WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE CLOSURE: Community Task Force begins ‘long journey’

(WSB file photo)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The three-dozen-plus members of the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force have begun their “long journey.”

That’s what one co-chair called it, as the group met for the first time via videoconference and phone this afternoon.

It was mostly a meet-and-greet session, devoted to introductions as well as a statement of purpose, underscoring that this group will be advising, not deciding. The major piece of new information presented by SDOT was the timeline/scenarios released separately, and reported here, during the meeting – basically, that we’ll have a new bridge either in mid-decade, or, if this one’s life can be extended a bit through repairs, early next decade.

First, here’s the meeting slide deck (also here in PDF):

(added Thursday) Here’s the meeting video:

SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe opened. “This is the top issue for SDOT,” he reassured everyone, “a huge undertaking and a complex set of issues.”

He said they’ll be looking for the CTF to offer thoughts, insights, and opinions – to be a sounding board.

Opening remarks also were offered by deputy mayor Shefali Ranganathan, acknowledging that this is happening in a moment also spotlighting two other overarching situations – the pandemic and the push for equity and justice.

Co-chair Paulina López, executive director of the Duwamish Valley Cleanup Coalition, stressed the importance of “involving community in this process.” It’s not just a West Seattle issue – the Duwamish Valley is feeling major impacts too. She reiterated that traffic mitigation will be a focus for the CTF as well as the repair/replacement scenarios.

Also a co-chair, former mayor Greg Nickels, an Admiral resident who has been active in transportation issues since leaving office (serving recently on the Stakeholders Advisory Group for Sound Transit‘s West Seattle to Ballard light-rail project).

Much of the time was taken up in introductions, and with 40+ members (here’s the newest list – representing a wide list of organizations and businesses large and small, as well as elected officials), that was quite the undertaking.

Some members made their own opening statements, like Deb Barker, representing the West Seattle Transportation Coalition, who said this is an “emergency” and needs to be treated and recognized regionally as such. Several spoke of the need to “reconnect” West Seattle with the rest of the city. Todd Carden of Elliott Bay Brewing noted that he’s already getting “a lot of feedback” from people who know he’s part of the CTF. Anne Higuera of Ventana Construction (WSB sponsor) noted that the committee’s strength is in its members’ many community connections.

State Rep. Eileen Cody noted that tomorrow is the 42nd anniversary of the ship collision that took a previous bridge out of commission (in the context that she moved to West Seattle since three days before that happened).

King County Councilmember Joe McDermott said his interest is ensuring SDOT stays on a dual simultaneous track – exploring both repair and replacement (if repair turns out to be impossible). Multiple members, including Amanda Kirk from West Seattle Bridge Now, emphasize the importance of “urgency.” Deputy county executive Rachel Smith said she hopes the task force can flex a collective “civic muscle” with such diverse experience and knowledge.

After introductions, the first presentation was from project leader Heather Marx. She went through the scenarios and timelines that SDOT released separately during the meeting. Marx also showed a timeline that includes key finance decisions – at all levels (local, state, federal). That timeline noted that the mayor gets briefed on the bridge situation weekly.

Matt Donahue, director of roadway structures, got into more technical detail including the continuing growth of cracks, but said there’s “still quite a bit of uncertainty” in what they’re learning. They’ve even used ground-penetrating radar to look at the condition of the steel in the bridge. Analysis of all the gathered data is now under way. He also talked about the monitoring that’s under way – he is the point person who would have to make the call if they felt failure is imminent and the emergency plan had to be activated. Generally, what would happen IF it happened is likely the center span falling “in one piece.” The three phases of work, he said, are actually all being worked on simultaneously.

The low bridge also is being monitored, given the higher usage since the high bridge’s closure, Donahue said, with additional systems in place within a few weeks.

Meghan Shepard, deputy director of downtown mobility, is working on the traffic-management component of the ongoing bridge project. She recapped what’s been done – the Highland Park Way/Holden signal, 5-way intersection work including repaving, two blocks of Roxbury repaving, etc. “But we know that’s not enough,” and that’s why the neighborhood-specific plans are in progress, as we’ve reported. More details on that are due out at next week’s task-force meeting, she said. She also revealed there are two other advisory groups besides this one and the Technical Advisory Panel (which had its first meeting yesterday) – there’s also a Maritime Town Hall that meets monthly and an Employer Resource Group “that represents a lot of private mobility.”

“We have a long journey to go through,” said López in closing.

Feedback on the meeting, or for the task force in general? Here’s the form.

WHAT’S NEXT: SDOT says it’ll make a recording of this meeting available soon. Meantime, the next meeting is next Wednesday, June 17th, also at 1 pm.

44 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE CLOSURE: Community Task Force begins 'long journey'"

  • Todd June 10, 2020 (4:30 pm)

    Long journey? Make it a now journey!

    • Vic June 10, 2020 (6:59 pm)

      it can be both.

  • Curious June 10, 2020 (4:37 pm)

    I think a lot of people would like to know – we hired a company to build the bridge; it was suppose to last 75 years and barely made it halfway. What are the repercussions for that company? Do we really just pay the money, go “oh well, that didn’t work like you said it would,” and then pay more money to another company to fix it or rebuild it? 

    • David June 10, 2020 (6:06 pm)

      @Curious: They gloss over it, but part of the repairs they have to do even if they demolish the bridge will be to get the Pier 18 joints (they’re supposed to allow the bridge to flex to relieve stress) unlocked. ~ I’m curious myself, how this fact (which is extremely likely to be why things went so bad so fast) escaped anyone’s notice.

    • BBILL June 10, 2020 (6:38 pm)

      should have bought the extended warranty

    • wscommuter June 10, 2020 (9:55 pm)

      @Curious … the statute of limitations has long since run against any of the firms involved in the design and construction of the bridge.  There is literally nothing that can be done with regard to any of them.

  • wondering June 10, 2020 (4:54 pm)

    Will apartment rent in West Seattle go down because of this? 

    • David June 10, 2020 (6:07 pm)

      I love you. Thank you for sharing my dark sense of humor, and for the badly-needed laugh. XD

    • Matt June 10, 2020 (6:47 pm)

      It depends on the company. My landlord recently told me that once my lease is up (July 2020), they will honor month to month rent payments with no change in rate. Should they make any changes, they’d let us know 60 days ahead of time. You should ask your landlord what their rules are. Besides West Seattle Bridge being closed, they also took into consideration COVID-19 issues, so yeah. Hope this helps.

      • Chemist June 10, 2020 (9:12 pm)

        Considering that inslee banned rent increases through June 4 and durkan banned evictions t through to December, they might be happy to have paying tenants with shorter term leases.  Eventually they might even put out ads for leases lower than they were like the great recession.

    • Hi June 10, 2020 (7:23 pm)

      Doubtful. There may not be any increases in rent, but people are still buying and renting here. 

    • 1994 June 10, 2020 (9:00 pm)

      Some West Seattle rents already have gone down per a Seattle Time article today.

  • Dave June 10, 2020 (5:12 pm)

    A wealth of process, but little sense of urgency is apparent.

  • Dave June 10, 2020 (5:49 pm)

    There will be no recovery from the original bridge designer or contractor — the statute of repose (limitations) is long expired.  Conceivably they could be barred from future city work, but the designer was swallowed up by a multi-national design firm several years ago, so it is unlikely.

  • AlkiWendy June 10, 2020 (6:10 pm)

    Yes, rents are going down.  There was an article in the Times this morning.  An owner of several apartments in Seattle said he was having trouble renting his units in West Seattle.  

    • wondering June 10, 2020 (7:58 pm)

      Oh thanks, I’ll try to find it and read it. I know a lot of people might  want to move because of the commute, and our building has the most vacancies that I’ve ever seen with some of the units sitting vacant since before covid. I’ve been in the same building for 12 years and it’s never been like this.

  • Concerned commuter June 10, 2020 (6:44 pm)

    I’d like to see the names and agency for each member on this committee. And a transcript of the meeting.So far SDOT has done NOTHING to help with the problem. Traffic is nightmare, and there talking about band-aids.12 weeks-NO added bus service, NO park and ride lots created, NO parking or bus service to the water taxi.

    • WSB June 10, 2020 (7:04 pm)

      The list is linked in the story. As for a transcript, sorry, we don’t transcribe, we summarize and report, but as noted, SDOT says a recording will be available. Not sure how soon, but we’ll link it when it is.

    • My two cents ... June 10, 2020 (7:51 pm)

      @ concerned commuter. In all fairness, Metro Transit is not run or controlled by the City of Seattle – and it should be noted that Metro Transit already is being impacted financially by COVID-19. Multiple stakeholders = multiple requests. Selfish me thinks West Seattle should be put at the top of the list – but I live here – I’m sure a large segment of Mercer Island still bemoans  the conversion of “their” express lane usage to light rail (it should also be noted that Mercer Island also has issues with non-residents utilizing the Park & Ride). Speaking of Park & Ride lots –  Where do you propose finding available land (not to mention the time and dollars to  complete the transaction)? Will it be a turn-key site (the old Jack Block Park previously used), or will it require development? Parking for the water taxi is not needed at the current time due to the COVID-19 issues we face. Additionally, bus service (shuttle) has, and does exist. Yesterday King County announced commuter solution enhancement for the water taxi (Vashon). We all want to return to having easier access out of and back into West Seattle, but to say “… SDOT has done NOTHING to help with the problem” needs to be put into the correct context.

    • Concerned June 10, 2020 (7:53 pm)

      I listened live and I will say that the introductions took 55 minutes and the discussions lasted 30 minutes if that gives you any idea of the commitment to addressing the real issues. 

      • WSB June 10, 2020 (8:33 pm)

        Forgive me if I didn’t explain this clearly enough, but that’s what this meeting was for. This group is frankly only a small part of what’s been going on for 2 1/2 months (click WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE SAFETY PROJECT under the headline and scroll through the 60+ stories we’ve reported over that time). This is a community advisory group, not a decisionmaking body. – TR

  • WSB Commenter June 10, 2020 (7:34 pm)

    Will Maharajah ever come back? Has their bar been renovated? I’m going to need that bar….soon!

    • Yum June 10, 2020 (9:08 pm)

      we’re waiting hopefully for their return too :)

  • Concerned June 10, 2020 (7:42 pm)

    3 of the most offensive features of the meeting as I watched live:the study to mitigate traffic issues isn’t finished until early 2021; The participants appeared to think that the posted comments they made during the meeting were not visible to all (they were); The introductions of participants took 55 minutes – actual discussion 30 minutes. 

  • Rick June 10, 2020 (8:07 pm)

    Wasn’t there a Robin Trower song”Bridge of Fools”? I just looked it up and it was by Heartland. Trower sang “Bridge of sighs”. I guess both apply.

  • John June 10, 2020 (8:31 pm)

    “Much of the time was taken up in introductions”.Perfect.

  • Aerial Observer June 10, 2020 (8:54 pm)

    Wait, we’ve had one whole meeting and still the bridge hasn’t been replaced *yet*?!? TERM LIMITS!!1!;-)

    • Smittytheclown June 10, 2020 (9:54 pm)

      No.  “Only” 79 days of “monitoring”.  Relax. 

  • Ken June 10, 2020 (8:57 pm)

    Typical Seattle bureaucracy at work (or not working) apparently. The I-35W bridge in Minneapolis was rebuilt in 364 days because state and local officials there stated: “It was constructed on an accelerated schedule, because of the highway’s function as a vital link for carrying commuters and truck freight”. Doesn’t anyone consider the West Seattle Bridge to be a vital link? Not a single person?

    Too bad officials in Seattle can’t even bother to remotely demonstrate the same respect and sense of urgency to people who rely on the West Seattle Bridge.

    Around here, it would take 364 days just to plan a meeting for a future meeting to discuss the steps they plan to take. Many residents will be lucky to see anything done in their lifetime. Seattle is simply disgusting and shameful.

    • Tsurly June 10, 2020 (9:15 pm)

      Your rant fails to include the fact that the I-35 bridge collapsed (and killing 13 and injuring 145 people), foregoing the need to safely demolish it, but keep stomping your feet.

      • Canton June 10, 2020 (10:46 pm)

        Slow your pedals, it’s a steep incline. When the city puts glue on cracks for 7 years, people should be upset. The concerns have been there for years, but not mitigated. This process is sloooowww.

        • tsurly June 11, 2020 (10:04 am)

          Slow your ignorance. Epoxy resin compounds are used extensively in concrete repair (yes, including on large structures like bridges, dams, and piers) due to their high bonding strength.  

          • Chemist June 11, 2020 (12:47 pm)

            The bridge consultants (who probably are more informed) have put in reports that the epoxy resin was more about excluding the elements/prevent corrosion and not for any sort of added strength.

            Hopefully the cracks do not present a concern from a load capacity or safety viewpoint, regardless the cracks do pose a threat to the long-term performance as they allow for the ingress of moisture, chlorides, and oxygen which can accelerate corrosion of the reinforcing steel. Therefore, it is recommended that all cracks in the bottom flange and the vertical webs be sealed with epoxy injection.In addition, stiffening procedures should be considered, as epoxy injection will not significantly reduce the segment flexibility. Increased flexibility resulting from the existing cracks is currently a driving mechanism for continued crack growth. If stiffening procedures are not implemented, epoxy injection may be a re-occurring procedure for the life of the bridge. 

          • TSurly June 11, 2020 (1:59 pm)

            Epoxy resins and mortars can be designed to have a bonding strength, in tension, that exceed the tensile resistance of concrete, so they can be used, in the right circumstance, to restore shear resistance and tensile and compressive properties in cracked areas. I’m not saying SDOT did this right, but they took a fairly common approach based on the information they had at the time, not with 20/20 hindsight through a memo written in 2019. 

  • Island Girl June 10, 2020 (9:39 pm)

    City of Seattle should reach out to all businesses (Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks, etc etc) and request them to allow non essential employees to work virtually until the bridge is built and or to offer shuttle service from West Seattle to several campus across Puget Sound (similar to Microsoft).  City/County/State could incentivize these companies with carbon credits for every employee that doesn’t have to drive into work.  Additionally, are there any plans of opening the lower bridge during peak hours to commuters only and then closing it for general public during off peak hours?  So no trucks between 7am and 9am and 3pm and 5pm?  It has to be a multi faceted approach to mitigate the traffic nightmare and everyone (WS residents, Employers, City/County, Commercial trucks, ship yard….)needs to be part of the solution.  

    • ScubaFrog June 11, 2020 (12:10 am)

      Agreed :)  

    • East Coast Cynic June 11, 2020 (3:16 pm)

      Double Agreed on allowing non essential employees to work virtually until the bridge is built and incentivizing business with carbon credits.

  • Diane June 11, 2020 (12:50 pm)

    could you please add the link to the meeting?  or if it’s on zoom, the ID & password? I’ve read through your story about 5 times and I don’t see it; bummed I missed the June 10 meeting (because I didn’t know about it until few hours after it was over); I would like to be prepared for next meeting on June 17; thanks so much for all the other information, so very helpful

    • WSB June 11, 2020 (12:56 pm)

      I don’t have a link to the next meeting. Will publish it when we get it. Same for the recording of this one (checking again with SDOT right now).

  • Quixotix June 11, 2020 (12:52 pm)

    Ken, in addition to what Tsurly said about demolition (which is not trivial as, for example, you don’t want to damage or close the lower bridge for long periods of time),  there is the issue of money.  According to Wikipedia:”U.S. Representative Jim Oberstar, who represented Minnesota’s 8th congressional district and chaired the House Transportation Committee, introduced an earmark to direct a minimum of $250 million to help replace the bridge; the bill passed the House unanimously on August 3 … President George W. Bush signed the legislation on August 6, 2007″ So, within  a week of the collapse, enough money was in place to cover the full cost of the replacement bridge.  Having people in high places that can get your project fully funded in under a week is how this project got done so fast.  The difference between bridge that is part of the national interstate system, and one that I don’t believe is even a state highway, is going to make a big difference in how easy it is to get funding.  Not to mention that tax dollars aren’t exactly flowing into city coffers at the fastest rate right now. In our capitalist system, money talks.  If you want the bridge done faster, find someone willing to throw money at it.

  • WSB June 11, 2020 (4:35 pm)

    Here’s the meeting video (provided to us by SDOT, and we uploaded to YT)

  • Neil C. June 11, 2020 (7:08 pm)

    The San Francisco Earthquake of 1989 (Loma Prieta) caused 5 billion in damage.   The Oakland Cypress Viaduct was destroyed (Similar to Seattle’s now torn down Viaduct)  UCLA installed a earthquake “Shaker Room” some years back to test materials used in buildings, bridges and other structures.  The Loma Prieta quake caused major damage to roads and bridges.  UCLA immediately started testing materials to be used in repairing many damaged  bridges and other buildings.  The damaged piers and bridge supports (as I recall) were reinforced and encased with Epoxy and Fiberglass mat.  It seems in my humble mind that WA State Structural Engineers might consider outside help in asking UCLA or others for engineering results  in a variety of  bridge structural  repairs.

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