 4, 2020 (6:19 pm)

      This is how parts of the new Bay Bridge between Oakland and SF were rebuilt–but the major difference there was the wide-open space. I also am not an engineer, so here’s my non-expert opinion: I think the main problem for our bridge is what’s beneath it. They couldn’t build northbound over Harbor Island without rebuilding parts of the structure that are healthy, assuming they had the right of way and could build north of the Spokane Street Bridge. If the went South, they would take out Nucor, business on Harbor Island, and likely have some big issues building around Pigeon Point and conflict with the railroads. I imagine the land acquisition there would be a major cost problem. 

    • BBILL May 4, 2020 (6:51 pm)

      First of all, to build any new bridge above navigable water one must first get Coast Guard approval, and that could take 3 to 5 years. Beyond that, what needs to be shown is that building another bridge 140 feet in the air is better (quicker & cost is another factor) than all other options.

  • Ernie May 4, 2020 (6:10 pm)

    A few other interesting notes about the Morandi Bridge:It was a symbol of Italian pride when it was built in the 1960s and became a symbol of Italian malaise when it suddenly failed killing 43 and leaving 600 people homeless.  It took a year to come up with the replacement plan.  A starchitect  from Genoa, Renzo Piano, offered his services to design the new 1,000 year life bridge, restoring Italy’s pride.The Italians worked 24 hours a day to complete the new bridge.I wish Seattle could come together in such manner.  Would we wait a whole year for the new plan?  Would we enlist one of our great architects for a world class design?  Would West Seattleites put up with 24 hour construction noise for a bridge?  These are the commitments that define a city.  Can we step up?

    • WSJ May 4, 2020 (10:51 pm)

      Well said, also, do we have the $ for that kind of speed (short answer:no)? The company that built the Genoa bridge was a state-owned steel company. It would be like enlisting Boeing to use it’s carbon fiber tech to build us a new bridge for cheap working 3 shifts a day because we could force them to. 

  • when May 4, 2020 (6:12 pm)

    I’ve noticed a few people mentioning that the bus is “not an option” for them, why is that? Just wondering, what would need to change to make it an option?

    • flimflam May 4, 2020 (9:36 pm)

      less virus, for a start…

    • Waughtown May 4, 2020 (9:45 pm)

      Perhaps it has something to do with that pesky global pandemic. Call me naive, but a vaccine to The Rona might get some more people on the bus.

    • ARPigeonPoint May 5, 2020 (10:19 am)

      I had given up on the bus a more than a year ago due to overcrowding, inconsistency, and getting sick all the time, in addition to DAILY carsickness. I’m high risk. The bus is not an option for me and I was paying a ridiculous amount of money (that I really couldn’t afford) to park downtown (no, a bike is also not an option for me). I live steps from the bridge, so I’m assuming that it’s going to take me 2 hours each way to get to my job up by the convention center. I plan to *beg* my employers to allow me to continue working from home, but I’m not holding out hope.

  • JayDee May 4, 2020 (6:21 pm)

    Read this article about the Italian bridge collapse and reconstruction:Note that it had similar steel-concrete construction. Failure was linked to corrosion of steel imbebbed in concrete. And no applicable https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/italy-genoa-new-bridge/index.html

  • Thaddaeus Brophy May 4, 2020 (6:38 pm)

    How about a roundabout at the 5-way intersection?  

    Under many traffic conditions, a roundabout operates with less delay than signalised or all-way stop approaches. Roundabouts do not stop all entering vehicles, reducing both individual and queuing delays. Throughput further improves because drivers proceed when traffic is clear without waiting for a signal to change.”


    Though it would require tearing-out a lot of ground immediately adjacent to the intersection, if this is something that we might have to live with for several years, it would collectively save many tens-of-thousands of hours in wait times.

    • Chemist May 5, 2020 (1:52 am)

      I think the volumes of traffic are going to be too high for a while.  Also, double-length buses and trucks don’t always agree with roundabouts like this.  I’d also be concerned about bikes/pedestrians crossing and a vehicle in the roundabout deciding to full-stop and wait to exit.

      • KM May 5, 2020 (10:38 am)

        Great points, chemist.

      • Thaddaeus Brophy May 5, 2020 (6:26 pm)

        Any issue with large busses could be addressed by a combination of (a) “bus priority signals” (as roundabouts can have lights active under some conditions) and/or (b) “cut-outs” on sides of the center circle to permit a more direct path from one street to another.

  • Derek James Ross May 4, 2020 (8:46 pm)

    Thank god the bus routes are barely affected. At least we can get into the city then Uber or train. Northgate train almost done soon.

  • Bradley May 4, 2020 (9:29 pm)

    “The rest of the bridge is relatively stable”

    Really? That’s not very confidence-inspiring. Just tear it down, already. It can’t be used for 21+ months, anyway, and those months can be used for a replacement build. Stop the madness.

    • BBILL May 4, 2020 (10:57 pm)

      ‘relatively stable’ means that the emergency planning may stop at pier 14 to the west and 19 to the east–in other words, the structures west of 14 and east of 19 are expected to withstand and remain standing through a catastrophic failure anywhere between piers 15 and 18. SDOT has not suggested there is any problem outside of the section between 14 and 19, so no catastrophic failure is expected there. As has been extensively discussed, bridges have been know to unexpectedly and suddenly fail.

      • Bradley May 5, 2020 (12:16 pm)

        No, they don’t unexpectedly fail. There’s no excuses here. I’m an engineer and there are that sort of illogical thinking is unacceptable.

  • 1994 May 4, 2020 (11:32 pm)

    Instead of all the time and funds needed to shore it up, why not immediately begin removing the bad section….that in itself may take 2 years. During the 2 years needed for removal a brilliant team can design the replacement section. Sounds too easy doesn’t it? Just an armchair MacGyver suggestion.

    • chemist May 5, 2020 (12:43 am)

      It has been answered many times before, but generally not stated by SDOT so bluntly, but the bridge is so cracked that they have to take actions to shore it up so they can have the machinery on it to do any repair or removal work.  Proximity to other important structures and being over navigable water means they can’t just collapse it and pick up pieces.  The bridge was constructed without the weight of the decking prior to the full arch being completed and I bet they’ll need to remove decking to reduce weight if they end up needing to disassemble it.    

  • West Seattle Harold May 5, 2020 (7:35 am)

    How do people feel about tolls to pay for whatever it takes to get the bridge back?  

    • Derek May 5, 2020 (10:25 am)

      No doubt will be happening anyways. Though “Go2Go” is a state-ran thing and WSB is SDOT…I still think state help will be needed. I doubt it stays open long even when they open the patched bridge in 2022. Probably lasts until 2024 at latest before they go “yep gotta do a full re-do”

    • S - In West Seattle May 5, 2020 (10:48 am)

      No tolls. 

    • tsurly May 5, 2020 (11:50 am)

      Yes on a toll, but to ensure fair treatment, I also think tolls should be applied to other city bridges (eg Ballard, Fremont, Magnolia, Montlake etc).

      • Chemist May 5, 2020 (2:19 pm)

        A bit of a tangent, but the talk of tolls reminds me of the one-suggested-for-tunnel-opening Good To Go “Pay As You Go” option.  Not the biggest transportation worry, but maybe worth a follow-up contact to WSDOT to ask when that’ll happen Tracy.https://westseattleblog.com/2019/10/highway-99-tolling-in-2-weeks-viaduct-remainders/Or, you can wait until later this summer to open your account. We will be introducing a new payment option, called Pay As You Go, which does not require a $30 Pre-Paid balance. Your tolls will be charged to your credit card after traveling the toll facility.”

  • Ingolf Stern May 5, 2020 (10:07 am)

    I live in Kitsap.I remember this entire discussion.It took YEARS to rebuild the Narrows Bridge.We just stopped thinking about it for a while.The new bridge is EXCELLENT.But we had to forget about it during construction.Forget about it.Forget about the bridge. It will be YEARS before you regain easy driving to Seattle.You’ll be INSANE if you keep thinking about it.This bridge thing is just a snippet in the comedy/tragedy montage that is 2020.Now with murder wasps.Maybe enjoy your newly-quieter neighborhood?

  • Emily May 5, 2020 (1:52 pm)

    I am a health care provider with a 5 day/week commute to first hill. I purchased an e bike a few weeks ago as that felt like my best and only feasible commute option. I rode to work for the first time last week and, and as a pretty seasoned bike commuter in the past, there are parts of my route that felt very unsafe, particularly in West Seattle heading south on Fauntleroy and California where there is no designated bike lane.  While bike commuting is something I have done in the past and am motivated to do now, this stretch in particular feels death defying (not to mention E Marginal way, which is far from perfect).  My prior commute from Wallingford to First Hill felt much more safe with a designated bike lane that, in some areas, was completely buffered from cars. Does anyone have any thoughts in terms of whether the infrastructure of this section will be improved for cyclists or suggestions for alternative routes to head south from Trader Joes toward Lincoln Park? Thank you.

    • WSB May 5, 2020 (2:02 pm)

      Emily, thank you for your work. We published rider groups’ take on the situation here:
      If a helpful reader here doesn’t jump in with advice, I know West Seattle Bike Connections would be happy to help – their contact info is at

    • West Seattle Harold May 5, 2020 (9:41 pm)

      Assuming you ride up Avalon and then head down Fauntleroy, consider this longer but safer option:Instead of climbing Avalon, go north on the Alki Trail, all the way around, past Anchor Park, past the Statue of Liberty, past Mee-Kwa-Mooks park, and climb up Jacobsen St.  You’ll be on bike lanes the whole way to Jacobsen St.Climb up Jacobsen.  It’s not a bike lane, maybe should be, but has little traffic.At the top of Jacobsen, turn south (right) on 49th Ave.  It’s typically quiet and pleasant.Turn east (left) onto Graham St and continue to California Ave.Take California Ave south a couple of blocks to Fauntleroy. 

    • Ice May 6, 2020 (3:07 pm)

      I agree that California Ave and Fauntleroy completely suck on a bike. I’d really like to try to help you here, but I am having a bit of a hard time wrapping my head around where you are starting. Which neighborhood are you starting in? I also assume you use google maps for bike directions.

      • Ice May 6, 2020 (3:17 pm)

        I reread your message a few times and I think I get where you are going now. Around Lincoln park is your final destination. One idea is to go through the junction, hit Erksine then get onto  48th ave heading south. You’d avoid Fauntleroy entirely and be on the only part of California that feels safe (to me) for a single block.

  • Js May 5, 2020 (3:00 pm)

    Ok. Maybe we go a different direction. Lets embrace our station in life. Instead of being cutoff . We become an exclusive neighborhood. We bike, ride horses, quads, walk, run, hang glide. We can become a healthy bohemian cult.   People will love it. We can have farms, and clothing optional days. We fish and hunt and have giant potlucks.  Children can walk safely in the streets. We vet anyone trying to come in. Sign a pact to do no harm, crime, or theft.

  • bfly May 5, 2020 (8:38 pm)

    I would like to hear the detour plan for when they close W. Marginal to do the shoring up and demolition of the high brdge.  Length of time mainly.  I know we’ll be using Delridge, 35th & California to detour South to Highland or Roxbury for the most part, depending where you’re coming from.  Even just a timeline would be nice.

    • S - in West Seattle May 6, 2020 (12:55 pm)

      Good luck on 35th at rush hour. They under the dead of night, so to speak changed the speed to 25mph on 35th, wtf really. It is more important now days to keep traffic moving. 

  • scouser May 15, 2020 (5:12 pm)

    why are they spending money to repair bearing on pier 18 when  they say no decision has been made to either stabilize or replace the bridge.  If they do repair bearing seems to me they have made the decision to stabilize the bridge so we can go through this same process in 10 years, as this is their estimate of how long bridge will last 

Sorry, comment time is over.