WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE CLOSURE: See who’s on the Community Task Force and Technical Advisory Panel, plus, what else is happening

(WSB photo)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

As we first reported last weekend, the mayor has set up a community advisory group for the West Seattle Bridge project, and it’s being formally announced today. So are details of the technical advisory group that was already in the works. We also have a general update on what’s up with the bridge, two months after it was closed.

First, the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force. It’ll be co-chaired by Greg Nickels, the West Seattle-residing former mayor who’s remained active in transportation advocacy, and Paulina Lopez, a longtime South Park community leader/advocate. From the announcement:

… we are launching the Task Force to ensure that the many voices and concerns of the community are not only heard, but consistently advocated for.

The group is comprised of elected officials and representatives from West Seattle businesses, neighborhood groups from the Junction to Georgetown to South Park to Highland Park to SODO, and industrial and maritime businesses and their workers.

Members will help ensure transparency, clear communication, and broad community engagement and understanding around both traffic mitigation efforts and the future path forward for the West Seattle
High-Rise Bridge as we address new data, public input, fiscal challenges, and many other important factors that will inform consideration of repair versus replace scenarios.

Here’s who else is on the Community Task Force:

Dan Austin, business owner, West Seattle Chamber of Commerce board member

· Mark Aytch, primary care provider and activist

· Deb Barker, West Seattle Transportation Coalition Board member

· David Bestock, Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association, Youngstown Cultural Arts

· Ken Bowden, Nucor Steel, West Seattle Chamber of Commerce Board member

· Todd Carden, Elliott Bay Brewing

· Marci Carpenter, National Federation of the Blind Washington Chapter, charter member and former chair of Transit Advisory Board

· Colleen Desmond, neighborhood advocate

· Katie Garrow, Deputy Executive Secretary, Martin Luther King, Jr County Labor Council

· Peter Goldman, Washington Environmental Council Board member

· Erin Goodman, SODO Business Improvement Association

· Jolene Haas, Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center Director

· Anne Higuera, Ventana Construction, West Seattle Chamber of Commerce

· Amanda Kirk, West Seattle Bridge Now

· Jill Mackie, Senior Vice-President, Vigor Shipyard

· Tim McConnell, West Seattle Runner

· John Persak, Georgetown Community Council

· Lora Radford, West Seattle Junction Business Improvement Association (BIA)

· Greg Ramirez, Georgetown Community Council

· Aley Thompson, South Park Neighborhood Association

· Bob Watters, SSA Marine, Harbor Island

· Joe Nguyen, Washington State Senator 34th Legislative District, ex officio member

· Joe Fitzgibbon, Washington State Representative 34th Legislative District, ex officio member

· Joe McDermott, King County Council Vice Chair, ex officio member

· Lisa Herbold, Seattle City Councilmember, ex officio member

· Peter Steinbrueck, Port of Seattle Commissioner, former City of Seattle Council Member, ex officio member

· Alex Pedersen, Seattle City Councilmember District 4; Chair, Transportation and Utilities Committee, alternate and ex officio member

· Thea Byrd, Legislative Assistant to Washington State Representative Eileen Cody, ex officio member

· Yazmin Mehdi, Deputy District Director for US House Representative Pramila Jayapal (7th District), ex officio member

· Rachel Smith, Deputy King County Executive, Dow Constantine’s Office, ex officio member

· Shefali Ranganathan, Deputy Mayor, City of Seattle, ex officio member

The group’s first meeting is expected to happen the week of June 8th.

Now, the latest on the Technical Advisory Panel, the plan for which was first announced in April. It’s now described as:

The TAP will be composed of independent experts with leading experience in bridge design and construction (particularly concrete construction), geotechnical engineering for bridge structures, and marine/maritime expertise. We anticipate convening the panel at key milestones in the process, including potential participation in briefings for City leadership and elected officials. To align with the urgency of the moment, the TAP will be forward-looking.

Announced members include:

Stephen E. Dickenson, PhD, PE, D PE, New Albion Geotechnical, Inc.
Gregg A. Freeby, PE, American Segmental Bridge Institute (ASBI)
Reggie Holt, PE, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Office of Bridges and Structures FHWA Headquarters, Washington DC
Debbie D. Lehmann, PE, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Washington Division Office
Barbara Moffat, PE, SE, Stantec
Scott Phelan, PhD, PE, SE, David Evans and Associates, Inc
• Professor John F. Stanton, University of Washington

It’s also expected to convene in early June, according to Heather Marx, who’s leading the bridge project for SDOT. We spoke with her briefly this afternoon. The TAP is “really about how do we move forward with this project, while the Community Task Force is “more about living in the ‘now'” – how the community is being affected now.

Speaking of “now,” we asked Marx what’s happening right now. She mentioned the upcoming work on the low bridge (Friday-Sunday). Another major task at the moment – drafting neighborhood-specific traffic-mitigation plans. Once those are out in early June, Marx says, you’ll get a chance for feedback – they’ve taken countless community ideas already to other agencies (Metro, WSF, etc.).

There are smaller things, too – West Marginal Way SW will get some signage asking drivers not to block driveways, similar to reminders near the Fauntleroy ferry terminal. (And no, for everyone who’s asked, the small stretch of rechannelization near the Duwamish Tribe Longhouse on West Marginal will not be removed – “that’s a safety project, and it’s always a good time for safety,” Marx noted.

What WILL be changing – the rules for who can use the low bridge. Marx says that within a few weeks, “we expect there will be some changes,” but first they want to involve the Community Task Force in vetting how the access changes – but without hampering public-safety access, and without changing other access “inequitably – so we’re not making decisions based on one particular group,” squeaky wheels, etc. The decisions will also include data, which they’re collecting to expand their understanding of hourly traffic flow/volume.

As for the high bridge itself – “many things are happening simultaneously”: Stabilization contractor Kraemer North America is “mobilizing” to get ready for “structural strengthening” including the Pier 18 bearing problem and “crack arrest” work. They’re prepared to proceed with that, but she stresses that a thorough understanding of the bridge’s “structural health” is vital first. Overall, Marx says, the data that’s coming in will help them “identify the state of the bridge and what kind of repairs we can safely perform.”

Our bridge-closure coverage is all archived here; the city’s project page is here.

60 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE CLOSURE: See who's on the Community Task Force and Technical Advisory Panel, plus, what else is happening"

  • Lee Kellett May 26, 2020 (4:15 pm)

    How does a 31 person task force expect to work together? That is a very large working group. Seems unwieldy unless there is really good leadership and meeting management – and even then…

    • StupidinSeattle May 26, 2020 (4:57 pm)

      The “safety project” on West Marginal way is a bottleneck for southbound traffic from the northern half of West Seattle.  That will become much more noticeable when we are out of Stay at Home orders and T5’s new tenant starts to send container trucks on the street.   Does Ms. marx have any concept of what 100,000 cars diverted south will look like???  Even 50,000 cars, assuming anyone really does start riding the virus buses?

      • Jeff May 26, 2020 (5:43 pm)

        There is no solution for 100000 cars!  That’s not politics, or typical Seattle process, or whatever other complaint.  That is a simple fact, no matter what you wish were the case. 

      • WSJ May 26, 2020 (6:25 pm)

        It’s not the only single-lane bottleneck on that route, so it’s kind of a moot point. Opening it up there would do nothing to improve overall throughput.

        • Smittytheclown May 26, 2020 (7:07 pm)

          Really?  Then make the entire thing one lane.  

          • Jort May 27, 2020 (11:07 am)

            I support this proposal.

        • chemist May 26, 2020 (9:12 pm)

          This is a tired concept.  The zipper merge acknowledges a single lane bottleneck exists ahead, but it’s also more efficient to utilize both lanes ahead of the bottleneck.  It’s the same thing with not bottlenecking capacity of streets for this WSBridge detour.  In fact, unlike a highway, there’s a decent chance of folks stopping at side streets/businesses that probably makes it even more efficient to not bottleneck our streets during this detour.

      • AmandaK May 26, 2020 (6:28 pm)

        Deal with it.  It’s safety for the Duwamish people using their long house.  You know, the people who’s land we are on.

    • pjmanley May 26, 2020 (5:42 pm)

      I agree.  While I know and respect many of the members, 31 people on any board or committee is a recipe for inertia, and the City has to know this.  My inner-skeptic tells me this is appearance-driven so the City can later tout its “inclusiveness” in listening to the entire community, but then doing whatever the City thinks is best.  The law requires governments to invite and receive comments, but it doesn’t require them to read, consider or follow them.  My inner optimist, however, says Dan and Todd can accomplish a lot more with Pizza and Beer than 10k written comments.  And I’m okay with that.  

    • JWinWS May 26, 2020 (5:56 pm)

      My thoughts exactly!  While I applaud them wanting to include diversity of members, the size of the group will make decisions and action nearly impossible.  Seattle as usual.

    • DRC May 27, 2020 (9:20 am)

      You are right Lee Kellett

  • Marge E. May 26, 2020 (4:31 pm)

    how nimble do you think a 30+ task force will be?

    • Canton May 26, 2020 (10:21 pm)

      Completely opaque, too many heads to agree, although all are tied. Seems similar to sound transits unelected board. Is there any additional compensation on top of regular duty compensation?

  • WSJ May 26, 2020 (5:04 pm)

    They’re not listening to the community!*community members added to task force*Too many community members!$&!

    • Mark Schletty May 26, 2020 (5:52 pm)

      Wsj— are you completely incapable of commenting without trying to insult someone? So far I have not seen a comment about community members in any form. The task force is large, but I think fairly representative of many interests. Nobody said anything about community members except you, and it appears that you have a problem with community members. Grow up.

      • Jon Wright May 26, 2020 (7:16 pm)

        I actually enjoy reading posts from someone who has the ability to think critically. It’s a refreshing change!

  • Joe May 26, 2020 (5:48 pm)

    Tear the thing down and start planning for a replacement now. I feel like that’s what they are eventually going to decide on anyway. But they are going to spend a year talking about it first.

    • K May 26, 2020 (11:03 pm)

      Just get on with it. Take down and replace the section that is cracking before it falls down. Then we should be good to go for another 70 years! 

    • Robert May 27, 2020 (9:35 am)

      I agree, think of the possibilities of a new bridge! The West Seattle Bridge provides amazing views of downtown on one side and Ranier on the other. Combine the new bridge with the light rail and add the walking/biking capabilities. I’d rather tear it down now and suffer not having it for a few years if we would end up with a much improved solution. Trying to fix the current bridge will lead to suffering over the next 15 years. Just rip the band-aid.

    • Jesus May 27, 2020 (11:40 am)

      Amen, brother!

  • Delridge Resident May 26, 2020 (6:12 pm)

    The task force is quite large and it will be interesting to see how quickly they move on issues/solutions. That being said, I don’t see anyone on the list representing Highland Park despite it being mentioned in the announcement. Is Highland Park represented through someone already on the list? If so, who? If not, what is the quickest course of action to resolve the gap?

  • elisabeth May 26, 2020 (6:29 pm)

    Thank you for your thorough reporting on this issue!

  • EDV May 26, 2020 (6:46 pm)

    Let’s just go ahead and model this in SimCity…

  • 22blades May 26, 2020 (7:11 pm)

    Not much “community” in the Community Task Force. This looks more like a business round table to find more ways to cram density & protect business interests.  Let’s put 30+ people in a room & study the thing into the ground; that is the quintessential Seattle way. 

    • WSB May 26, 2020 (8:20 pm)

      Small-business owners aren’t community members?

  • ITotallyAgreeWithYou May 26, 2020 (7:28 pm)

    Going by title alone, who should be excluded from the task force and why?

  • Mj May 26, 2020 (7:48 pm)

    No representative from the Admiral neighborhood is listed.  This neighborhood needs a representative. 

    • Diane May 26, 2020 (10:44 pm)

      EXACTLY my thought; Admiral is one of THE most impacted neighborhoods, and yet no representation on the task force? I realize Mayor Nickels lives in Admiral, but he’s appointed to facilitate, not represent Admiral

    • WSRez May 27, 2020 (2:23 pm)

      West Seattle Runner is in the Admiral District, and the owners live in the Admiral area.

      • Diane May 27, 2020 (3:28 pm)

        Perhaps I should be more specific. We need a representative for issues related to the impact of the wsbridge shutdown that is causing hardship for our entire Admiral community (not just biz).  I know almost everyone on the list and I’m fully aware there are several Admiral residents appointed to this group; 3 are politicians. The appointed rep I trust the most is Marci Carpenter who represents the needs of blind/sight impaired, folks with disabilities & transit riders. There are a LOT (I count at least 9) of brick & mortar business reps appointed. Businesses are a very small % of folks in WS/SP, and even smaller % of Admiral community but usually seem to get the most attention. The largest impact to Admiral residents is all of the folks who have jobs outside of WS and will have to add minimum 30 mins to insane way-out-of-the-way detour to jobs east and north of WS. We haven’t even shifted out of Phase 1 yet, and I’m already hearing from Admiral residents who have to drive to their jobs, that the detour commutes are a nightmare. This is not sustainable and Admiral (also Alki) needs a representative voice on this task force. I’ve also learned just in past few days several beloved friends who are moving out of WS because the wsbridge shutdown commute is already hellish for them to get to their jobs outside of WS. One family is selling their home of 27 years, 100% because of the bridge shutdown. The others are renters. I expect a mass-exodus of renters from Admiral very soon. I know of several Admiral/Alki residents who are renters and work outside of WS who would be excellent advocates for our community.

  • Kyle May 26, 2020 (8:12 pm)

    Uggh 31 people is waaay too big for a functional task force. Then need like a third of the folks. 

  • Juju May 26, 2020 (8:14 pm)

    A 31 member community task force?

    Is this about repairing / replacing a bridge or is there something I’m missing here?

    I’m interested to see how much, if any, of the total funding goes for non-bridge related costs, expenses, infrastructure, programs, etc.

    I like the SimCity idea.

  • WSB May 26, 2020 (8:16 pm)

    I should note, the announcement (if you didn’t click through to read it) says, “We are still waiting on confirmation from a few participants whose names will be added once confirmed.”

    As for Admiral, I don’t know where absolutely every member lives, but I recognize at least three Admiral residents – including the co-chair, former mayor Greg Nickels.

  • ScubaFrog May 26, 2020 (8:41 pm)

    I think it’s fantastic that so many people have gathered around a common cause:  Getting a bridge fixed and/or built.31 voices are fantastic, and small business owners have an absolute right to be an integral part of the process, regardless if they live in WS or not — they are valued community members.That task force is a great idea, and I imagine people are performing different functions within (likely with an agreed upon mission plan).  We know they’re trying to get federal funds for the bridge, and I’d imagine they’re all hard at work.  For the grouches who’re chiding them, why not volunteer your time to HELP, instead of trying to tear down the process?  Very sad.

  • Don Brubeck May 26, 2020 (8:55 pm)

    The safety project on West Marginal Way at the Longhouse is not the bottleneck. The First Avenue South Bridge is the bottleneck.   If there were three, four or five lanes going south on WMW, traffic would not move any faster when there is a backup at the intersection at Highland Park Way and onto the bridge. It would just be a wider traffic jam.

    • dsa May 26, 2020 (11:05 pm)

      The longhouse crossing can be made safer with a light.  And the backup at HPW onto the 1st So bridge can easily be widened to a two lane on ramp.  Yes northbound from Burien would be impacted some, but it’s time to spread the wealth.

    • Jort May 27, 2020 (11:13 am)

      Don, first let me tell you that, despite our often different preferences in tactics, I have nothing but the utmost respect for you and the work you’ve thanklessly and tirelessly done for bicycling in West Seattle for many years. Seriously.  I was reading this list of names and was surprised and perhaps dumbfounded to not see you or any other member of the West Seattle Bike Connections group participating. Can you tell me if the city approached your group at all? The chamber of commerce is certainly well-represented, but there appears to be very little representation for alternative transportation-specific advocates. Thank you again for your hard work.

      • Kathy May 27, 2020 (11:14 pm)

        I believe Don did send a list of potential bike transportation advocates to SDOT and the Mayor, but they were not included.

        • Jort May 28, 2020 (1:16 pm)

          Unbelievable. Jenny “Cars First” Durkan lives up to her nickname. Considering that cycling is the most reliable, quickest option for the overwhelming majority of West Seattle commuters, this oversight says a lot about Durkan’s failures.

  • Libra May 26, 2020 (9:04 pm)

    Happy to see that Greg Nickels will be co-leader since he has insight on the Seattle bureaucracy as well as being a local resident affected by the closure.  On the other side, though, I would appreciate  more respect from Heather Marx and her treatment of West Seattle residents like students in her first grade class….we don’t need lectures—we want ACTION NOW! 

  • Laura May 26, 2020 (9:11 pm)

    Do any of the folks on the community task force represent our low income housing, behavioral health housing, and/or our homeless community members? Given that there are few behavioral health practices that take Medicaid in West Seattle and many depend on the bus. 

  • kj May 26, 2020 (9:16 pm)

    I hope these community reps will be consulting experts (engineers etc.) for advice so we can move things forward and not just argue for another year or two.

    • WSB May 26, 2020 (9:30 pm)

      To be clear:
      Neither of these is a VOTING or DECISION-MAKING body. They are advisory.
      And there are two groups – community AND experts..

  • Mj May 26, 2020 (10:04 pm)

    I did not see any expert in Traffic Engineering, a Professional Traffic Operations Engineer, listed on either listing.  

  • Joe Z May 26, 2020 (10:19 pm)

    No Sound Transit representation? (besides members of the elected group)

    • McD May 26, 2020 (11:22 pm)

      Joe McD is on the ST board. 

      • chemist May 27, 2020 (12:56 am)

        And I’d expect the mayor and kc executive’s reps are there to rep those offices (and Dow and Jenny are on the ST board) and not themselves personally.

  • Smittytheclown May 26, 2020 (10:31 pm)

    Day 64 = Task force formed.

    I suggest we call this “project warp speed”!

    • pjmanley May 26, 2020 (11:07 pm)

      “Project Warp Speed…” Perfect.

      Boom!  Mic Drop! Just won the thread.

  • Trickycoolj May 27, 2020 (12:04 am)

    I can’t even keep track of all the different official and unofficial advisory groups. Maybe a West Side Story style brawl is in order? Meet on Spokane St under the bridge… In all seriousness. It’s looking like it’s time to start commuting soon and I would like to know how to get to my dang job already. 

    • Zark00 May 27, 2020 (9:16 am)

      I call Jets! No wait, Sharks! Dangit.

  • ImmersedTubeTunnelPlease May 27, 2020 (1:02 am)

    Has Bob Ortblad being invited to participate as an expert? He is proposing an Immersed Tube Tunnel (ITT). https://www.westsideseattle.com/robinson-papers/2020/04/24/op-ed-bridge-history-its-time-immersed-tube-tunnel

    Bob Ortblad is a retired Civil Engineer, MBA and CPA. He teaches a University of Washington class on the history of infrastructure and recently presented “Who Built Seattle” at Seattle Town Hall. He has lived on Capitol Hill for 40 years.

  • TM7302 May 27, 2020 (2:53 am)

    Who’s representing the salmon?  Asking for a friend…

    • Smittytheclown May 27, 2020 (12:27 pm)

      Haha.  Good question.  Not to worry, salmon will be included during the 2-year environmental impact delay in 2022.

    • dsa May 27, 2020 (4:10 pm)

      You do not want to know how complicated protecting salmon gets.

  • Judi May 27, 2020 (12:29 pm)

    Yesterday at 11AM I left home (by the ferry dock) and went down to Highlandpark and the 1st Ave S bridge.  When I started to merge onto the freeway I was blocked by bumper to bumper semis lined up to get off on the Spokane Street exit to the lower bridge. Bobbing and weaving we got into a different lane. I went to my Dr appointment. On the way home the 1st Ave S was opened and people behind us were quite angry and demonstrative. I’m probably not the only person who has noticed that on the peninsula following all the growth and road diets that aggressive driving is common with turn lanes being used as passing lanes.I lived and commuted to Bellevue when the current bridge was being built. It was hard. All of us are going to have to come together to make this work with the least disruption of people’s lives.

  • Yep May 27, 2020 (2:04 pm)

    W. Seattle residents and businesses should file a class action lawsuit against SDOT given how aware they’ve been of this issue for years, yet so little of that made public. At a minimum, I would have expected a plan (or several plans) to have been in place when monitoring started showing cracks in 2013. 

  • Kathy May 27, 2020 (11:13 pm)

    Protect the salmon by not driving a fossil fuel burning vehicle.

  • Gaby May 29, 2020 (4:14 pm)

    If we all had jetpacks, we wouldn’t have to worry about any of this!  Okay, all joking aside, I am happy Greg Nickels is co-leading this (way too big!!!) community task force. From being mayor, I trust he has the skillset to help funnel ideas through, create faster working sub-committees if need be and move this thing along quickly.  As a 21-year homeowner in North Admiral, I also believe he will watch out for this neighborhood’s interests.  My biggest fear is that things will take way too long with too many lengthy input timeframes.  We need a (another) new high bridge yesterday. 

Sorry, comment time is over.