WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE CLOSURE: Many needs, one voice? District 1 Community Network discussion

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

As city leaders make decisions about the West Seattle Bridge‘s future and the impacts of its long-term closure, who can/should speak for the peninsula?

That was a major topic at the May meeting of the District 1 Community Network, a coalition of West Seattle and South Park community advocates, with 30 people in attendance via videoconferencing/phone.

D1CN members weren’t suggesting their coalition should or could take on that role. But in the course of two hours’ discussion, an idea took shape:

What about a stakeholders’ group?

Without a unified voice, D1CN members suggested, individual advocacy groups – those built around issues as well as those linked to geographic communities – could end up pitted against each other, marginalized, or both.

In the meeting’s early going, in fact, some of the individual groups’ efforts were discussed – the West Seattle Transportation Coalition, for example, whose letter to the city we published here, and the South Park/Duwamish Valley coalition whose letter we published here, plus West Seattle Bike Connections, whose letter we also featured.

Then there was the HPAC letter (published here), which, Kay Kirkpatrick announced, had quickly drawn a detailed response from SDOT (which we published hours after the D1CN meeting). And the new group West Seattle Bridge Now was mentioned, as well as another group that recently formed around shared interests as “West Seattle property owners.”

And some aren’t represented at all; Tamsen Spengler from the West Seattle Timebank wondered whether seniors’ transportation needs were addressed in any of the letters sent so far. She wondered if a shuttle service like the discontinued Ride2 might be revived.

That led to a discussion of the need for a “comprehensive package, in writing” – as HPAC’s Marianne McCord suggested – addressing how to get people off and onto the peninsula, and dealing with neighborhood impacts. (SDOT told WSB earlier in the week, though, “We do not expect to make a single announcement on this subject and be done with it; instead we plan to continuously work to find solutions on an ongoing basis for the foreseeable future, and will make both small and large improvements wherever we see the opportunity.”)

WSTC’s Michael Taylor-Judd observed it’s not just a matter of speaking with a unified voice, but also it’s important to consider who’s not at the table but should be.

Overall, many agreed “a central place to get answers to questions” would be helpful – someplace where everything’s public, someplace to get updates on what’s happening and going to happen.

The issue then became whether the community should form a group that the city would “have to deal with,” or whether it should be formed in collaboration with the city. Newell Aldrich from Councilmember Lisa Herbold‘s office promised to bring the idea to their next staff meeting. Consulting the mayor’s office was suggested, too. Meantime, Amanda Sawyer from the Junction Neighborhood Organization was planning to organize the various groups’ bridge-related correspondence online.

Also at the meeting last Wednesday:

EQUITY TOOLKIT: City programs are often presented through the prism of the equity toolkit from the Race and Social Justice Initiative. South Park’s Randy Wiger offered a brief primer. (If you’re not familiar with the toolkit, this document explains it.)

ANNOUNCEMENTS: Duwamish Valley Safe Streets has an online meeting at 6:30 pm May 19th – the info’s not on the DVSS calendar yet, so contact the group if you’re interested … The next West Seattle Art Walk – online edition – will be this Thursday, May 14th, with Morgan Junction participating … As previously announced, Morgan’s annual festival has a tentative new date for this year (September 12th) … The West Seattle Timebank plans a May 21st Zoom meeting with the West Seattle Food Bank … The West Seattle Junction Association expects flower baskets to go up soon, and will also be displaying rainbow flags again in June (available for adoption) … The West Seattle Small Business Relief Fund had raised $28,000+ by D1CN’s meeting night and Verity Credit Union (WSB sponsor) was matching $10,000 worth of donations … Delridge Day 2020 is off but as recently announced, organizers have made donations to local nonprofits the festival usually supports … Admiral Neighborhood Association won’t be able to launch outdoor movies until next year; the fate of this year’s Summer Concerts at Hiawatha will be decided in early June.

The District 1 Community Network usually meets first Wednesdays, so next month, that’s June 3rd.

49 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE CLOSURE: Many needs, one voice? District 1 Community Network discussion"

  • West Seattle Lurker May 12, 2020 (9:42 am)

    How are they going to fix a bridge that serves 10% of the population without allocating an inequitable  amount of the budget to fix it? If West Seattle wants it fixed, they should pay for it. 

    • WSB May 12, 2020 (10:40 am)

      Well, for starters, the bridge serves closer to 20% of the city, and that’s only if you count the people who live there. Others use it too – school, work, recreation, through travel (Fauntleroy/Southworth ferry), and more.

    • Brian Feusagach May 12, 2020 (11:22 am)

      Now here’s a thought:  a toll on ALL bridges in to and out of the WS Island would be the answer. Those that use the bridges can help pay for construction and maintenance.

      • David May 12, 2020 (11:34 am)

        As long as we are at it how about a toll for all bridges in the Seattle area. Yes, it is absurd. Just like putting a toll on all bridges in and out of W. Seattle.

        • Joe Z May 12, 2020 (2:06 pm)

          Why is a toll absurd? I have to pay $2.75 every time I get on the bus. I would rather pay tolls than the flat fees in car tabs which have no relationship to how much I actually drive. 

          • 1994 May 12, 2020 (3:51 pm)

            You may pay $2.75 when you get on the bus but tax payers are paying the other $$$$ part of your ride since transit is not self supporting. It is heavily subsidized by sales tax and other taxes we all pay. 

          • West Seattle since 1979 May 12, 2020 (4:30 pm)

            It is heavily subsidized by sales tax and other taxes we all pay. 

            A tax burden which is shared by bus riders. 

          • Leelee May 12, 2020 (7:37 pm)

            Subsidize public transit users or enjoy sharing the road with them all in their cars.

          • John May 12, 2020 (4:31 pm)

            Not absurd, but fair.  Usage fees are the only equitable way to deal with vehicles.  The bus riders are also tax payers that are subsidizing cars, parking and the societal costs of pollution.We have the technology to monetize the costs of parking and car travel that could largely eliminate their burden.

          • Joe Z May 12, 2020 (5:02 pm)

            That’s my point, there isn’t any real difference between the bus fare and a toll (or the gas tax). 

          • KM May 12, 2020 (5:06 pm)

            @1994, so are our roads. In fact, car infrastructure is generally the most subsidized method of transportation (through the lens of total societal cost.)  I don’t think there is a single method of transportation that is self-supporting–maybe on a smaller scale/smaller transit authorities?

    • Suds May 12, 2020 (1:23 pm)

      So we’re now going to boil down tax spending on hyper-specific regionality? C’mon, man, that’s not how civilized society works. You can bloviate your partisanship on a national and even state scale, but on a municipal scale? That’s asinine. I get it if there was obvious inequitable spending being made across the city districts, but that’s not happening. The bridge is a huge part of SDOT’s assets, and needs to be tended to, just like the seawall, the Lander overpass, the Eastlake bridge and every other (expensive) piece of transportation infrastructure in the city’s inventory.

    • My two cents ... May 12, 2020 (6:18 pm)

      @ West Seattle Lurker – really? looking for troll bait? Let me guess what’s next! You only have to pay for the streets that you use, right?

    • FedUp May 13, 2020 (8:37 am)

      @ lurker   West Seattle will pay for it, but then we will not allow any non-residents to use our Alki Beach. Or maybe we will charge a fee for your visit. Seem fair right?  SMH

    • Micah May 13, 2020 (8:40 am)

      What a silly attitude. At what point does the balkanization stop? If 44th street wants their potholes fixed, then 44th street ought to pay for it!

  • GAM May 12, 2020 (9:46 am)

    What happened to the West Seattle Bridge Action Now group,   from this article?https://westseattleblog.com/2020/04/west-seattle-bridge-now-new-coalition-launched-to-convey-urgency/Are they still organizing?

    • WSB May 12, 2020 (10:34 am)

      Haven’t heard anything directly from them since but if you use social media, you can follow the link toward the end of the story.

  • Mark Schletty May 12, 2020 (10:26 am)

    I’m pleased to see this discussion of an entity designed to represent us all to the City. As someone who has successfully put something like this together before, I have several suggestions. First, do NOT do this in collaboration with the City. Maybe ask for some City funding, but do not allow the City to have any influence on your activities or positions. Second, it will be impossible to get all affected groups to agree on everything. Therefore, limit what you actively advocate for to those issues with unanimous support. Let member individual groups advocate for positions only they support on their own. The City will be forced to deal with your positions if they know they carry unanimity.  They cannot use divide and conquer tactics when they know there is no division on your positions to take advantage of.  Third, select one or two people to be the constant representatives of the entity. They will become recognized by the City  as legitimate representatives of a large and united group of citizens, and will have to be dealt with as such. Best of luck in putting this together. 

    • Mark Schletty May 12, 2020 (10:40 am)

      A quick important additional suggestion. Don’t select, as your representatives, anyone who is a primary representative of any of your member groups. It will give the City the opportunity to claim confusion about who is actually being represented. Give them no such opportunity. 

    • John May 12, 2020 (4:39 pm)

      As someone who has successfully put something like this together before”.Maybe Mark Schletty could share his vaunted success at designing & building bridges, eliminating traffic, providing housing for all, and providing unrestricted access to seniors and disabled for parking anywhere.

      • Mark Schletty May 12, 2020 (6:52 pm)

        John— you really missed the whole point of my advice, which was about organizing and strategy, not anything about what to advocate for or against. That will be up to the participants. I never claimed to have designed or built bridges, or knew how to eliminate traffic. I have raised some questions about the bridge, primarily procedural, but never said I knew what should be done about it. Jort wants to eliminate traffic, I want to make it move better. I do advocate for senior and disabled peoples access to public areas. And you oppose this? As for my success with organizing  activities like the one here, albeit on a city wide basis, and providing affordable housing, I would be glad to share my resume with you if you had the courage to comment under your whole name, as I do. Since I don’t think you want everyone to know that and be able to check out your real agendas, if you would like I will provide it to the blogs Tracy and she can let you know if I am blowing smoke. 

        • heartless May 12, 2020 (7:13 pm)

          Now now, just as an aside–real names don’t matter, they don’t add credibility, and they don’t mean (in and of themselves, of course) that people will be kinder, more honest, etc., on a forum such as this.  That’s all I wanted to add here–carry on!

          Mark, despite the fact that I probably disagree with 75% of your posts (or maybe just 75% of each post) I have found you to be relatively civil in your discourse, and I really appreciate that.

        • El Daderino May 13, 2020 (3:41 pm)


  • 3hourcommute May 12, 2020 (10:45 am)

    As someone who has had to work with the City before, I second Mark’s suggestions. The City is masterful at feigning interest in your position. They will listen to everything you say all the while bulldozing through with their own agenda. They celebrated our partnership when they gave our group a grant then forced us to use the majority of it for an obscenely overpriced consultant that they had hand selected. Not surprisingly the consultant came back with questionable data supporting the City’s position, not ours, but how are you going to fight when you’re just a few folks trying to do right by your community and they have all the power. It was my first experience dealing with the City and we were pretty naive. Don’t make the same mistake. 

    • Karl Tull May 12, 2020 (11:42 am)

       The City is masterful at feigning interest in your position. They will listen to everything you say all the while bulldozing through with their own agenda. ”Love it, so very true.  I hope you would consider being actively part of our group as it would be beneficial to have folks who are less naive as it relates to dealing with our bureaucrats!

      • Joe Z May 12, 2020 (2:13 pm)

        Isn’t that how it is supposed to work?

  • BBILL May 12, 2020 (11:10 am)

    “they gave our group a grant then forced us to use the majority of it for
    an obscenely overpriced consultant that they had hand selected.” Did you read the terms of the grant before accepting it, or did you consider it to be FREE MONEY? You seem to suggest that because the conclusions were not the ones you wanted, that questionable data was used, so the consultants came to the ‘wrong’ conclusion; other than not being the ones you desired, do you have evidence that the conclusions were wrong?

    • barton May 12, 2020 (12:44 pm)

      And you seem to be a tireless advocate for the city.  What a weirdly AGGRESSIVE POST.  I second 3hourcommute’s take on the city’s check the box approach –  we listened and gathered feeback – yay for us, now we are going to do what we always intended, even if it is completely opposite of the vast majority of the feedback. 

      • BBILL May 12, 2020 (2:36 pm)

        “I didn’t get the results I want, so I’ll blame the city” is an awful take, and to suggest that I “advocate for the city” because someone didn’t get the results they expected is yet another bad take.

        • barton May 12, 2020 (4:14 pm)

          Your assumption that unsubstantiated sour grapes is the basis for the complaints is just that – an unsubstantiated assumption.  Your immediate accusatory jump to the conclusion that 3hourcommute failed to read a grant or expected “FREE MONEY” is also unsubstantiated yet you are more than happy to assume that the City acted appropriately every time, notwithstanding the evidence of multiple issues that the City has failed to adequately address.  So yes, you appear to advocate for the City.  I’ll stand by my “bad take”. 

        • John May 12, 2020 (4:47 pm)

          No tireless city advocate myself, I wonder why these posts ignore the process of our government?From these suggestions, it is like West Seattle is without government or representation.  West Seattle is home to more than a few of the professionals and politicians that are responsible for these issues.  Do you think they will all act against their own interest, and commute times, for some unknown reason?  Conspiracy?Let’s get real.

          • Barton May 12, 2020 (9:51 pm)

            John – believe me, I used to share your viewpoint.  No, I don’t see the City’s actions as a conspiracy or malicious intent, I see them as the result of being a bloated bureaucracy with a lack of cohesive vision.  I sincerely hope the city leadership is able to address the bridge challenge with the type of leadership, efficiency and expertise its residents deserve.

        • DBG May 13, 2020 (11:47 am)

          I agree that the easiest thing to do is to blame the city.  I think we should consider the fact that none of the people in city government or at SDOT were around (and maybe not even alive) when the bridge was designed and built.  Mr. Zimbabwe has been with SDOT for about a year or so.  Yet, no one seems to be saying that the bridge isn’t at risk of failing, so what was the city supposed to do?  Imagine if the bridge had collapsed at rush hour.  The death toll would have been astounding and the lower bridge would likely have been taken out.      Here is a link to the video of the I-35 bridge collapse in Minneapolis. https://reddit.app.link/q8hAQiexr6. I used to live in the Twin Cities and had friends who were driving under the bridge minutes before the collapse.  It was a sudden failure.   Yes, this is a colossal mess, but it could have been far worse had the city and SDOT ignored the problem.    Based on what I have read there was a surge in the cracking.  I for one am grateful they were looking.  Here, no one died.

  • Mj May 12, 2020 (11:39 am)

    Mike Lindblom wrote a good article published in Monday’s Seattle Times. 

    I contacted him in followup in particular on potential fixes and working with the Coast Guard regarding refining the clearance requirements.  His response leads me to believe the the clearance discussion with the CG has not occurred yet.

    With refinement to the clearance requirement a understory supporting structure could be installed to provide added support to the existing bridge at mid span.  If feasible this could be the most cost effective and quickest option to get the existing bridge open again.  It’s only the mid span section that is compromised, the rest of the structure is in decent condition (to my knowledge).

  • kshimon May 12, 2020 (12:04 pm)

    @West Seattle Lurker – Your logic is flawed. Regardless of what percentage of the population this roadway serves, it is the single most-used bridge in the city of Seattle. Suggesting that only West Seattle residents should pay the bill is similar to suggesting that only Mercer Island residents should have paid to repair the damaged I-90 bridge that sunk in 1990. Or suggesting that only Magnolia and Ballard residents should pay to maintain the Magnolia and Ballard bridges, respectively. Or that only bus riders should pay for the metro system. Or that only bike riders should pay for the numerous bike paths and traffic accommodations. Or that only families with children should pay for the public educational system. Obviously, this list is endless. The maintenance of Seattle streets and transportation systems are some of the many diverse responsibilities of the city. If you live, work, do business, or visit any part of the city, you are part of the population that uses city resources. Whether you own, rent, go to school, attend cultural or sports events, or vacation here, you are likely paying in some way to support the city. The city must serve all citizens – every day, as well as days when there is an emergency. Losing this bridge will be devastating to the 100,000 vehicles and 25,000 transit riders who use it daily. However, the negative impacts of this loss will be felt beyond the peninsula. Please don’t pit neighborhood against neighborhood. We are all one city. We all pay into the same city coffers and the city must find the best solution to serve all citizens. Losing this valuable transportation connection will definitely be a hardship for West Seattle, but this is not a West Seattle crisis – this is a Seattle crisis.

    I understand that many of the commenters here believe that the City may not do the best job in representing our interests. I do not disagree. My point is … that the cost of maintaining the bridge is the responsibility of the City of Seattle – not for residents of West Seattle.

    • ARPigeonPoint May 12, 2020 (3:15 pm)

      It’s clear West Seattle Lurker never played Sim City.

  • Chris May 12, 2020 (12:22 pm)

    It’s great to see people organizing and looking for ways to communicate on a regular basis the impacts of the WSBridge closure.  It’s pretty easy to create a website that is specific to this issue and can be updated regularly.  I’m working from home now and test drove my route to the office to see what it’s like when traffic is light.  I usually commute by bus, bike or water taxi but my wife works in Redmond and has no choice but to drive, so I was testing it for her.  You really notice all the one lane roads that thousands of people will be using to get in and out of West Seattle, especially from the North end.  Delridge Way, Avalon Way and Admiral Way are all going to be an absolute parking lot, even for buses, when we do get back to normal.  It seems there is no way to avoid it.  When all the traffic converges at the 5 way intersection there are no options around it.   

  • Nancy Sanger May 12, 2020 (1:11 pm)

    Excellent suggestions from Mark Schletty, “3 hour commute” and others who speak with experience working with the city. Speaking for West Seattle , et al , with a unanimous voice will largely reduce time wasted on  consideration of tangential  issues.  Find  experienced spokespersons to be point persons for West Seattle. Require input on consultants hired and require time limits on their reports. Set timeline goals for the project, both intermediate and long term.  Hold all participants accountable.

  • skeeter May 12, 2020 (2:01 pm)

    I’d be supportive of having one person speak on behalf of
    the peninsula.  As long as that person is
    Jort.  Jort has consistently demonstrated
    an understanding of where we are and where we need to be with respect to
    transportation challenges and opportunities. 

    • Jort May 13, 2020 (12:10 pm)

      Thank you for your kind words. There are very few community organizations in West Seattle that prioritize transit, cyclist and pedestrian solutions. Note the word: prioritize, as in, prioritize those modes over cars. So far the vast majority of neighborhood/community/special interest lobbying has been for mitigations to soothe the car driver audience. That’s not sustainable, it’s counter to our city’s climate change reduction goals, and it’s a waste of time and money chasing an unsolvable problem. Public transportation and cycling are scalable, more cost-effective and can, in fact, be done, just as it has been done in hundreds if not thousands of towns and cities of varying climate and terrain throughout the entire planet. As always, Seattle will not be the first city on the planet to “solve” traffic issues, but Seattle certainly can join (late to the party) the thousands of other cities globally that pushed cars into the margins and gave their citizens better options. 

      • skeeter May 13, 2020 (1:28 pm)

        Well said Jort.  I too am working hard at encouraging our city to achieve our Vision Zero goals and climate change goals.  

      • I'm Jason, be mad at me May 13, 2020 (8:43 pm)

        I love the vision and understanding Jort has and the haters he has too . So glad I moved to Denver. Check out Denver city pedestrian and bike planning…. Steal a page. Seattle is the in the dark ages. If you are too lazy for that, on your next vacation out of the states, look how people mobilize. Cars are ridiculous. For what Americans use them for. 

  • Joe Z May 12, 2020 (2:12 pm)

    The whole conversation is dependent on whether the bridge can be repaired or not, which we will find out in a year. If it is repairable they are going to repair it. A replacement bridge would need to draw in the input of everyone in the city since we would be building a bridge that would last 100 years or longer and the replacement would need to be consistent with the vision and long term goal of the city which is different now than it was in the 1980s–light rail, climate change, remote work, etc. If the state or federal government is going to provide funding than the bridge needs to be consistent with their plans as well. Whatever is built would look completely different from the old bridge. 

  • Connie Watts May 12, 2020 (4:58 pm)

    I attended the Seattle Time livestream today on the West Seattle bridge. It was helpful and there should be more of them. But one thing that could be done right away is give an honest estimate of just how many of the 125,000 commuters who used the West Seattle bridge before the pandemic will be able to use the 3 alternate routes out? Because it isn’t 125,000. Is it 100,000? Is it 50,000? Lower? When we know what we need to do about the reduction strategies can start to come together – including a push for employers to make a special exception for West Seattle residents to work from home. And we – the residents – can also make informed decisions about staying or leaving. They aren’t even going to have a rebuild/restore plan for this for months, not to mention how it is going to get paid for. Right now tell us how much traffic can be managed by the 3 ways out. 

    • John May 12, 2020 (7:06 pm)

      Now that, Connie Watts is a tall order.  I would not be surprised if there exist modeling algorithms that predict possible outcomes.  -I view this more like the COVID-19 modeling that is so often attacked for being “wrong” or alarmist, although both being alarmist and wrong in worse case scenarios, these predictions have undoubtedly save lives.-I can not imagine any scenario  that predicts the traffic volume out of West Seattle (downtown, north or east sides) that will resume over time as the virus plays out.  Some predict a revolutionary shift to home based work, which I think would be great.-As someone who grew up in West Seattle before the bridge was even imagined, I also remember an old isolation cure.  The cure to the ‘island panic’ of West Seattle is that it is actually a peninsula!  In the old days my parents drove me all the way to Disneyland without crossing the Duwamish, and you still can end up in Mexico without so much as a whiff of the Duwamish River crossing.

      • bolo May 13, 2020 (10:42 pm)

        Yes OK, but did you do that every day?

  • Mj May 12, 2020 (6:12 pm)


    Based on my experience I would project 20,000 to 25,000 with maybe 10 to 20% more with SDoT making street changes to maximize capacity.  

    Bottom line traffic is going to be nightmare


  • Connie J Watts May 13, 2020 (10:24 am)

    Thanks MJ!

  • stupidinseattle May 13, 2020 (5:59 pm)

    When does Port of Seattle and their new T5 tenant express their displeasure at the massive traffic mess that makes their newly refurbished terminal a waste of money?  The overflowing congestion from the closed West Seattle freeway will spill over into 509, 599 and I-5 making the whole south end of Seattle a freight carriers nightmare.

Sorry, comment time is over.