WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE CLOSURE: What’s up, 2 months later

=(Photo courtesy Kevin Freitas, originally published on Twitter)

Two months ago tonight, on March 23rd, the West Seattle Bridge was closed because of collapse concerns, with only a few hours’ warning to the public. Will it ever reopen? The city has yet to announce whether it considers the bridge fixable. Here’s a quick look at some of what’s been happening in the meantime:

MAYOR ASSEMBLING COMMUNITY TASK FORCE: Earlier this month, as reported here, the District 1 Community Network suggested a stakeholders’ group of some sort was needed, to be sure the community has a voice in key decisions. Multiple sources have confirmed to WSB that Mayor Durkan is doing exactly that. Who’s on it, and what it’ll be charged with, we don’t know yet; we asked the mayor’s office for comment when we got first word of this, but no answers yet.

OTHER GROUPS: The West Seattle Chamber of Commerce also has a committee focused on the bridge closure, and the new community coalition West Seattle Bridge Now continues ramping up.

BUT WHAT’S HAPPENING *ON* THE BRIDGE? Monitoring instrumentation has been installed, and a three-scenario emergency-response plan spells out what happens if those instruments – or the daily inspections – show it’s on the verge of collapse. To try to avoid that, stabilization work is planned; SDOT announced the contractor for that three weeks ago.

GETTING AROUND WITHOUT THE BRIDGE: SDOT is working on neighborhood-specific traffic plans, which director Sam Zimbabwe says will be ready – at least in draft version – in early June.

WHERE TO GET UPDATES: SDOT has a catch-all page for its bridge updates and background info, here; all our 50+ bridge-related reports dating back to the closure announcement is archived here.

60 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE CLOSURE: What's up, 2 months later"

  • Jonah May 24, 2020 (6:28 am)

    WSB. Can you ask SDOT if they plan on making better repairs to the potholes on the elevated eastbound lanes between 1st and 4th ave. They’ve been a longtime issue. there’ more coming and I see a couple that they filled are coming apart again. Seems logical that with the light traffic there would be zero impact to closing a lane and doing real permanent repairs.

  • JeffK May 24, 2020 (6:38 am)

    I have low confidence that any real action will take place this year.

    • WSJ May 24, 2020 (12:01 pm)

      “Real” action means what, to you? 

      • JeffK May 24, 2020 (4:29 pm)

        A decision on what to do about a fix or replacement.

      • sam-c May 24, 2020 (4:37 pm)

        Perhaps Jeff thinks they should have started construction on a new bridge immediately after they identified a problem ?  Structural calculations, design, permitting and contractor mobilization happen instantaneously, didn’t you know ?!?! /s

        • JeffK May 25, 2020 (7:28 am)

          Sam-C, I’m just looking for a decision and some leadership.  Not a replacement being built right yet.  Talk and studies about a 10 year fix or something akin to that seems like a waste of time in the end and we’re going to go through more hardship as a community.  I wish that they would just come to terms that the bridge is going to be torn down and replaced.Image this taking place in a non-Covid world.  Two months of this and WS commuters would be organizing sit-ins on other city bridges.Here’s my prediction:  they are going monitor it for months, then play around with stabilizing piers, then they will find out the cracks are still growing.  Studies will continue.  The mayor will play this out as long as possible in to 2021 and try to defer it past the November 2021 election cycle and lose the election.

        • Morgan May 25, 2020 (9:21 am)

          A man can dream, can’t he?

  • drM May 24, 2020 (6:57 am)

    Where are the cranes?

    Where are the backhoes?

    That is ALL we want to see.

    Where are they????? Enough with the updates!!

    • wscommuter May 24, 2020 (10:41 am)

      I understand frustration … as much as anyone else, I want this fixed yesterday.  But that isn’t how reality works.  Engineers are studying this problem – there isn’t, unfortunately, a quick and ready answer.  Even assembling the scaffolding to put support bracing in place requires careful calculation and sound engineering judgment.  So chill.  We’ll get some answers soon enough.  Action is happening even if you can’t see a backhoe (really?) at work on the bridge.  Your hysteria doesn’t add anything to the discussion.  

      • Mike May 24, 2020 (3:06 pm)

        Come on now.  It is Seattle.  You will need to form a 100 person committee; hire a bridge Czar and pay them 200k to do nothing; Hire 200 new city employees to conduct numerous bridge studies; and then have your favorite activist protest about anything bridge related!   

        • Joe Matavatz May 25, 2020 (5:44 pm)

          You nailed it. It’s the Emerald City Way.

    • Peter May 24, 2020 (12:24 pm)

      Wow. You clearly don’t have any understanding at all of how complex an issue this is. 

      • drM May 24, 2020 (1:48 pm)

        No… I don’t understand what the snail’s pace is…. and in fact, neither do you.  What I DO understand is that a dramatic failure of a bridge in Italy was resolved in TWENTY MONTHS. One of the quotes from the article was we “worked night and day”. Well, I don’t see anyone working night and day. All I hear about are cameras, acoustics etc etc. Meanwhile the city is loosing millions as people stop going to the city ( I know I do), change routines etc etc. So, I ask again… WHERE ARE THE CRANES? WHERE ARE THE BACKHOES?

        • Jeff May 24, 2020 (2:16 pm)

          Well they were saved the trouble of a safe controlled demolition in Italy…

        • Duh May 24, 2020 (2:43 pm)

          Italy was a complete failure,  it collapsed.  Clean and build,  not as easy here bucko. Quit complaining and drive around,  da.

          • BigDoc May 25, 2020 (8:17 am)

            The Italian bridge is twice as long and twice as high. And, yes it was built much much faster. It was also much older when it collapsed. Seattle has an image of itself as being state-of-the art and high tech, but the government is pathetic and, yes, the engineers do need to spend proper time to evaluate, but that is independent from
            the fact that this is a glorified cow town.

        • EDV May 24, 2020 (3:32 pm)

          Funny you should ask where the cranes and what not are… Ironically cranes capable of a job scale similar to that of the West Seattle Bride; are for sale/rent about 2.4 miles south of the bridge… 🤨🧐🤬🤣

        • ScubaFrog May 24, 2020 (3:49 pm)

          This is a massively expensive undertaking — each part.  The money’s not there to just knock it down and build a bridge.  It’s $30M ‘just’ to shore up the bridge.Moreover, I imagine engineers are still getting data to see if the bridge is salvageable, monitoring the crack like hawks, and “stabilization work is planned”.Goodness only knows how much a new bridge would cost, and it would appear those funds will have to come from DC (which seems dicey in that highly-partisan atmosphere).

          • drM May 24, 2020 (5:41 pm)

            I don’t think there is a single person who does not comprehend that this is a complicated undertaking, that it is expensive, that more data might be needed, and on and on.That is not the point. If you need more data, go to the bridge, NIGHT and DAY and collect it. If you need to make decisions, and you need to convene more meetings, then do so. What exactly have we heard in two months? New cameras to monitor the cracks, New acoustic devices to listen to the cracks. Fine…. that really took 2 months?  All of you making every excuse under the sun for the pace of this repair… it’s all excuses. There is nothing that could not be sped up… and I see NOTHING that this is being done, other than being told to be patient.And… moreover, as long as everyone is content with the pace that this is going at, then that is the pace it will go at. Unless we start saying something as a single voice, then that is what will happen. Only if we expect something else, will that happen. 

          • drW May 24, 2020 (9:57 pm)

            Agree, completely drM.  Folks here in Seattle seem content with leadership that is both incompetent and dismissive of our most basic rights and needs. Our elected leaders are supposed to be working tirelessly FOR us; especially in times of emergency like this.    In the end, we the people are responsible for who we elect and how much power we cede to them. And in holding them accountable to perform thier essential duties, transparently and efficiently  and competently. In times of real emergency, such as this catastrophic, sudden, indefinite,  closure of the West Seattle Bridge that  fundamentally harms so many in this city,  the size and speed of the response should reflect this level of emergency. All hands on deck.Real Work being done 24/7. Noticeable progress. But, that is not what is happening here. And many folks seem not to mind this lack of urgency.  And in fact excuse the sluggish pace as something that is to be expected or even worse, something that is virtuous reflecting patience and understanding.  I am stunned by this inclination to chastise or shame those of us who make the very reasonable and necessary demands that more be done urgently to restore our main thoroughfare on and off the peninsula. No matter how hard it is. 

          • Fix the Bridge May 24, 2020 (11:55 pm)

            Those who make excuse for SDOT and our awful mayor are the problem. 

        • Morgan May 25, 2020 (9:24 am)

          Kind of like this counterpoint. Italian government not usually known as paragon of efficiency or technocratic competence. Seattle and Genoa similarly world class cities…let’s harp on this. Doubt it will do any good but will make us feel right.

        • Peter May 25, 2020 (10:24 am)

          Ok, so you’be established that you are watching the bridge, inside and out, 24/7 and can definitively state that nothing is being done. Very well then. In your expert opinion as a trained and experienced engineer, what tasks should a backhoe be doing right now?  Please be specific. 

    • Glen Swangren May 25, 2020 (4:56 am)

      Yes. I agree.  Take out the damage sections.  Get big cranes to lift them out.  It’s a sectional bridge.  Cut them out. Replace them.  Fixed the stuck joint.  Get moving.  Could of been half done.

  • airwolf May 24, 2020 (7:17 am)

    Snail’s pace

  • Morgan May 24, 2020 (8:22 am)

    Still have stay home stay healthy orders in place and noticing Holden highlands and detours over Morgan are significantly more difficult. The end of my reverse commute bliss south…any word on the return of the mosquito fleet to the rescue?

  • Findlay May 24, 2020 (10:54 am)

    Keep spotlighting the failure of our city.    Hopefully, we will see visible progress this next month.  Hope they will prove my cynicism wrong!

  • Baffled May 24, 2020 (11:24 am)

    The lack of any sense of urgency is stunning.  This is beginning to look like Viadoom 2.0.

    • David May 24, 2020 (1:53 pm)

      I’m trying to imagine that our City would be up to this task, but the tunnel was a 14-year detour instigated by Nickels and other city fathers (so to speak). Yes, that was a State project but Seattle gummed up their fully funded viaduct upgrade plans and turned it into a byzantine  political knot. Does anyone remember the 2006 vote in which Seattle could choose a viaduct re-build upgrade, OR a tunnel, AND against the tunnel, OR against a viaduct, OR against both? The result was an unspecified 125% againsts(sic)! The tunnel idea came in last — then waterfront property owners funded a multi-year tunnel campaign and…tick-tock, tick-tock…in 2019, there it was. If the West Seattle Bridge gets properly taken care of in a decade I’ll be shocked. I want to be shocked.

      • heartless May 24, 2020 (6:47 pm)

        You complain a lot.

      • KBear May 24, 2020 (9:17 pm)

        David, the tunnel proposal that was on that ballot was a cut and cover construction that would have required a complete shutdown of SR99 for several years. As far as “fully funded viaduct upgrades”, I think that’s just some nonsense you made up. The viaduct was not “upgradable”, and even if it were, the Battery Street tunnel was not up to current safety standards. 

        • K. Davis May 25, 2020 (9:58 am)

          KBear, shame on you for introducing facts and reality to David’s rant.  How dare you.

  • Matt P May 24, 2020 (12:37 pm)

    2 months and nothing has been done.  Some keep saying that it’s a slow process and it’s too early to start crying foul, but at what point will it be ok to complain?  6 months, a year?  That’s where we’re headed.

    • WSB May 24, 2020 (1:49 pm)

      “Nothing has been done” is inaccurate – we’ve reported 50+ stories about what is being and has been done. It would be accurate to say “construction of sharing/repairs has not begun.” SDOT explained on May 13th the timeline for that:

      Here’s what happens next, after we collect a few weeks’ worth of data.

      Analytic modeling will interpret the data to gain a baseline understanding of the bridge’s behavior. If we observe stable behavior, the bridge will continue to be monitored during and after the temporary crack arrest measure installation and the Pier 18 restrained lateral bearings’ release, to see how the bridge reacts.

      Observations will help us decide on longer-term plans like Phase 2, which includes temporary shoring design and installation as well as strengthening and repairs, and Phase 3, determining whether we need a full replacement.

      Wednesday will be two weeks since that, so it’ll be an appropriate time to start asking “OK, now that ‘a few weeks’ have passed, what’s the status?'” – TR

  • johnny bocchetti May 24, 2020 (1:40 pm)

    A cantilever style steel bridge, seismic resistant. We learned in SF, the 880 concrete freeway collapse. Now the “new sinking millennium tower” made entirely out of concrete is leaning and sinking… after just 4 years after construction.. rebar never was intended to strengthen the weight of failing concrete…

  • Ookla the Mok May 24, 2020 (2:25 pm)

    I hope that the various groups being formed to speak on behalf of West Seattle take a more constructive approach to dealing with the city, state, and various fed agencies than that being reflected in comments I regularly see following reporting on the bridge situation.  WSB correctly points out that progress is being made.  And, I’d argue that this is moving at an appropriate pace given that this is a structure that will need to carry 100,000 vehicles a day, and it is occurring during a public health and economic crisis.  Yes, this sucks and yes, policy makers need to be held accountable.  But resolving this is going to require patience and flexibility from all parties, and it’s going to require a little less invective and name calling. What more, the financial resources needed aren’t simply laying around (nor are they being “wasted” on the homeless as I saw one long comment argue on West Seattle Connection).  This is going to require new financial commitments from the city, state, and feds, and (gasp) it may require the citizens of Seattle to kick in a little more through higher taxes to improve our infrastructure.   None of this comes together over night.  

  • Swan May 24, 2020 (2:25 pm)

    I had to turn down three possible jobs in West Seattle because of the bridge closure.If I depend on the bridge to get to work and back home in a timely manner, then I cannot depend on no bridge, or one that is out of the way or significantly lengthens my commute.It seems clear to me that the absence of any work on the bridge means they don’t want to fix it, spending more money, only to have it break down again in a year or two. Me thinks they are working with demolition contractors as we ponder, what next? I think we’ll see demolition crews out there before the summer is out, and they maybe, by 2022, a whole new bridge with a better, more solid design.Decades ago, they used to have a ferry from West Seattle to the Waterfront. Maybe, they might just bring that back? Maybe.  Peace, and love, all. Stay safe, and hold your tempers.

    • Also John May 24, 2020 (6:55 pm)

      @SWAN…..you understand.  Sorry about your lost job opportunities.     I agree with your comment regarding working with contractors regarding their opinions of how to remove the section of bridge spanning the river…pier to pier.    I’m a retired licensed civil engineer.  For a large number of my projects I’d work closely with familiar contractors for their advice.  I couldn’t guarantee them the project, because my projects were government projects requiring open bids.  Lowest responsible bid wins the job.  I’ll guarantee you a small number of contractors are already working on concepts when the demolition of the bridge hits the streets for bids.   This will not be easy in any way.  Many on this site just don’t get it.  They’ve never done this kind of work.   

  • Joe Paschke May 24, 2020 (3:26 pm)

    The plan to add a bike lane up Highland Park Way in response to the bridge being closed and take away a downhill lane is as stupid as it gets. There is PLENTY of room to expand to a two way bike lane similar to how Alki is where the existing sidewalk is now only IN THE FUTURE for crying out loud. FOCUS we need to move CARS NOT BIKES.  For the next 5 years minimum, the amount of trips that road will see will increase by +50% and SDOT’s answer is to reduce lanes of travel. It’s stupidity on a titanic scale. The number of bikes that are going to use that 11% grade (they’ll get off their bikes and start pushing them up the hill) lane pales in comparison to how many cars should be using them. 25 MPH on a road built for 35 is more social engineering that elected leaders feel the need for. That road for the amount of travel is one of the safer roads in the city. I read over the last 5 years only 195 accidents. One fatality. The vast majority are non injury fender benders… the city council has a real opportunity to show real leadership but it sounds like that isn’t going to happen. 

    • Chemist May 25, 2020 (1:00 pm)

      A steep grade isn’t the sort of thing SDOT would let obstruct a bike plan.  The next phase of greenway through West Seattle is planned to go through the alaska junction on 42nd, up 8 and 10% grades.  All Ages and Abilities!

    • bill May 25, 2020 (3:12 pm)

      @Joe: While as a cyclist I am not a fan of the proposed uphill bike lane on Highland adjacent to noisy cars and their irresponsible and irritated drivers, it does not matter whether Highland is narrowed to one lane with alternating direction car traffic or widened to eight lanes at 60 mph. The capacity constraints will remain the 1st Ave bridge and the street grid feeding Highland. Anything the city can do to entice drivers to cycle will relieve some of the car pressure on the roads and make driving somewhat more pleasant for those who have no alternative to driving. The majority of Americans are physically able to cycle. The smart ones have already snapped up electric bikes.

      • Go gull May 25, 2020 (6:00 pm)


  • On An Island called West Seattle May 24, 2020 (3:51 pm)

    Wow.  SWAN thinks we’re getting a whole new bridge by 2022 ?  I sure hope SWAN is right.  That timetable seems naively optimistic.  WSJ – you act like SDOT’s attack dog, and WSCommuter is being way too hysterical.  Hopefully, SDOT can give us a comprehensive update Wednesday with tangible decisions to at least physically start stabilizing/shoring the bridge, and a determination as to whether the entire bridge needs to be replaced.

  • dsa May 24, 2020 (4:14 pm)

    The city is busy making healthy streets and checking out those recently installed bridge monitors to determine how to proceed.  At best they know repairs are only good for ten years, not so good.  My gripe is that in a month or two, suppose they do decide it does need to be rebuilt, not repaired, must be dismantled and reconstructed anew better.  Four months after closure just might be a hard time to convince anyone for emergency construction dollars.  I think SDOT knows enough about the bridge right now to make that decision.  A Nisqually or maybe greater earthquake might be enough to cause it to come down and block the navigable channel.  The thought alone of an earthquake happening in the bridge’s condition should be emergency enough.  Maybe none of them have lived through our past shakers.

  • mnw May 24, 2020 (5:40 pm)

    Why is it taking until early June to come up with a plan for getting residents in and out of West Seattle? This should be a priority especially since “Phase 2” could start June 1st. Will there be additional water taxi service, extended shuttles to water taxies, park & ride established on harbor avenue, passenger ferry from Fauntleroy to Downtown, additional bus service, etc? I’m looking at potentially having to commute downtown a few days week starting June 1st and want to know what my options are. 

    • Jethro Marx May 24, 2020 (8:19 pm)

      Your options are the same as everyone’s: bike, walk or bus over the low bridge, or take some other earthbound transport by HPW or Roxbury/Olsen or other southerly ways. If you want to get creative, think of the watercraft you are most at home on and just do it. Few of us can arrange a canoe commute; many of us would be overjoyed at the prospect. As to the bridge, maybe it’s the unique perspective of one staying close to home and focusing such, but has it occurred to anyone else that we may not want to rebuild it at all? What if we spent such sums on other ideas? I know, war on cars, and all. But a rebuilt bridge wouldn’t make your commute better, just the same as before. What if we built a boat-share instead? What if we could build a cable-based system that could zipline 1-4 people at a time to downtown every 30 seconds? What if half of West Seattle’s commuters just stopped commuting at all? Can we imagine?

      • 1994 May 24, 2020 (10:54 pm)

        Not all workers are working in downtown so boat share, zip line… isn’t a solution. And yes, I think half or more of WS workers have stopped commuting to their jobs at this time. You don’t have to imagine, it has already happened.

      • Mark Schletty May 25, 2020 (12:46 pm)

        Jethro— given your close connections to SDOT personnel, you have now really scared me.  Advocating for no replacement goes way beyond the rational. It is total disrespect for everyone needing to use a car for transportation. Like the idea or not it is simple reality. And will be for a long time. Please use your insight and connections to come up with realistic ideas, not “no replacement” hogwash.

        • Jethro Marx May 25, 2020 (10:07 pm)

          I wish I had the connections you speak of; I think you’re connecting my Brave New World pseudonym with the engineer in charge of the bridge repair, Heather Marx, yet I do not know her.  As to your fears and demands, I don’t know what to say- you cannot improve the traffic situation by continuing to build infrastructure that dumps massive amounts of traffic into high-traffic areas. This is the same reason the 99 tunnel doesn’t have downtown exits. So, repair, sure, but replace? As Jethro Tull would say, you’re living in the past.

      • Chemist May 25, 2020 (2:07 pm)

        Let me know when gondolas start to be proposed for the single stop in ballard.  Not building a light rail bridge to serve that one stop would seem to be even more budget efficient and realistic than a gondola to West Seattle.  Also, the folks who complain about the ballard bridge’s terrible ped/bike facilities can just use a gondola with a bike rack on it, right?

        • bill May 25, 2020 (3:15 pm)

          @Chemist: I would welcome the fresh air of a gondola ride over the exhaust-laden bike commute over the low bridge and along E Marginal.

      • Go gull May 25, 2020 (6:07 pm)

        For the maybe 10% adventurous enough, some of these ideas sound great. ;)

        There are many unwilling to even consider getting on a bike, though, which is already an option right now.  

        There is a percentage of folks who truly need to drive, for their line of work, or understandably for other limitations.

        I believe more options would be better than fewer. Getting as many ebikes as possible to people who can and would utilize them, increase transit / water taxi / ferry options, eventually light rail, and perhaps looking to some new novel ideas, such as an aerial tram (like the one in Portland) would be a start to less reliance on cars and the bridge, in the future.

  • dsa May 24, 2020 (6:51 pm)

    It looks like the Port has a huge lot at pier 5 west of the RR tracks, south and adjacent to SW Florida St.  This area could be developed for a temporary park and ride, park and share site.  But it takes cooperation, planning, money, and the *will* to do it.  The mayor did say all options are on the table.

  • pemfir May 24, 2020 (9:30 pm)

    SDOT should hold weekly Friday meetings, with 30 min for Q/A, updating satellites about what they did during the week. This would make it much easier to demonstrate progress or expose lack of.

    • ScubaFrog May 25, 2020 (12:07 pm)

      This is a great idea.  Transparency during a time like this is paramount.   Lisa Herbold’s doing a great job sending out flyers to those on her email list, and keeping constituents informed, naturally the WSB reports what they know, when they know it. To be able to Q and A with SDOT frequently re the bridge on a frequent basis would be fantastic.  

  • MarFaun May 24, 2020 (10:30 pm)

    I like the zipline idea.  The working version is called an aerial transit system — gondolas.  Used all over the world, with similar capacity to light rail, scalable, costs 80% less than light rail, and can be built 5 years sooner.  See details in The Urbanist online.  

    • Morgan May 25, 2020 (9:29 am)

      The Portland one is great….and probably as expensive as a bridge. We deserve bridge train gondola and another ferry. In return let’s upzone some property for dense housing.horsetrade.

  • Jim May 25, 2020 (3:49 am)

    I believe the damage to a bridge is mainly from truck traffic. If weight limit is imposed could perhaps open to cars. Not sure, but worth a look. Too much damage may have already been done though.

  • AdmiralBridge May 25, 2020 (3:43 pm)

    Gonna throw some red meat on this speed/urgency debate – if it was so urgent an issue to everyone, why was it only that this last week Jayapal’s office reported that they’re “considering” applying for some Federal Funds.  Repair or replace, this thing’s gonna be $200m if it’s a nickel and that application should have been in 24 hours after the closure.  Instead, tilting at windmills on national socialistic policies and spending her time as a talking head on MSNBC in support.  Don’t discount there’s some need, but charity begins at home.  Yes, engineering does take some time, but it will take all the time it is allowed.  This is a funding issue at it’s heart, and we’re getting stalled with sensors and studies.  Have they published the decision tree analysis yet?  Fundamentally believe this will show “replace”….

Sorry, comment time is over.