It was all about the West Seattle Bridge @ District 1 Community Network’s June meeting

The District 1 Community Network‘s June meeting was, like many local meetings this spring, mostly about the West Seattle Bridge. Here are our toplines from the meeting held by videoconference and phone last week:

SDOT’S BRIDGE UPDATE: The department’s new communications director Michael Harold, a Morgan Junction resident, recapped his first day on the job – arriving at work March 23rd to learn his new place of employment was about to announce the West Seattle Bridge would be shut down TFN. Now, the department remains in extensive data-gathering mode: “This is not a thing where you can make guesses,” he said, in explaining why that’s necessary before a decision on what’s next. They’re pursuing multiple paths in the meantime – stabilization among them, and as we reported the day before the D1CN meeting, the search for a team to “design a potential replacement.” Harold again stressed that the potential 10-year contract is because “there is a scenario in which” they might fix the bridge but only get 10 more years out of it so they’d have to be working on replacement. He added that “we are considering many options … the goal is to get people back across the water as quickly and efficiently as we can do it.”

NEIGHBORHOOD TRAFFIC MITIGATION: Danielle Friedman from the Department of Neighborhoods talked about the neighborhoods affected by the detour traffic, and said four would be engaged in prioritization plans:

South Park
Highland Park/Riverview/South Delridge/Roxhill

The question, she said, will be, “If we’re going to make improvements,” what would do the most good? They’ll use online and printed surveys to help decide which projects – less than $100,000 cost and less than 12 months construction time, so city crews can do the work – should be built. Will residents of other neighborhoods be allowed to participate? Friedman said, technically yes, though there’ll be questions about zip codes and community connection. Harold said these plans will be just a first step. The launch of that process was at one point supposed to happen this week, but that timeline’s been delayed a bit

What about creative ideas for using the low bridge? Harold said they’re still working on changes (as bridge-project leader Heather Marx has said multiple times). Overall: “We can’t just open it up without a very clear plan in place. … If we all try to use the low bridge, nobody will able to use the low bridge.”

What about funding for the bridge’s repair or replacement? As Marx told us in our interview last week, funding is still under discussion.

Is SDOT talking with other city departments about a moratorium on building in West Seattle while the bridge situation remains unresolved? “That is not a conversation we are currently having,” replied Harold.

WS BRIDGE COMMUNITY TASK FORCE: The newly appointed advisory group meets this Wednesday for the first time. (The mayor’s decision to form the task force came shortly after last month’s D1CN meeting brought a call for some kind of community advisory group.) Four members were on the D1CN call. Aley Thompson from South Park says she’s excited to participate. “We’re preparing to get started”- the task force will meet twice monthly, then monthly. Marci Carpenter, an Admiral resident, promised to speak up on behalf of that area as well as other parts of WS. Deb Barker of Morgan Junction said she wants to see the mayor or governor declare the bridge closure an emergency. (She brought this up at the West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting a week earlier, and we asked the mayor’s office if she would be considering that – no reply yet, while the mayor is dealing with two other emergencies.)

UNDERWATER TUNNEL? Retired engineer Bob Ortblad had a few minutes on the agenda, offering to answer D1CN participants’ questions, if any, about his idea, which he’s presented as letters to the editor of local newspapers. (He also has since announced a series of informational presentations for anyone interested.) He says the river’s width, 500 feet, is ideally suited for something other than a huge bridge. In discussion, it was confirmed there’s nothing in the newly announced replacement-design Request for Qualifications that would keep a prospective tunnel builder from applying. Ortblad says he’s not applying, though – he laughed, “I’m retired.”

WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE NOW: Phil Tavel said the coalition’s info from SDOT is that it could be as little as 2 weeks before SDOT’s next decision-making milestone. Plus, they were led to understand that the idea of possibly melding a Sound Transit bridge with a new general-purpose bridge is unlikely. (Two days after the D1CN meeting, WSBN launched its website and video.)

DEVELOPMENT APPEAL: Even this was related to the bridge. Deb Barker filed an appeal of the 4508 California SW approval, seeking to force the city to take the bridge closure into consideration when reviewing development proposals.”It’s not against the project, it’s against the fact that conditions have changed in West Seattle,” she said, insisting that the city needs to recognize that. She filed the appeal in the name of D1CN because of a looming deadline, though the group had not considered or voted on it, and has never taken that kind of action. Though several participants appreciated the broader issue that Barker brought up, the prevailing sentiment was that D1CN’s mission isn’t about taking positions on an individual development project. One side note: D1CN will come up with a way to deal with urgent between-meeting matters in the future.

DISCUSSION DELAYED: One agenda item, an update on the West Seattle Sports Complex proposal, was postponed as supporters decided they’d rather make a presentation sometime later this year.

The District 1 Community Network meets first Wednesdays, online TFN.

19 Replies to "It was all about the West Seattle Bridge @ District 1 Community Network's June meeting"

  • HS June 9, 2020 (6:41 am)

    I’m not thrilled to read that D1CN is filing an appeal on an individual development project. That project is in the Junction, a zoned urban village development, providing both housing and commercial space along a retail corridor – so jobs with development and construction then housing, jobs and business opportunity within the commercial rental space. I see that Deb Barker is on the record, in Nov 2018, in early public meetings regarding that project. As a resident, I WANT more people working closer to home and a variety of housing to diversify our community in the urban village zones. Delaying urban village projects is NOT the way to bring attention to the bridge immediacy.  

    • WSB June 9, 2020 (9:53 am)

      Please re-read. As reported above, the appeal was filed in the name of D1CN by a member WITHOUT the group’s authorization, before this meeting, and when it was discussed during the meetng, the group did NOT support keeping it on the record as such, so the member was either going to withdraw it or have it changed to her own name. Growing pains for this relatively new group, which does not have a formal leadership structure – each meeting has a volunteer facilitator, a role that has rotated, and there is one member who serves as an ongoing volunteer administrator. – TR

      • HS June 9, 2020 (12:27 pm)

        Thank you. I misunderstood and appreciate the correction.

  • Stuck in West Seattle June 9, 2020 (7:19 am)

    Deb Barker has raised important points.  The bridge closure should be declared an Emergency, and Dept of Construction & Inspections should stop approving construction projects in West Seattle that will increase the population in West Seattle.  We need to not increase traffic on the alternate routes in and out of West Seattle.  We appreciate Deb Barker’s voice in these conversations.

    • East Coast Cynic June 9, 2020 (8:53 am)

      I’m doubting that there are a lot of developers interested in initiating construction projects around here while the bridge issue remains unsolved.

  • Seana Davidson June 9, 2020 (7:24 am)

    I’m sure there are engineers here in Seattle that could evaluate and design a tunnel.  It would solve several problems, having a tall bridge is one of those, and it would cost less, likely easier to build, and faster than replacing the bridge with a bridge of similar design.  Boat traffic would no longer require the tall bridge.  The tall bridge with the steep inclines on each end has been problematic for traffic (Trucks and transit slow down  and each end.)

    • Kristine W. June 9, 2020 (8:48 am)

      It took Montreal 4 years to build the new bridge, one of the largest infrastructure in North America.  It’s nearly 12,000 long and 600 feet high.  The West Seattle bridge is 2600 feet long, and 140 feet high…That’s a 1/3 of the length…it shouldn’t take 10 years or 4… the new bridge is built to last 125 years.  How about we reach out to those engineers! 

      • Read Much June 9, 2020 (9:51 am)

        People need to stop complaining about the “10-year contract”.  Read the language!

        “Harold again stressed that the potential 10-year contract is because “there is a scenario in which” they might fix the bridge but only get 10 more years out of it so they’d have to be working on replacement.”

        This is part of the planning process with a contingency.  They fix or shore up the bridge knowing it will have to be replaced within 10 years. In the meantime, the bridge is usable AND they have a 10-year contract already in place for planning/logistics/etc. to actually rebuild the bridge. Stop bitching about the POTENTIAL “10-year contract”.

  • Mark Schletty June 9, 2020 (8:43 am)

    Yea Deb Barker!!

    • tsurly June 9, 2020 (10:46 am)

      No, Deb Barker. People need a place to live if there is a bridge or not.

  • VBD June 9, 2020 (9:25 am)

    A tunnel would be more expensive than a bridge.  And given that the approaches on either side of the Duwamish are already elevated, the incline in and out of the tunnel would likely be steeper and deeper than the existing bridge is high. 

  • nf June 9, 2020 (9:39 am)

    Emergency, indeed. Let’s all pause for a moment and consider an earthquake and/or tidal wave. Leaving aside the fact that evacuation will be impractical through detour routes for civilians, how will emergency vehicles be able to function?

  • Ookla the Mok June 9, 2020 (10:40 am)

    One of the more amusing, and frankly, unrealistic suggestions during the bridge debacle is that all development in West Seattle should be halted (or significantly curtailed) until a repair/replacement is in place.  I’d suggest that people put this aside as it is simply not going to happen.  Bridge or no bridge, there is still an enormous shortage of housing in this city.  The need for more housing (particularly affordable housing) far outweighs any concerns about traffic congestion in West Seattle while the bridge situation is sorted out.  The mayor, City Council, and numerous city officials all recognize this, and none of them is going to even consider such a moratorium.  As for developers, their enthusiasm could be tempered.  But, keep in mind that these are long term projects, many of which have been in development for years.  Again, it is simply unrealistic that they are going to drop everything or not consider any new development in West Seattle, particularly when the bridge will get fixed/replaced eventually.  

    • KM June 9, 2020 (11:07 am)

      Well said. There is also very limited space in the city where multifamily and affordable housing can even be developed, and since West Seattle has a few of these pockets, we’re likely to see development continue.

    • Jort June 9, 2020 (12:32 pm)

      Development only causes traffic congestion if new residents choose to join the thousands of other people who choose to drive, and people will get about one year into this bridge closure and realize that the choice to drive is not going to work for them, even the most stubborn and “anti-spandex” and “anti-icky-icky-icky-homeless-people-on-the-bus-so-icky-eww-icky-icky-gross-icky.”  We could easily build thousands of more units of housing in West Seattle and efficiently move all their residents as long as we commit to vastly expanding and improving our scalable transportation options, like transit and cycling. The upper limitations of car driving are based in math and geometry. The limitations of transit and cycling are rooted in political courage and a willingness to stand up to the mistakes of decades of cars-first city planning. You can choose to fight the laws of geometry, or you can fight for something bounded only by politics. Make your choice, and then begin your personal mental adaptations for a reduced-car future. Because it’s happening to all of us, everyone will be affected, and there is literally nothing we can do about it.

    • J A June 9, 2020 (12:35 pm)

      How is that amusing? Far from it. It is a very good point. Over development with no plans of how the bridge or roads are suppose to support all the people moving to West Seattle is what caused this mess. Along with declaring this an emergency and redistribution of funds should have already happened weeks ago. If this was the east side or north Seattle it wouldn’t have even happened.

  • Joe Z June 9, 2020 (12:31 pm)

    In my opinion, opposition to projects that increase density is inconsistent with “black lives matter”. We all know that the housing crisis is disproportionately affecting communities of color and we should be doing everything in our power to bring more people to West Seattle. As well as helping our local West Seattle businesses by bringing them more customers. 

  • JA June 9, 2020 (3:54 pm)

     New construction is inconsistent with affordable housing which is apparent by the gentrification of North Delridge and West Seattle in general.

    • Joe Z June 10, 2020 (9:27 am)

      Ask yourself why most of the new construction/gentrification occurs in historically black communities, while historically white communities are protected by zoning laws.

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