WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE CLOSURE: See why SDOT believes the bridge is fixable

(SDOT photo – taking samples off side of bridge)

During last week’s West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force meeting (WSB coverage here), SDOT revealed that analysis so far shows the bridge IS likely fixable – so the biggest question now is whether repairs are feasible, more than whether they’re possible. Just published on SDOT Blog this afternoon is a close-up look at what led to that preliminary determination. From the post:

…Over the past few months, we have been hard at work conducting more than 100 scientific tests to analyze the structural stability of the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge. The tests completed so far have not found indications of problems with the post-tensioning system, comprising the steel strands running through the structure like a skeleton. Problems with this system would mean repairs would be much less likely to succeed.

We are continuing to analyze how long repairs would take, how much they would cost, whether or not repairs would allow traffic to return to previous levels, and how long and in what capacity the bridge could remain open after potential repairs were completed so that we can tell whether or not fixing the bridge is a worthwhile investment. …

We are keeping all options open and are still moving forward with our search for a team to design a replacement for the bridge in case repairs are not a feasible option. Meanwhile, we have begun assembling our construction equipment to stabilize the bridge, which will be a necessary step in every possible scenario.

The full analysis of the structural stability of the bridge should be complete in early July…..

From there, the post takes a deep dive into “a look at how the steel post-tension system works and the types of scientific tests we performed to analyze the structural stability of it.” It imcludes more on the cracks themselves. Again, the full post is here.

P.S. The next Community Task Force meeting is Wednesday at noon; we’re awaiting the link for public viewing and will publish it when we get it.

45 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE CLOSURE: See why SDOT believes the bridge is fixable"

  • WS Taxpayer June 22, 2020 (4:54 pm)

    Can it be fixed without significant reduction in capacity?  1 lane each way?  2 lanes each way?  eliminate bus / freight traffic?  

    • Tracey June 23, 2020 (7:01 am)

      The ideal situation for me would be capacity restrictions with coinciding development restrictions.  What we will get is capacity restrictions and a coupon for 10% off an Ebike.  

      • John June 23, 2020 (8:38 am)

        TRACEY,Development restrictions?  Really, will that fix the bridge?  Will development restrictions reduce the already insurmountable possession and dependence on the archaic and unsustainable reliance on the very automobile culture that has created this impasse.   If no more residences were established in West Seattle, we would still have traffic jams and the extended rushours that we have experienced for decades.  Remember, we can add zero capacity to our fully built road system to accommodate existing traffic, unless countless people like TRACEY step up and vacate their homes for more street and car capacity.   Barring  the reality of that, we might need to establish a lottery to decide  those required to up and leave West Seattle to reduce our traffic. An alternative to the volunteer and forced reduction of  West Seattle houses, might be pursuing multiple alternatives.  With the constant caveat of those whose work or whose special-needs requires a vehicle,  a shift to working from home,  bicycle & e-bike commuting, passenger ferries, bus, shuttle-vans, car-pools, car services/UBER and light -rail mass transit may avert the necessity of a West Seattle Eviction Lottery (you win, you vacate). Let’s all try to look at the bridge failure as a bridging opportunity, an opportunity to assess our assumptions, make positive changes and adjust to the reality of  West Seattle’s present and future.

  • Mj June 22, 2020 (5:24 pm)

    2 or more lanes in each direction would work in the interim, 3 even better.  The 4th EB lane, that unbalanced the bridge loads, may need to go

    • time to move on with a plan June 23, 2020 (8:51 am)

      I agree! Just move the bus lane to the lower bridge and have it merge back in with all of the semi. Restrict all trucks and buses to the lower bridge. Only allow cars on the higher bridge until we have a new bridge or tunnel.

      • LyndaB June 23, 2020 (12:49 pm)

        That’s what my dad said.

      • G June 25, 2020 (12:53 pm)

        Agreed. In the Seattle Times town hall SDOT said that a bus produces 3000x the amount of wear and tear on a bridge of a passenger car. Why not just leave buses and trucks on the lower bridge?

  • Marc June 22, 2020 (5:38 pm)

    Maybe the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t an oncoming train..

  • Blinkyjoe June 22, 2020 (5:39 pm)

    I want that guy’s job. 

  • bill June 22, 2020 (5:57 pm)

    So much for the foot-stamping “DO SOMETHING NOW!!!!!” crowd. Plenty has been going on. 

    • Hammer in Hand June 23, 2020 (6:21 am)

      It only took 14 weeks to get there, hardly swift and prompt. This work should have been done years ago.  Not after emergency shut down it’s bad Sdit is just telling us

      • C June 23, 2020 (9:02 am)


      • Time for actions June 23, 2020 (10:53 am)

        Agree! “I’m still stooping my feet for a resolution!” i want to know why the city didn’t take more proactive measure to prevent this from happening. In one hand, they claimed they were following industry standard with the epoxy. Then in the other hand, they say the bridge is unique and there’s nothing to compare it to. To me, that’s just a bunch of excuses. Further, a cost/benefit analysis shouldn’t take 4+ months to complete. It can be done in weeks.  There are many examples of bridge construction to get an average cost of a new replacement. And there are enough data with the current bridge and traffic conditions to properly build a cost/benefit analysis. For once SDOT, use your collective brain and try to operate like a private sector vs. a bureaucrat way of operating. 

      • Elton June 24, 2020 (11:08 am)

        Yes, years ago before they were seeing serious cracking concerns they should’ve started re-building a bridge designed to last another 40+ years. That’s the logical thing for anyone who can see the future to have done, they should’ve consulted with their fortune tellers. No one would’ve balked at all at spending millions of dollars looking to re-build a working bridge.The cracks only got significantly worse in recent months – previous cracks were not considered serious by people who look at cracks like these as part of their daily jobs.

  • Flivver June 22, 2020 (6:08 pm)

    Adding to what ws said. Keep busses and all semi’s off the (fixed) high bridge. Restrict low bridge to only allow freight, busses and those people that work, or keep their boat on Harbor Island.

  • Kalo June 22, 2020 (6:53 pm)

    What tool is that worker using? A super sized glue gun?

    • Tony June 22, 2020 (7:40 pm)

      rotohammer drill…. cordless

      • vertiginous June 23, 2020 (9:50 am)

        Breath taking photo of a fully geared up respirator masked and goggled daredevil construction worker, incredibly using a fully extension corded heavy duty roto-hammer drill in an ‘impossible position.’   That Union Worker is representing and  more than earning his wages.

    • uncle loco June 22, 2020 (8:03 pm)

      I think its a roto hammer/drill to to chisel concrete samples. Looks like he’s using an empty water bottle around the bit to catch the samples- my WAG

    • WSB June 22, 2020 (7:35 pm)

      That’s the same photo we’re showing above.

      • John Hinkey June 23, 2020 (5:50 pm)

        My link is to a much better quality version from SDOT (not down sampled/compressed like it is above).

  • Mj June 22, 2020 (7:14 pm)

    2 lanes each way would work on an interim bases, certainly better than zero.  3 is better. The unbalanced loading with 4 EB and 3 WB, is like the alignment in your car wheels, if it’s off it wears quicker and may have been a contributing factor?

  • bolo June 22, 2020 (8:18 pm)

    Wow, that SDOT blog really shows they have been using a lot of hi tech testing methods. It’s like the bridge is getting a MRI!

    Well this is great news. Looks like the damage is not the worst case scenario they envisioned.

  • Math teacher June 22, 2020 (10:03 pm)

    Okay, sounds like good news about the concrete and the condition of the post-tensioning cables, and I appreciate learning about the sampling and data collection.  But have they determined a cause for the major cracks? Until they know what has caused the failure, they can’t be sure of the fix.

  • Dewayne June 22, 2020 (10:17 pm)

    That guys wrist and shoulders are going to give out like his boots, or the bridge?

  • Todd June 22, 2020 (10:28 pm)

    Opening up the high bridge after repairs would be great.  Repair it now.  Put in a tunnel while we use the high bridge until the tunnel is complete.  Don’t allow freight or buses on the high bridge, keep them on the low bridge. 

    • YouDontGnomeMe June 23, 2020 (9:14 am)

      Can any of those supporting a tunnel explain how you think it is a good idea? The 99 tunnel was bored using the worlds largest tunnel boring machine, Bertha, and we get 2 lanes in each direction. Does that sound suitable to replace the current bridge? What about all the work at either end to get the grade right? Eminent domain anyone? Surely there will be traffic backups, since we already do on the bridge that has twice as many lanes as a tunnel would, so are you also prepared to be stuck in a tunnel under the Duwamish every day? 

      • WS June 23, 2020 (10:58 am)

        The key difference here is that it’s not a tunnel like the 99 tunnel. It’s a pre-fab sections that are lowered into place. It’s cheaper and quicker to put in place than boring a tunnel. The only issue with a tunnel is how do we connect the west side of it to the existing infrastructure (admiral way and Fauntleroy way). Maybe it’s time to get rid of the steel mill. I’ve never liked it and it’s impacts our air quality. 

        • breathdeep June 24, 2020 (7:19 am)

          I like it, it just puts out steam

        • RFS June 24, 2020 (10:30 am)

          You cannot just “get rid of the steel mill”. It’s a private facility that owns the land it operates on. It operates within the air quality rules in place and also does so for storm water. Also, the mill creates actual wealth. It makes steel products that are sold both domestically and exported internationally. It takes in old scrap steel and makes it into those products while using no virgin materials. It made the rebar in the tunnel.It  employees a couple of hundred workers while paying them extraordinarily well (many make into six figures in floor production positions) with decent benefits. During the recession on 2008 they worked very hard to not lay off anyone (pay was cut but most still had their jobs).  I would say that we are extremely fortunate to have it here. For those that moved nearby in the last 10-15 years, well, it’s been here for, like, 115 years. 115 years! If you didn’t know that it was nearby shame on you, you’d have to drive by it everyday on the bridge if you leave WS for work!The products that are used everyday to build your homes, carry your groceries, manufacture cars have to come from somewhere. In the Duwamish Industrial Zone (a real thing) we are fortunate to have mills the churn out steel, cement, sheetrock, concrete, calcium carbonate, glass bottles, cardboard, and more. These facilities not only have employees but also employ contractors to perform various functions and then there are the jobs associated with their vendors, their contractors vendors, materials etc. That’s a lot of jobs that can be associated with one mill. To say nothing of the utilities that industry uses that actually subsidizes the rates that residential users pay, and their employees, vendors, contractors etc. If you contrast it with the tech industry you have, well, the software coders and engineers. No vendors, no contractors that would perform other functions. Just the first order of personnel. By the way, when I  mention contractors I don’t mean gig workers who are getting screwed by the contractor they work for, I mean third party service providers like millwright, fitters, electricians and plumbers, etc. That’s economics at work. One mill with 300 employees=thousands of jobs. one tech company with 300 employees=300 jobs. All of the money that those employees are paid trickles back into the regional economy (at least to some extent) providing more jobs. That’s why one mill in small towns can employee the entire town…or destroy a town.That not to say that the loss of Nucor would destroy Seattle, just an interesting piece of history, but it would impact the local economy. I’ll take Nucor over a gargantuan middleman like Amazon.

      • wscommuter June 23, 2020 (11:16 am)

        I’m not supporting a tunnel – don’t have enough information yet to have an opinion – but I can tell you that the SR99 tunnel project is apples to this concept’s oranges.  No relation whatsoever.  SR99 was a deep bore tunnel.  This idea is to sink prefabricated boxes.  Different technology; different means and methods of construction … different in every way except that both are “tunnels”.  Time will tell if this idea has any legs.  But don’t think you can draw comparisons to the SR99 project.  

        • YouDontGnomeMe June 23, 2020 (11:50 am)

          Well obviously I am no engineer but the majority of my concerns are still valid, even if the types of tunnel are different. The story posted after this one, showing a potential design of a tunnel, shows 3 traffic lanes in each direction (and one of each direction appear to be for transit only). So again, 2 lanes in each direction for normal traffic. Is that enough capacity? Even with a light rail? Do you have any concern being stuck in traffic under a waterway daily? And I highly doubt Nucor would get pushed out of their current location. 

          • wscommuter June 23, 2020 (2:01 pm)

            As I said – I don’t know if the tunnel idea is viable or not.  But to your question about whether I’d be concerned about being in a tunnel under water – no; not in the least.  There are tunnels under waterways all over the world.  No issues.  Try the Holland Tunnel or Lincoln Tunnel in NYC where I’ve spent hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic crawling “under water.”  No big.  Your capacity questions are fair – one would not want to lose capacity, but be mindful that tunnel capacity doesn’t much matter relative to the capacity on either end of the tunnel.  We currently have (had) two lanes on the bridge EB + bus lane + SR99 lane.  WB, we have (had) three lanes (sorta) that narrowed to two up Fauntleroy, after the Admiral and Harbor Ave exits.  So we would have to have the same capacity in a tunnel.  

  • ScubaFrog June 22, 2020 (11:07 pm)

    Didn’t one of the SDOT people say it could be 1 lane each way re “the fix”?  Even two lanes each way sounds tough.  Poor property values, it’s saddened me how many neighbors have mentioned moving, but it hasn’t surprised me.

  • drM June 23, 2020 (5:47 am)

    Well, despite the comments of those of us who want work started now, which is still something we should demand, I love the optimism of the guy ( and we are all assuming it is a ‘guy’, which in this day and age is not necessarily true) in that he is wearing a Mustang inflatable life vest. Because, if he falls, I’m sure that is what will save him!!!

  • Smittytheclown June 23, 2020 (5:50 am)

    Great news.  Since it appears that the new NB99 bus lane/merge added unnecessary weight/load to eastbound traffic it will be interesting to see what happens with it.  The “ride the bus, ride a bike” crowd will go ballistic if the bridge is limited to cars only because of weight issues. That said, if busses can exclusively use the lower bridge (like now) maybe that will benefit all.  Fantastic news. 

  • Foop June 23, 2020 (7:21 am)

    I would hope if that can open then they might shift busses and hov up to the bridge + emergency vehicles. Maybe move sovs down to low bridge. Busses carry more people in fewer trips so I never understand people saying they should keep busses off. Your car is a heck of a lot more dead weight than a bus carrying 50 people. Also giving emergency vehicles primo access to I5 makes sense.

    • zark00 June 23, 2020 (8:33 am)

      Buses weight like 40,000 pounds cars are like 2-3 – I would guess it’s the weight / area that’s more the damaging factor.  All the cars together weigh more but that weight is spread out more over the entire bridge surface. 

      • Foop June 23, 2020 (11:06 am)

        Find me an engineer that can verify that rather than speculation bit out of pure numbers…A Subaru outback is 5k (I’ll assume with a 150 lb adult in it.A bus carrying 9 passengers and a driver (let’s assume 150 for consistency) is 41500 lbs10 of those Outbacks == 50000 lbsNow the busses are limited to 18 passengers for the time being (I think?) So that’s 42850 lbsVs 90000 lbs of Outbacks each with one passenger.Now you want to talk about weight distribution: does it make a difference in bumper to bumper traffic? Probably not much. Also arches are known to distribute weight so I think* (not an engineer) that the ‘one big heavy vehicle is breaking the bridge’ argument is a fallacy.

  • Ned June 23, 2020 (7:49 am)

    Better be raking in that hazard pay.Yeah, we’re gonna need you to hang from and drill holes into a PT-bridge closed because of feared imminent collapse. Oh and if you could go ahead and do that on Saturday, that’d be great.What you see is the OSHA required dust-free attachment for silica control for ooerstions drilling/cutting concrete. With that and his respirator mask, lung cancer is the least of his worry.

  • Robert Covington June 23, 2020 (8:51 am)

    Who was the person that allowed for the unbalancing of the bridge in the first place? Why was this ever allowed to happen? was this ever taken into consideration? or was it just as simple as someone saying, lets add a new bus lane!! I certainly don’t know which is worse, blind stupidity and lack of consideration or consideration with the wrong result.The bridge needs to be repaired ASAP. Toll the bridge, pay for the repairs, fund the new tunnel. It’s not hard. Please stop twiddling thumbs and remove heads out.

  • Azimuth June 23, 2020 (9:08 am)

    I’m looking forward to complaining about the 99 northbound bus lane again.

  • mark47n June 24, 2020 (10:35 am)

    That image makes me miss big-walling in Yosemite, Zion and Long’s Peak, though I bet he feel far more secure than I did from time to time!

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