New decision timeline, scenario sketches, low-bridge changes, and more at West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force meeting #5

(UPDATED 6:03 PM with meeting video, added to end of report)

(One of the roughed-out replacement options that will be analyzed in forthcoming cost-benefit analysis)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

SDOT has a new timeline for the big decision on repairing or replacing the four-months-closed West Seattle Bridge.

Previously, they’d been saying “late summer.” This afternoon, they told the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force that the decision is now expected in October, once a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is complete. Explaining the CBA process was a big part of the advisory group’s 5th meeting, which spanned a wide agenda. But before we get to that:

LOW-BRIDGE ACCESS CHANGES: A new plan is in the works, unveiled by SDOT’s Heather Marx:

As the slide says, automated enforcement is now projected to start in September – at which time “all use will be tied to license plate numbers.” She was asked about traffic volumes now that the low bridge is open to all overnight; she didn’t have that handy but will look it up. What about motorcycles? She said traffic engineers aren’t recommending it. What about changing the overnight access hours? It’s a “dynamic policy,” Marx said. What about opening the low bridge for local businesses, since so much consideration is being given to the port? Marx said there are “10 contingency slots” right now and perhaps the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce or Junction Association could put together a specific request. County Councilmember Joe McDermott said he’s been hearing from constituents who have had trouble making medical appointments when they encountered midday work on the 1st Avenue S. Bridge. Marx said that managing those kinds of exceptions would be difficult at best but she’s open to ideas. She reiterated that the low bridge can only fit 450 vehicles an hour without affecting emergency traffic, and they have to be mindful of that. “This is a puzzle we’re going to continue to revisit.”

METRO AND WEST SEATTLE: Steve Crosley, point person for Metro’s West Seattle Bridge “response,” led this discussion. (He also spoke to the West Seattle Transportation Coalition in June.) He said travel times from West Seattle have remained steady; with distancing requirements, of course, capacity is only 25% of what it was for buses, while the Water Taxi’s capacity is about a third of what it was. He said they’ve been extensively analyzing data to see how ridership is going – even stop by stop, not just route by route.

Here’s an example of how they’re monitoring:

That’s all leading to analyses and action plans -including one that will go public later this week, noting that routes 55, 56, and 57 will return in September.

Crosley said they’re meeting with SDOT “at least three or four times a week to talk about different aspects of West Seattle response. He also showed a “heat map” of the busiest boarding spots (note the dots):

What happens after next March depends on how ridership goes and how funding goes – the proposed renewal of the Seattle Transportation Benefit District will provide less funding than the expiring one, for example. City Councilmember Lisa Herbold asked for more on that since there’s a proposal to have the STBD renewal double its sales-tax percentage (.2% instead of .1%) to try to make up some of what it’s losing because of the absence of a vehicle-license fee. The big factor, Crosley reiterated, is bus capacity – once capacity can safely be increased, “we have quite a lot of capability [buses] to move people to and from West Seattle.” And he reminded CTF members that on-peninsula travel is still a big factor too – routes like 50 and 128 are at 50 percent pre-COVID levels, more than double the cross-Duwamish routes.

Crosley also listed some increases that could be made with “third-party funding,” for bus and Water Taxi service:

For potential Water Taxi expansion, he said they’d put out an RFQ for additional docks, and received three proposals. (We’re checking on those. One was mentioned by Duwamish Longhouse director Jolene Haas during breakout-discussion time at meeting’s end, by the operator of Miner’s Landing on the downtown waterfront.) But when capacity is back to normal, with two boats they’d be able to move 2,500 people per commute period. He also noted that Metro published this recent post last week with more info for West Seattle riders.

COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS PROCESS OVERVIEW: Marx led this section of the meeting – to explain what the CBA is and is meant to do. (SDOT also details the process extensively in this blog post today.)

Next month, they want CTF input on the criteria to be analyzed, and the CBA is to be complete in October – so the repair-or-replace decision won’t be finalized until then. It will also be predicated on restoring traffic “no later than 2026,” though it was stressed that’s the worst-case, no-later-than scenario, not an expectation. And if they decide to replace, THEN they would do a “type, size, and location study” that would get into details such as what type of replacement (bridge? tunnel? or?)

For the CBA, here are the scenarios – note that repairs are now projected to potentially provide 15 more years of life for the bridge:

Then some concept sketches were shown, for what the CBA will analyze – again, these are just for the CBA, not for a final design choice, and further elaboration on each is here:

Marx then reviewed the proposed evaluation criteria – the CTF’s input is being sought on this. Some early discussion centered on how the port would be affected, and then veered off into the weighting of potental criteria.

In the breakout group that we monitored for the final half-hour of the meeting, one CTF member expressed concern that they would be asked to weigh in on the CBA without having numbers regarding the cost; SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe said those would be available later in the process – around the time the repair-or-replace decision is being made.

Other topics from the meeting:

RECONNECT WEST SEATTLE UPDATE: Marx said 10,000+ people have answered the general survey, 1,000+ have filled out the “neighborhood prioritization” ballots – SDOT is thrilled with the former, Marx said, and hoping for more of the latter.

Watch for word soon on the “office hours” – online events at which you can ask questions while working on the ballots. Those will happen next week. Also, tonight at 7, HPAC is hosting a “drop-in session” to talk about neighborhood options – that info’s here.

EMERGENCY DECLARATION: Marx mentioned the recent city declaration of emergency and said they’re working on “timing” for a state declaration.

1ST AVENUE S. BRIDGE WORK REMINDER: This continues, as Marx mentioned in her presentation – tonight is the fourth of 14 overnight northbound closures for work on this state-owned bridge. The 10 pm-5 am closures fall during the hours the West Seattle low bridge is open to all.

WHAT’S NEXT: The CTF’s next meeting is August 5th.

P.S. We recorded video of this meeting and will add it when it’s ready in a few hours. Here, meantime, is the full slide deck from which we used excerpts above.

ADDED 6:03 PM: Here’s the video of the 2 hours during which the entire group met together, pre-breakouts:

70 Replies to "New decision timeline, scenario sketches, low-bridge changes, and more at West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force meeting #5"

  • tsurly July 22, 2020 (3:56 pm)

    I cannot wait to see the comments from the armchair engineers  with  this newly acquired information.

  • Amy Thomson July 22, 2020 (4:14 pm)

    If you are going to use a blizzard of acronyms, perhaps you should have a glossary at the end of the article.  I get lost trying to figure them out.

    • JES July 23, 2020 (12:22 pm)

      I second this 

  • Frustrated guy July 22, 2020 (4:17 pm)

    Did they say how many cars can use the upper bridge if we did any one of the repair options? If we can get 70% back and give us some breathing room to build a new structure, I think it’s the best path forward. Waiting another 5+ years for a new structure will have a negative impact to all of us in terms of cost, time and quality of life. We all need to push for a repair so we can have some normalcy when we get out of this pandemic next year. 

  • Joe Z July 22, 2020 (4:23 pm)

    Depending on cost I think the repair options are going to be the winners. Six more years of the bridge being closed would be challenging and we really shouldn’t be rushing a 75+ year bridge replacement anyway. Better to do the repair, get the bridge open in 2022, and plan for a replacement in the 2030s when we have light rail as an alternative transportation option. 

  • Jay Mayfield July 22, 2020 (4:23 pm)

    Any cost benefit analysis that does not include commuter time and money will be completely inept. We cannot wait until 2025 to open a new bridge. This is absolutely ludicrous. It is a no-brainer that a true cost-benefit analysis will show, the best option among these is the cheapest that will allow a 2022 open.Get the bridge repaired and opened. Toll the bridge and build a tunnel with the tolled funds. This is not that difficult. Make the right decision or there will be consequences.

  • Mark Thompson July 22, 2020 (4:28 pm)

    Why is the the immersed tube tunnel not an option??? It made so much sense. Why build for the full span of the original bridge when we only have a fraction of that in water that we really need to bypass?? A tunnel the full length of the original bridge is an asinine idea.Who is making these decisions and why are the sensible ones being thrown out?

    • WSB July 22, 2020 (5:25 pm)

      It is an option, and SDOT has mentioned that many times, including at today’s meeting. The CBA is for the topline “repair or replace?” If the decision is the latter, then the “Type, Size & Location” would be done to decide WHAT to replace it with.

    • Tim July 22, 2020 (6:50 pm)

      And its listed as option #6 in the slides.

      • Also John July 23, 2020 (7:56 am)

        Incorrect.  That’s not the immersed tunnel in Figure 6.  That a tunnel created by a TBM.

      • Mark Thompson July 24, 2020 (3:49 pm)

        Incorrect. Please learn about the immersed tunnel. Also, it should not run under the current bridge. We should repair and then build a tunnel to the side.

    • VBD July 22, 2020 (7:52 pm)

      Mark Thompson, the tunnel roadway will be at least 75′ below the water surface.  The road approaching the tunnel needs to begin descending over 1000′ before the Duamish to adhere to the grade requirements. Did you think the cars were going to take an elevator down or something?  The tunnel depicted in image 6 is the only way to do it.

      • Also John July 23, 2020 (7:57 am)

        Not if its an Immersed tunnel.  Figure 6 shows a TBM tunnel.

        • VBD July 23, 2020 (10:09 am)

          No, it doesn’t matter if it’s immersed or bored.  The road has to descend to get under the river.  This will mean the road will begin descending more than 1000′ before the underpass.  That’s the only way to do it.  The image is a concept (not to scale), but the implication that a section of below grade highway as long as the bridge is correct. 

    • David G July 23, 2020 (6:31 am)

      100% agree, took a 2 year less costly solution and turned it into a 6 year most expensive  idea. Looks like they are trying to bury this idea :-(  

  • Neighbor July 22, 2020 (5:00 pm)

    Thank you for such thorough coverage of this process. I’m personally in favor of the immersed tube tunnel design. It’s the most stable approach with regard to our area’s seismic concerns, and also the best solution when you consider the potential for winter snow and ice (which seem to happen more than they used to, but maybe that’s just me). At any rate, I’m glad they’re doing a cost-benefit analysis rather than just throwing good money after bad.

    • Tsurly July 22, 2020 (5:21 pm)

      Will you still be in favor of the ITT if it has less capacity than the high bridge?

      • neighbor July 23, 2020 (9:37 am)

        Yes, I absolutely will. Capacity does you no good if it breaks, and with our area’s soil properties and seismic activity, breakage is more likely if we make the same mistake on a bridge we did last time.

    • Bob Ortblad July 22, 2020 (5:28 pm)

      Yes an immersed tube tunnel is a good seismic solution. Unfortunately SDOT didn’t present an ITT option. Alaska quake 7.8 last night!

      • Tim July 22, 2020 (6:55 pm)

        “Tunnel” is an option, regardless of what type.

  • Graciano July 22, 2020 (5:31 pm)

    This is a picture from the 1900’s looking towards West Seattle…  Tunnel?

    Google Denny re-grade.

  • Todd July 22, 2020 (5:42 pm)

    The low bridge placard should be available to those wishing to purchase one.  Maybe limit the amount sold or use a lottery system.  

    • Tim July 22, 2020 (6:53 pm)

      That is not going to happen. Anything that excludes a portion of the population is a non-starter.

      • 1994 July 22, 2020 (11:14 pm)

        Most of us are excluded already but a few are allowed to use the low bridge.

  • Mj July 22, 2020 (5:50 pm)

    Getting the bridge open ASAP is needed.  As a parent of a 3 year old the prime zoo years are now and without the bridge going to the zoo for a quick afternoon visit turns into an arduous full day activity that simply is not acceptable or fair.  

    And regarding bus service why is adding 56 and 57 service require 3rd party funding.  This is service that needs to be provided!  Metro needs to review it’s service and redirect money from high cost low ridership services to lower cost higher ridership routes.  

    • KM July 22, 2020 (6:26 pm)

      Glad to see we’re complaining about the important things…the unfair drive times to the zoo.

    • flimflam July 22, 2020 (6:34 pm)

      so are you actually suggesting your cute lil zoo trips should be TOP PRIORITY???? that is too funny, sorry…

    • Trickycoolj July 22, 2020 (7:03 pm)

      Feel free to hit up Point Defiance Zoo, no need to cross the bridge.  It’s nicer anyway. 

      • WSB July 22, 2020 (7:27 pm)

        And try the South Park Bridge. It drops you only a mile south of where the 1st Ave. S. Bridge drops you, and last time we left the peninsula, t was a surprisingly fast trip.

    • SeaVieu July 22, 2020 (9:18 pm)

      Wanting to take advantage of what Seattle has to offer (zoo, aquarium, museums) should not be ridiculed. Parents of small children are navigating a complex landscape of restrictions on public play spaces and child care issues. Navigating public transit in a pandemic to reach Woodland Park is not realistic. Parents are affected by the bridge closure, and their needs, aren’t lesser or deserving of mockery.

      • Daphne B July 22, 2020 (10:25 pm)

        I absolutely agree that people shouldn’t be mocked for wanting to take advantage of everything this very expensive city has to offer, including the Zoo, symphony, ACT, The Rep, the Market, etc. Our SE Seattle community is the wronged party. SDOT’s failure to maintain the bridge and failure to plan ahead is negligence, pure and simple. Their arrogant, dismissive suggestions to our community to “ride a bike,” or “take the bus” during a pandemic are ridiculous and insulting. SDOT is in the wrong. And yes, we all pay taxes and high housing cost so we CAN visit the Zoo with our children. 

        • Ken July 23, 2020 (12:38 am)

          Thank you! You are 100% correct. If this was King County’s Bridge or WSDOT’s it would already have been identified in advance, planned, and repairs nearly complete. Only Seattle waists 5 months of closure on half ideas and nothing to throw out such a great and valuable bridge. Not to mention destroying the lives of 50,000 trips per day for traveling people and families for 5+ years. Even saying repairs last only 15 years. Scarify the deck and remove the rail weights, then add external steel trusses under the slab overhangs with vertical PT across the girder cracks. Internally PT the system longitudinally and then pour back a composite deck slab on top and lightweight rails for a 35+ year repair constructed in 9 months.

        • Wsresident July 23, 2020 (7:36 am)

          Jesus, you’re making it seem like you’ve been cut off from the world. Get in your car, plan ahead, and get over the extra 10-15 minutes you MUST drive during detour. I’ve driven near the zoo a gallizion times during this shut down and it’s not that bad. SMH that you’re most concerned about being cut off from your leisurely activities. I’m most concerned that emergency vehicles will be able to access us, so we don’t have to be life flighted to local hospital. 

        • Wsresident July 23, 2020 (7:39 am)

          A WHOPPING 10 mins longer. Get over yourself. 

        • drM July 23, 2020 (7:58 am)

          Daphne…well said.

      • Wsresident July 23, 2020 (7:33 am)

        Parent here, your request sounds so ridiculous and privileged. Go to a park, explore the beach, go south to Tacoma instead. Better yet, WALK onto the water taxi and walk three blocks on her city side to the aquarium. Easy, beautiful, costs $4 to cross and better for your health, the environment and there is no issue with driving a single car downtown, to pay for parking.  We have all be inconvenienced but the people who need to go to WORK should take priority. Find a nanny in WS, be resourceful. 

        • Mark Thompson July 24, 2020 (3:58 pm)

          this is very short-sighted and ignores the bigger problem at hand. There will, in fact, be people who need to travel to different parts of the city and the fact of the matter is the 10m for one car….means 10 added minutes for 100k cars that used the bridge everyday.The 10m is also with no traffic…even with COVID traffic levels there are points in the day where your commute will easily be an extra 20m. The solution is not to try and tell every single person to change their ways. That will never work and to think otherwise is dense, to say the least. Yes, the example of going to the zoo is theoretically low on the list of importance and a bit silly as a main pain to highlight, but it is important to consider the bigger picture….everyone will have muche worse commuting times everywhere and if this is not factored into the Cost Benefit Analysis, this city will have catastrophically failed.

    • Really? July 23, 2020 (8:57 am)

      We’ll make sure to make your zoo visits top priority.  Maybe the zoo will pitch in some bridge money to expedite the construction for your kid?!

  • AB83 July 22, 2020 (5:55 pm)

    It’s about time people that work on Harbor Island get to use the Low bridge again where do I get my placard

  • Mj July 22, 2020 (5:56 pm)

    Another significant factor is T5 expected to become operational in 2021.  The 5 way intersection by Chelan Cafe is already a major bottleneck!

  • Mj July 22, 2020 (7:09 pm)

    Four added years is $2,190,000,000 in societal cost at a minimum.  100,000 vehicles a day * 365 days a year * 4 years * say an hour of added travel time per trip on average * $15 per hour.  

    • WSJ July 23, 2020 (2:22 pm)

      $15 hour for every person because your commute is longer as “societal cost”? LOL you need some perspective

      • Mark Thompson July 24, 2020 (4:00 pm)

        your are almost selfaware here…just try and think beyond yourself and you will realize your statement is actually self applicable.

  • Mj July 22, 2020 (7:12 pm)

    KM – it’s a quality of life item as an example.

  • Greg July 22, 2020 (7:25 pm)

    October to MAKE the decision? Good lord.  It took me 45 minutes to get to West Seattle today from the South end of the 99 tunnel.  

  • Kyle July 22, 2020 (8:23 pm)

    Sooo..I’m trying to read through the bureaucracy. The touted timeline for a repair/replace decision was “late summer”,  which would have been by 9/22, the first day of fall, as a worst case. Now, there is an intermediate step called the CBA that won’t be done until “October”, or 10/31 as a worst case. Will we have a decision by then? Or is there another step after the CBA that will take more time? We’re at 10/31 with a still nebulous timeline. We still can’t answer questions such as what caused the cracking, what the repair will be, and what the timeline is. I’m disappointed in the progress this far into the closure. We seem to have all these task forces and a lack of real answers.

  • The King July 22, 2020 (8:33 pm)

    The city is broke, the mayor is just hoping congress puts together an infrastructure bill to take care of projects like this but don’t hold your breath. If you put in your mind we won’t have any type of replacement for 15-20 years then you’ll be ok. Apologies, excuses and finger pointing is what to expect in the meantime. 

    • Derek July 22, 2020 (10:03 pm)

      That seems a bit dramatic.There will be cars going across something by 2022. You can count on it. The bottleneck at Corson/Michigan exit on I-5 will be felt across the isthmus. 

  • Delridge Resident July 22, 2020 (8:35 pm)

    I agree the economic impact of the closure needs to be part of the CBA for all options.. however the scope of the CBA should be over a 75 year period, not just a the closure associated with the immediate repair/replace option. Applied to the scenarios outlined above, shore/replace CBA #1-3 should capture impacts from the immediate closure as well as  the eventual closure to replace the bridge in 15 years. The same goes for scenario #4, in which the life span (50+ years) falls short of the life span of scenarios #5-6 (75+ years). Otherwise we’re just cooking the books to justify a repair. P.S. Shout out to the engineering teams working through all these scenarios and the near-sleepless nights you are undoubtedly clocking in. Your efforts are not unnoticed or unappreciated. 

  • Derek July 22, 2020 (10:02 pm)

    REPAIR! Don’t replace yet. We can build replacement as old bridge is functional and running. That’s the obvious way to go. 

  • bill July 22, 2020 (10:10 pm)

    Opening the low bridge to general traffic at 9pm is working out poorly. I crossed the bridge at 11 pm Saturday night. Traffic into West Seattle was bumper to bumper from Harbor Island to the 5-way intersection. There was enough opposing traffic that an emergency vehicle would have had a very difficult time getting into West Seattle. 

    • BW July 23, 2020 (8:44 am)

      This was in part due to the 1st ave bridge being closed. I travel over the low bridge frequently after 9 p.m. and it is usually smooth sailing.  I agree it was bad this weekend, but chalking it up to that!:)

    • wetone July 23, 2020 (9:02 am)

      Hey Bill, did you check bridge openings and see if that was cause for your reported backup ? been using bridge quite often and had zero backups except for bridge openings. Now if they could change hours 9-6 that would be peachy. As far as SDOT and city making a decision quickly good luck, there’s way to many people (layers) for even most simple decisions to happen quickly. Vote ! if you want change….. 

  • Graciano July 23, 2020 (5:43 am)

    We could build a car jump… LOL

    • seachasbo July 23, 2020 (10:21 am)

      Jump I’m OK with.  The General Lee, one with confederate flag on top, probably not a good idea.  Perhaps you are too young to know what is on top of that car.

      • Graciano July 24, 2020 (8:57 am)

        I’m old enough to know what is on top of this car and I am also old enough to know we can’t change the past but to move forward and CHANGE it so something like that will never happen again.

  • anonyme July 23, 2020 (7:32 am)

    So, the Admiral district gets 3 buses added back to the schedule, but Arbor Heights gets ZERO????  WTF?!  There is no mention at all of Route #22, the cancellation of which leaves a large chunk of West Seattle with NO public transit days or weekends.  Some areas are having already frequent bus service increased from past levels, while ours has been canceled entirely.  The 21X is the only bus running, which is great IF you work 9-5 downtown.  Everyone else is screwed.  I’m so sick and tired of Arbor Heights being treated as if it were not part of West Seattle, or even Seattle, in addition to everyone who isn’t working a white-collar job being treated as if they don’t exist.  If I could get the hell out of here, I would.

    • Bus July 23, 2020 (1:02 pm)

      Need better bus in white center area need bus that goes directly to UW areaYou can bet that there will be a toll to pay to use the new bridge or tunnel- many people who only get paid minimum wage or have low paying jobs will have a hard tim paying the tolls. Pay rent or pay monthly tolls will be the question many people will end up having to figure out.

  • Dan Solum July 23, 2020 (7:35 am)

    Can we not just make the low bridge an HOV lane? require 2 or more passengers per car? That would take us under 450 per hour, I would think.

  • Eric July 23, 2020 (8:57 am)

    Anybody know why traffic engineers do not recommend allowing motorcycles on the low bridge? They are small, light, not that many, and are mostly out during good weather only.

    • WSB July 23, 2020 (10:00 am)

      Heather Marx told the task force there is a detailed explanation( I requested that immediately after the meeting. Still waiting.

  • Cami July 23, 2020 (9:59 am)

    The Golden Gate has been standing since completion in 1937.   I’m good with the cable bridge option.

  • Lawrence L Rodman July 23, 2020 (10:58 am)

    West Seattle Bridge, to commentate the new name  of the Hockey Team, is being renamed The Kraken Bridge. SDoT will be putting up new signage very soon.

    • WSB July 23, 2020 (11:31 am)

      Naming rights to the bridge could be a way to raise replacement/repair $ :)

    • David July 23, 2020 (5:23 pm)

      I’d give that pun two groans up. (^_~)

  • Mj July 23, 2020 (11:17 am)

    The capacity of the low bridge is significantly greater than SDoT is identifying, the emergency vehicle response item is a red herring.  I have seen emergency vehicles navigate Montlake Blvd, by the UW, during very congested time periods successfully.  

    And allowing motorcycles to use the low level bridge should be a no brainer.

  • cjboffoli July 23, 2020 (1:33 pm)

    Graciano:  Maybe the Smokey and the Bandit jump would be a bit more “woke” for 2020.

  • max34 July 23, 2020 (4:59 pm)

    serious question:  who are all the folks coming off the low bridge now?   i see so many random folks.  definitely not from the important list to be sure.  

    • N July 26, 2020 (11:42 am)

      100% agree.  I see 10 passenger cars for every bus or emergency vehicle turning to take the lower bridge.  At some point it just encourages the rule followers to say screw it and take the lower bridge too.  Glad to see there is a plan to restrict/enforce.

  • Dan July 24, 2020 (7:31 am)

    I don’t know about others but I find alot of this quite disappointing.     The reconnect WS is a joke.  I think it will not accomplish much.  We need a short term and long term solutions of which none of the proposals seem to address.   This should be a 24/7 effort to get it done.   Clearly – it’s not a priority.

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