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.