WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE CLOSURE: 4 updates from Councilmember Herbold’s newsletter

(Photo by Jim Edwards)

Four more West Seattle Bridge updates tonight, this time from West Seattle/South Park City Councilmember Lisa Herbold. They’re in her weekly newsletter (which is also online here); she begins with the stabilization-contractor announcement, reported here last night, and continues:

Bridge Monitoring

SDOT’s instrumentation consultant, BDI, measured crack depths on the sides of the box girders where they meet the deck and also used ultra-sonic pulse echo imaging and ground penetrating radar to help in understanding if there is any weakness in the steel rope that holds the bridge in compression.

On April 22, SDOT’s design consultant, WSP, provided an estimate of rate of crack growth as well as a critical failure projection. WSP also continues work on a decision tree to inform the question of whether or not to replace or repair the bridge.

SDOT also is installing additional structural health instrumentation (such as crack-width gauges, strain gauges and high-resolution cameras). This is mostly complete and will allow for a clearer definition of the condition of the bridge, and which path to pursue.

I’ve asked how the rate of crack growth informs the question of whether or not to replace or repair the bridge, and about the critical failure projection.

Road/Traffic Update

SDOT paved and reconfigured the 5-way intersection below the West Seattle Bridge last weekend; average daily traffic on the low bridge is down to 6,480 vehicles per day, approximately the same as the baseline. Here is the most recent traffic data we’ve received, with West Marginal and Idaho, and Highland Park and Marginal showing significantly higher than usual volumes:

SDOT has installed new controllers, added communications to signals, and tweaked signal timing in both the Roxbury and 35th corridors, and has upgraded these intersections over the past two weeks:

Chelan 5-Way Intersection
17th Ave SW & SW Roxbury St
16th Ave SW/Delridge & SW Roxbury St
15th Ave SW & SW Roxbury St
35th Ave SW & SW Thistle St

SDOT also noted they are planning to improve operations at the following intersections over the next few weeks:

30th Ave SW & SW Roxbury St
26th Ave SW & SW Roxbury St
20th Ave SW & SW Roxbury St
8th Ave SW & SW Roxbury St
35th Ave SW & SW Roxbury St
35th Ave SW & SW Barton St
35th Ave SW & SW Henderson St
35th Ave SW & SW Trenton St
16th Ave SW & SW Austin St
16th Ave SW & SW Holden St
35th Ave SW & SW Kenyon St
35th Ave SW & SW Holden St
35th Ave SW & SW Webster St
35th Ave SW & SW Myrtle St
35th Ave SW & SW Holly St
35th Ave SW & SW Morgan St
35th Ave SW & SW Raymond St
35th Ave SW & SW Findlay St

Changes include allowing SDOT to manage signals from a central location, rather than needing to go to the signal to manually make changes.

Town Hall Question Totals

For the Town Hall held last week, over 1000 questions and comments were submitted: 133 on the use of the lower bridge, 156 on traffic management, 212 on transit (including ferries), 63 on whether to repair or replace, 209 on process and oversight, and 254 on multiple subjects, or other items. My office is continuing to organize the suggestions.

Letter to Washington State Ferries

I sent a letter to Washington State Ferries, linked here, asking that they consider re-directing some of the ferry traffic from Vashon and/or Southworth, that usually travels to the Fauntleroy ferry dock, to Downtown Seattle instead; and that they consider trips from Fauntleroy to Downtown, and options suggested by the public.

The letter notes that during some previous years, for example 1981, 1993 and 2002, eastbound ferry traffic has been diverted to Downtown on a temporary basis. Thanks to the community members who assisted with this research.

SDOT info, meantime, is on the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge Safety Project website; our coverage since the bridge closure March 23rd is all archived here.

69 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE CLOSURE: 4 updates from Councilmember Herbold's newsletter"

  • buglarbustindad May 1, 2020 (8:34 pm)

    The failed bearings are the key….are contractors  involved?

    Peter Kiewit?

    • WSB May 1, 2020 (8:39 pm)

      Reported last night; link’s in the first paragraph above.

    • Also John May 2, 2020 (3:03 pm)

      Are you pushing for your family name to be involved in the project.   ☺  As a retired engineer I remember Kiewit being a good firm.

  • CC May 1, 2020 (8:40 pm)

    I’m an essential employee who commutes south.  I have already noticed an incredible increase in traffic towards south 99.  It’s apparent that my usual commute, which took 40 minutes prior to the bridge closure, will soon take 1.5 hours or more.  Anything that relieves the backup would be appreciated 

    • Commuter513 May 1, 2020 (10:01 pm)

      Amazon has asked everyone who is able to work from home until October 2 but that may change as things improve in Seattle. Unfortunately there won’t be much anyone can do to improve your commute. The best and most realistic option will be to move closer to your job. 

      • Joe Paschke May 2, 2020 (8:01 am)

        Great solution!!! Move… that is some seriously disconnected thinking. 

        • Annie May 2, 2020 (11:42 am)

          What would you like suggested? West Seattle is now a Island

          • WSreader May 2, 2020 (2:08 pm)

            Well, there’s always the answer of “Take a deep breath, and deal with life being different for a few years.”I used to work in Bellevue, living here in WS. I accepted that the commute sucked. Life continued. Some years later, I work downtown, and the commute improved! And now, I work from home, and the commute is amazing! And in a few months, it will change again.No need to move. Things will change whether you want it to or not.

          • Hammer in hand May 2, 2020 (6:56 pm)

            By definition we are a peninsula 

        • Also John May 2, 2020 (3:08 pm)

          I have a renter that has already told me they’re ‘moving’ when the lease is up.  Looks like moving is an option.

      • Swc May 2, 2020 (2:10 pm)

        Silly and ignorant comment, we own a home here and daughter will be a senior Next year, so just sell my house and move, because the leadership can’t get it together, truly a dumb commenti have held senior leadership roles, and believe me if my track record was similar to some of these city officials I would have been fired.perfomance and accountability are not metics that are expected

    • Chelsea May 2, 2020 (2:13 pm)

      Agreed! Where do you commute to? I am also essential.

  • HP resident May 1, 2020 (8:47 pm)

    Sometime before COVID and the bridge closure (it’s hard to say when exactly, but within the last 3 months), we received notice of planned improvements to the intersection @ 16th and Holden. I didn’t save the flyer, unfortunately, but I think it mentioned left turn signals, or at least better lane designations. Aside from what’s mentioned above, I haven’t heard anything more about it. Any idea what improvements are planned exactly? 

  • Morgan May 1, 2020 (8:53 pm)

    Appreciate the letter writing to WSDOT ferries…now what about King County Water Taxis? Rebuild the mosquito fleet!

    • Chelsea May 2, 2020 (2:15 pm)

      I agree. I just wish it had been sent sooner than May 1!!
      And if someone had proofread the letter that would have been good too. Jus sayin.

  • BBILL May 1, 2020 (8:58 pm)

    It would be nice if she would explain the percentages in her chart. Additionally, it would be nice to have the exact location and direction of the counter.

    • KM May 2, 2020 (8:13 am)

      The percentages represents the increase or decrease in traffic volumes. If the amount of traffic has decreased from the initially measurement “baseline”, there’s a minus sign before the percentage number (e.g. change in volumes for the South Park Bridge from the “baseline” to “current” columns.)

      • BBILL May 2, 2020 (2:32 pm)

        8,338 is -19% of what?

        • come on May 3, 2020 (10:40 am)

          The percentage is the increase/decrease since the last measurement. Negative is decrease. Surprised that people transcribe numbers but not give a 2nd thought to actually reading what they’re copying. I guess the world needs engineers AND ditch diggers. 

  • beanie May 1, 2020 (9:02 pm)

    On April 22, SDOT’s design consultant, WSP, provided an estimate of rate of crack growth as well as a critical failure projection.”

    Does anyone know if their estimates and projections have been made public?

    • WSB May 1, 2020 (9:23 pm)

      They have not. We’ll be asking, of course. as (she mentions two paragraphs later) the councilmember says she has.

  • Matt P May 1, 2020 (9:19 pm)

    The large increase at W Marginal and Idaho does not bode well for when we reopen.

  • Charlie May 1, 2020 (9:35 pm)

    I’ve noticed that since they restriped the 5 way intersection the traffic flow has improved dramatically. I’ve rarely waited longer than 30 seconds to go through to west marginal way. For all of the commenters that were bashing SDOT as idiots, incompetent, and worse, and who predicted that narrowing the traffic from marginal to Spokane to 1 lane was idiotic, you’ve all been proven wrong. I think you owe a mea culpa and apology to the folks at SDOT. I have my beefs with the department but face it, they are professionals who know what they are doing. Time to be decent people and apologize like your parents taught you.

    • dsa May 1, 2020 (10:09 pm)

      Charlie, why does it take an emergency for SDOT to do what they should have done at the Chelan IC years ago?

      • BBILL May 1, 2020 (11:39 pm)


    • AdmiralBridge May 2, 2020 (8:18 am)

      I think a lot of the concern about SDOT is either speed (some would say funding) or ability to handle large projects (e.g. keep vital bridges open, streetcars the same size as the track they bought, etc.).  Bike lanes and re-striping seems to be ok.   That being said, I do think they did a good job with the reconfiguration of the 5-way interchange and I too have noticed a good flow.  Eliminating the merge lane in front of the cafe will actually speed things up and reduce road rage.  Now if the people that think they’re cute with the “Delridge fake” and  merge into the existing 2 lanes to W Marginal would just stop and wait your turn would be appreciated, particularly by the transit buses waiting that can take a right onto the lower bridge.

    • Tp May 2, 2020 (10:01 am)

      I agree that so far heading out of West Seattle seems to be flowing pretty well. However, coming back into west seattle is not.  I dont think theres anything to do about it, however before we call SDOT geniuses let’s take all the information into account. I often sit at that light for multiple cycles coming home. 

    • PigeonPointer May 2, 2020 (12:38 pm)

      Sorry to disappoint but the intersection is still not capable of handling the flow of traffic. Last night I had a house guest heading home via Marginal. She sat at the light for 4 full cycles because there was a train crossing on the north. She was in the lane to turn right on Marginal, but because the first car was heading straight (which was blocked by the train) they sat there for over 15 minutes not moving an inch because there is no dedicated turn lane. She ended up turning around and headed south to Highland Park. This added almost 30 minutes on to her drive home to Columbia City at 8:30 pm.  What’s going to happen when there’s a train in the morning during rush hour? Marginal will be completely inaccessible from Delridge. Not to mention if the lower bridge is up and there’s no access to Marginal because the lower bridge turn backs onto Delridge blocking the entire flow of traffic.  Every morning I witness cyclists turning left while I’m trying to turn right into marginal. Minimal cars get through the intersection with each light cycle coming from Delridge. And this is in current traffic conditions. This is NOT sustainable. 

    • Rob May 2, 2020 (4:09 pm)

      The fact that SDOT when their feet were held to the fire stepped it up and completed this work (e.g. Signal at Holden and 8th) shows exactly what a sham they are. I’m glad they are finally doing the work, but come on already. 

    • sdotisourking May 4, 2020 (8:45 am)

      Restriping an intersection is the absolute baseline of what SDOT should be competent at. Saying they’re good at this, therefore they’re good at everything is simply not logical. I deal with them all the time for work – they are amazingly bad at dealing with anything out of the ordinary.

  • Mj May 1, 2020 (10:31 pm)

    Charlie – as a big time SDoT critique I actually gave them kudos on this revision and it has improved traffic flow.  

  • dsa May 1, 2020 (10:51 pm)

    Too many numbers on SDOT’s ADT table are in the negative percentage since 2/7/20.  All that traffic count increase shown on West Marginal and Highland Park seems to have evaporated.

    • Chemist May 2, 2020 (2:23 am)

      The comparisons are odd.  2/7 was a Friday, 3/16-20? and 4/13-17 was all weekdays, and 4/16-22 is a full week with weekends (historically lighter traffic) so they’ve kind of skewed from weekday averages.  Also, Spokane Low Bridge / Previous had a traffic increase, and should not say -19%.  It’s +8% between “previous” and “baseline”.

  • WSMom May 1, 2020 (10:59 pm)

    Vashon doesn’t need to come through West Seattle. They should be routed downtown. Or at the very least just one boat. It’s ridiculous that they add to our traffic problems.

    • BBILL May 2, 2020 (12:41 am)

      “they add to our traffic problems” Maybe you are the one adding to their traffic problems!

      • WSMom May 2, 2020 (8:34 am)

        Very funny BBILL, how do I add to Vashon’s traffic problems? I am not a Vashon resident and do not go to Vashon. Vashon residents just use West Seattle as a drive through neighborhood.

        • Stickerbush May 2, 2020 (11:11 am)

          I live on Vashon and about 75% of the time I take the ferry to W Sea it is to patronize a business there. 

          • Ingolf Stern May 2, 2020 (11:34 am)

            that still makes you traffic

        • BBILL May 2, 2020 (11:43 am)

          “Vashon residents just use West Seattle as a drive through neighborhood.” Assuming you’re correct, if you stay off the streets, you’ll stay out of their way, make it easier for them to “drive through.”

          • David May 12, 2020 (4:55 pm)

            Congrats, that was the most ‘counterintuitive’ thing I’ve heard all day: “Get off your own neighborhood roads so Vashon residents can use them.” What would you suggest, bulldozing all the homes in West Seattle and turning it into a giant highway for Vashon traffic?

    • Jon Wright May 2, 2020 (9:12 am)

      Odds are, ferries from Vashon were coming to West Seattle long before you moved here.

    • Ivan Weiss May 2, 2020 (11:32 am)

      Sorry, but this is just plain ignorant. Plenty of Vashon and Southworth ferry commuters work at Boeing and points south, and plenty of us shop in West Seattle, White Center, and Burien. Did it ever occur to you that Colman Dock cannot handle the increased traffic that closing the Fauntleroy Dock would bring? We tried it when WSF had to close Fauntleroy Dock for repairs. I can tell you from experience, it was a sh*t show.

      Face reality. Unless you are 93 years old or older, the Fauntleroy Dock was here before you were, and chances are it will be here after you are gone. I’m sorry if this comes off as harsh, but I lose patience with seeing this dumb suggestion time and again, because WSF has no interest in it.

      • BBILL May 2, 2020 (11:47 am)

        If someone from West Seattle were to go over to Vashon, they’d expect equal access to all the public streets, but somehow, someway that all changes if someone from Vashon travels to West Seattle–there is a “stay of ‘our’ streets” attitude being conveyed by WSMOM, as if there should be police posted to make sure there are none of those “others” from Vashon in the area.

      • Matt P May 2, 2020 (12:31 pm)

        If they’re working further south, then it would make sense to have a ferry that goes south.

        • 1994 May 2, 2020 (5:19 pm)

          There is the Vashon to Tacoma ferry route

    • ColumbiaChris May 3, 2020 (3:18 pm)

      Traffic on the Vashon ferry is roughly equivalent to about 2% of the traffic that previously used the high bridge. To suggest that ferry users make any sort of significant contribution to West Seattle traffic is absurd.

    • M May 3, 2020 (5:47 pm)

      Ugh, I live in West Seattle and the tribalism that some West Seattleites are showing is embarrassing, ignorant, and hypocritical. This bridge situation is bringing out the worst in some of us. So we are all supposed to stay in our own little enclaves or else we are guilty of adding to someone else’s traffic? So WSMom, by your logic, you shouldn’t be allowed to drive anywhere out of WS, or maybe even out of your own neighborhood, because otherwise you’re adding to some other neighborhood’s traffic. If you need to go to the WS Junction, you better not get there by driving on my block, because then you’d be using my block as a “drive through” block. Or if you need to drive to California, don’t dare use Oregon as a drive through state. Do your kids get to school by using someone else’s block as a walk through block? How dare they! Come on, let’s get through this as one community and stop trying to exclude people who aren’t exactly like us.

  • WTF May 2, 2020 (12:02 am)

    The whole thing is inexcusable. 😡

  • John May 2, 2020 (2:31 am)

    “SDOT also is installing additional structural health instrumentation (such as crack-width gauges, strain gauges and high-resolution cameras)”   all that equipment sounds VERY expensive on top of the massive expense this bridge will be. And why didn’t they have some of this equipment already?! 

    • WS Guy May 2, 2020 (12:27 pm)

      Gauges are super cheap.  Crack gauges for example can just be two pieces of plastic.  You affix one to each side of the crack and observe whether the distance between them moves.

  • ScubaFrog May 2, 2020 (4:52 am)

    The group that’s working on obtaining federal funding seems really sharp.  Also, how cool is it to see the bulging neoprene on the pier 18 bearing?  I mean awful, as to what that entails.  But cool insofar as the engineers making the bearings accessible, in order to check the status on each one.  I had no idea that was a thing (I’m not an engineer).  I wonder if they replace the whole bearing, or if the contractor has a good idea what’s causing the bulging, and they address that instead of the symptom.  So many questions…  And how cool to leave a cavity with neoprene, that would alert engineers to concrete expanding within the bearing.  1980’s concrete technology.  I wonder if this ‘tech’ is still the norm, or if modern structures have data like this digitized and monitored online.

    • GAM May 2, 2020 (2:18 pm)

      The story of the frozen bearing is fascinating.   How long has the bearing been in a compressed frozen state,    before 2013?    How often are the bearings inspected?   Is there a problem with pier 18 that caused the bearing compression,  like unstable Harbor Island soil or something?    Why do they have to demolish the concrete around the bearing rather than jacking the structures apart?  You’re right,   so many questions.    I’m ready to geek out on the details.  

  • David May 2, 2020 (7:19 am)

    Wonder if they will make 35th two lanes all the way down again along with Roxbury. Remember when it used to be like that?  Ever since they did that the back ups in that area have been bad DAILY and that’s when the bridge was intact. 

    • KM May 2, 2020 (7:10 pm)

      No they won’t, yes I remember, and no there aren’t.

    • Chemist May 3, 2020 (3:25 pm)

      They really should.  The increase in traffic headed southbound is going to push the traffic volumes on 35th S of Morgan to well over FHWA guidelines for a 4 lane to 3 lane road diet like that.  It’s going to lead to more crashes, injuries, and lower levels of service for the next two years when it’s a project that was billed as reversible because it was “just paint”.

      Knapp, Giese, and Lee have documented Road Diets with ADTs ranging from 8,500 to 24,000 vpd.37  The FHWA advises that roadways with ADT of 20,000 vpd or less may be good candidates for a Road Diet and should be evaluated for feasibility

  • Grocery worker May 2, 2020 (8:36 am)

    35th and Morgan –what sort of improvements are planned? Left turns there are incredibly difficult, and waiting behind someone attempting a left turn there can waste an entire light cycle, especially if they place themselves in the middle of the lane.I really think busses, boats, and ferries are going to be our solution here, but that intersection has needed attention for a really long time.

  • Guy May 2, 2020 (9:13 am)

    Why is there no discussion of what sort of design failure caused this 40-year-old bridge to crack, and find those responsible? A lot of tax money went into building it and there’s no doubt more tax money will be needed to solve this. No one is being held responsible for this failure?

  • Ferry Worker May 2, 2020 (9:41 am)

    I work for Washington State Ferries, and recently worked at Fauntleroy.   I’m not a member of management, and have no say in re-routing vessels.  I will say, that Colman Dock is currently undergoing a MAJOR renovation and is NOT operating at full capacity.   Obviously, WSF is not seeing ridership anywhere near where we would during “non-pandemic” levels, but when traffic volumes accelerate again as the economy restarts, and until the renovations at Colman are completed in 2023, I don’t see that as a viable alternative to the current setup at Fauntleroy. 

  • Carmel Slee May 2, 2020 (11:31 am)

    509 N is already backed up in the am. Getting on Michigan to I 5.  This is going to back up the west seattle detour big time.  Open the R lane on west marginal that is closed in front of the long house!  Why can’t we open the little bridge for east bound in am and West bound pm? Have tow trucks and cops and drone cameras to clear any wrecks!   

    • BBILL May 2, 2020 (11:50 am)

      Please explain your theory about how removing the lane reduction in front of the Longhouse impacts the congestion on Michigan. Would removing the lane reduction in front of the Longhouse increase or decrease congestion on Michigan?

  • Paul Rhodes May 2, 2020 (2:30 pm)

    Some of us would just like to know when the West Seattle bridge will be reopened. 

    • BBILL May 2, 2020 (8:53 pm)

      There is a large amount of uncertainty in how soon the bridge will open back up, but it’s going to be years.

  • Melissa May 2, 2020 (3:05 pm)

    Is SDOT going to make any improvements East of 15th on Roxbury?  8th and Roxbury, 4th and Olson/Roxbury and Olson/Myers have lots of accidents.  If there are accidents there it is going to be have substantial impact on getting off the peninsula.  

  • Nuclear Marc May 2, 2020 (7:54 pm)

    When do they unveil plans for tunnels, including light rail?Just hope the surface street junction gives equal access every direction,merging on, ramp off, West Marginal, East Marginal, Harbor Island, & 1st.

  • Mj May 3, 2020 (1:55 pm)

    If clearance requirements can be modified, providing structural support to the existing bridge weak spots may be feasible in conjunction with shoring work.  Optimistically this could expedite getting the bridge open maybe even by late this year.  This really needs the Coast Guard to play ball.

  • No Deception Pass May 3, 2020 (7:25 pm)

    During the shut-down SDOT should be re-aligning 35th SW and Roxbury BACK to 4 lane arterials  to handle the   10s of 1,000s who will need to travel during Metro reductions  and  bridge closure over the next FEW years. Why isn’t this being done?

  • JM May 3, 2020 (8:50 pm)

    I find the fact that the bridge was designed to last only 70 years unacceptable in the first place. That’s not even a whole human life time these days (well if you get decent health care as you should). Watched a documentary in my stay-at home daze on the building of the Notre Dam cathedral using simple tools etc. Granted it took three hundred plus years to build but lasted till now from the middle ages. Wood burned but the base structure is there. To think that anyone now would even think of starting such long project.  Why don’t we NOT go back to our short term thinking me me me me me memeeeeeee and make sure its done right this time.

  • Sarah May 4, 2020 (12:47 pm)

    Would it be possible for the city to set up or lease existing secure parking areas – garage, fenced lot or similar – in the Sodo area and the South Park area so people who need to go north, south or further east could leave  their car, work van, truck, even motorcycle on the east side of the Duwamish and get across via water taxi, bike, transit or special shuttles from the various  junctions. It would keep lots of vehicles off the roads in WS and hopefully reduce time on the road getting to/from work. Seems like something very feasible, visible and concrete that could be provided as part of mitigation in dealing with long term bridge closure. I don’t commute  but sure feel ,for those who do. 

  • No Deception Pass May 4, 2020 (8:04 pm)

    During the shut-down SDOT should be re-aligning 35th SW and Roxbury BACK
    to 4 lane arterials  to handle the   10s of 1,000s who will need to
    travel during Metro reductions  and  bridge closure over the next FEW
    years. Why isn’t this being done?

Sorry, comment time is over.