11:02 AM: Two announcements from the city today, almost four months since the sudden shutdown of the West Seattle Bridge.
First – the mayor has finally officially declared the closure a city emergency, signing a proclamation today (see it here). That potentially paves the way for state/federal assistance with paying for repair/replacement (see that document here).
It’s been a long time coming; at least one community advocate – Morgan Junction’s Deb Barker, who’s a member of the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force, has been suggesting it since June (we followed up with the mayor after that and were told she was considering it). Barker said today, “The Mayoral Proclamation of Civil Emergency tells the rest of the City and the region that the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge closure is a life-impacting event of epic proportion for thousands of people, and that it is not business as usual in West Seattle until the bridge connection is restored.”
Whether that will be via repair or replacement won’t be determined until later this summer; that’s what SDOT communications director Michael Harold reiterated last night in a presentation to the Morgan Community Association (full report on that later). But today there’s another indication that repairs are possible – the Technical Advisory Panel has issued a new statement to that effect:
The TAP has not been presented with any information that indicates that a long-term repair is infeasible or economically unviable. We therefore recommend that this option be retained and fully explored.
In making this statement, we have relied on documents provided by SDOT in the WSHB Technical Advisory Panel file repository, as well as presentations, responses to formal questions, and technical discussions with SDOT and WSP. No original bridge calculations, shop drawings or field notes were available for TAP review as those records do not exist within SDOT records or City archives. It should be noted that aspects of the As-Built drawings have come under scrutiny by SDOT and WSP and that the TAP has been advised to consider these documents as only partially representative of the final configuration of the bridge at the time of construction. No current survey data, geotechnical assessment, or seismic vulnerability evaluation were provided for consideration. While photos inside the box girders were made available, the TAP did not perform any visual observation of bearings or the box girder structure.
This recommendation is predicated on SDOT’s acceptance that the bridge will not be brought up to current seismic standards if repaired. We note that there is currently uncertainty with respect to the capacity (number of travel lanes) that a repair option would provide.
We understand that WSP is currently analyzing a Phase 2 long-term repair option; no analysis or calculations for the proposed long-term repairs were reviewed to confirm adequacy of such repairs. If/as more information is provided to the TAP, we reserve the right to revise this statement accordingly.
This reinforces what SDOT’s Matt Donahue told the Community Task Force a month ago, as reported here. SDOT elaborated on that less than a week later, explaining that they’re also evaluating “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.”
Regardless of which path is pursued, the bridge still has to be stabilized first, SDOT says, and that work is under way; the hoisting of a work platform up to the bridge is now set for early next week, Harold told MoCA last night.
1:40 PM: After reading the TAP statement while writing this story, we asked SDOT’s Michael Harold about the TAP note regarding documents, since we recalled Matt Donahue at one point mentioning the existence of a sizable amount of old documents. SDOT just sent this clarification:
We have provided the Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) with all West Seattle High-Rise Bridge documents and information which we knowingly possess after performing a meticulous search for digital, physical and microfilm records in the records vaults and archives of several City departments and requesting records from the original bridge contractors. Nothing that the TAP has asked for which is knowingly in our possession has been withheld. We want the best possible outcome, and need to use the best possible data to make that happen. To clarify, the TAP is not implying that all of this information exists yet; for example we did not conduct new survey data because we determined that the exhaustive data provided by our daily inspections, intelligent monitoring system and non-destructive testing was both a sufficient and superior basis for our analysis. The TAP believes it is important to be explicit about what information they did or did not have to inform their conclusions, and we support that approach.