WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE CLOSURE: City says price tag could reach nine digits even before building a replacement

(WSB photo, July 28)

If you’re keeping track of the potential cost of repairing/replacing the West Seattle Bridge, this afternoon SDOT is out with details of what you might call the down-payment costs:

SDOT is looking into all possible federal, state, and local ways to fund repairs or replacement of the High-Rise Bridge and ensure they are resourced to do what’s best for West Seattle and the surrounding region for the long-term. In the meantime, however, SDOT has an immediate need for additional revenues to carry out critical stabilization work and move other efforts forward simultaneously without missing a beat. To do this, SDOT is advancing legislation to the City Council that will:

-Authorize a $70 million interfund loan to cover 2020 and early 2021 costs related to the West Seattle Bridge Program

=Establish a Capital Improvement Program (CIP) that outlines funding estimates for the first two years of work for the West Seattle Bridge Program

The interfund loan legislation will provide the needed cashflow to cover West Seattle Bridge Program expenses in 2020 and the first quarter of 2021 as SDOT works to secure other significant funding opportunities.

SDOT estimates spending between $160 million and $225 million over 2020-2021 on the West Seattle Bridge Program. There is still a great deal of uncertainty around the West Seattle Bridge Program needs and this range represents the best understood cost estimates at the current time. These costs include expenses related to

=Bridge monitoring and testing
-Emergency stabilization repairs
-Planning and design costs for repair or replacements
-Low Bridge monitoring and maintenance
-Traffic and travel mitigation projects including Reconnect West Seattle projects.

Currently, the CIP only goes through 2021 and does not include all of the potential West Seattle Bridge repair or replacement related costs.

SDOT will continue to refine the project costs for this CIP. Once the repair or replace decision process is completed, they will evaluate and update the CIP project description as options are further refined, as well as cost estimate

The $70 million interfund loan would be borrowed from the City’s cash pool and be repaid by SDOT with a $100 million bond sale in 2021. Any needed spending above $100 million through 2021 will be supported by a separate interfund loan, to be established, if necessary, sometime in early 2021.

City Council will be considering this legislation in September. SDOT is hopeful that both the CIP and interfund loan will be approved so that they can continue our immediate response efforts, keep all options for repair or replace moving forward, and fund needed traffic mitigation projects through Reconnect West Seattle.

City Councilmember Lisa Herbold‘s most-recent newsletter has a few more specifics – including exactly which sources that $70 million would come from.

Meantime, a reminder – the next WS Bridge Community Task Force meeting is at noon tomorrow; here’s how to watch/listen.

38 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE CLOSURE: City says price tag could reach nine digits even before building a replacement"

  • Mj August 4, 2020 (5:50 pm)

    The cost of failure to properly maintain infrastructure.  

  • RayWest August 4, 2020 (5:52 pm)

    This is supposed to be a 75-year-long bridge. What’s the construction company going to be doing about this? Are they completely off the hook?

    • Chemist August 4, 2020 (8:28 pm)

      I doubt sdot would want to sue and then have a discovery process examining every bit of maintenance that was or wasn’t done for several decades to computer shared liability.  It would also make new projects bid like they have 75 year warranties.

    • wscommuter August 4, 2020 (10:38 pm)

      Yes – the engineer who designed and contractor who built the bridge 35 years ago are completely off the hook – the statutes of limitation and repose have long since passed more than a quarter century ago.  

  • flimflam August 4, 2020 (5:54 pm)

    wow, whatever sdot is saying regarding price may as well start getting multiplied now…

    • Mick Sedunary August 6, 2020 (8:41 am)

      Be interesting to get them to show how they derived the numbers. Are they quotes or guess’s?

  • Duffy August 4, 2020 (6:03 pm)

    Wait, wut? 9 digits before building a replacement? It’s funny, months ago I brought up how much the tunnel cost as a barometer and someone called me nuts. Could a couple billion for this mess be out of the question? I don’t think so.

  • Gxnx August 4, 2020 (6:11 pm)

    No problem, tell me how I can donate .. 

  • pilsner August 4, 2020 (6:37 pm)

    The new Tacoma Narrows suspension bridge was 350 mil. They should just do another one. Suspension bridges are nice to look at.

  • Duffy August 4, 2020 (6:41 pm)

    Welcome to Seattle! Where even trying to figure out HOW to fix a bridge costs hundreds of millions of dollars hahahahaha

  • Kravitz August 4, 2020 (6:58 pm)

    “Nine digit price tag even before building a replacement,” makes me want to Thelma & Louise off the damned bridge. 

  • Question Authority August 4, 2020 (7:03 pm)

    Be realistic and add a zero.

  • cjboffoli August 4, 2020 (8:26 pm)

    While it’s easy to get overwhelmed by these big numbers (and expend some reasonable eye-rolling at the inflated cost of municipal construction projects), it is always important to keep in mind the exponential costs of congestion and the opportunity cost of not being able to move people, goods and services around Seattle which costs our city billions annually. Providing a good chunk of the money involved with repair and replacement goes to local contractors and materials suppliers, the investment in infrastructure provides lift to our economy in multiple ways.

  • G August 4, 2020 (9:55 pm)

    I haven’t been able to participate in as much of the Task Force mtgs as I would have liked, but has anyone disclosed how we ended up here? Who was responsible for maintenance? At what point was it clear that the bearings or whatever had failed and stresses were building up as a result? Who made the decision to suppress this information and just roll the dice? Has there been any accountability (read: heads rolling) for this catastrophic mismanagement of infrastructure?Any links or thoughts appreciated. Baffled in WS. 

  • John Smith August 4, 2020 (10:07 pm)

    This is too expensive for Seattle to handle under the best of circumstances. Get ready for more road rage on routes off our peninsula.

  • bolo August 4, 2020 (11:07 pm)


    Pick any two.

    • Bubbasaurus August 5, 2020 (12:17 am)

      Except that only works in the fantasy world of project management courses. We’ll be lucky to get one, and based on the last bridge, we didn’t get any.

    • Dan August 12, 2020 (10:29 am)

      Let’s go with
      Over budget
      Terrible quality
      The new Evergreen Point Floating Bridge cost exceeded the cost of the original bridge before construction even started. Once started, construction took place using pontoons that were cracking and corroding from day 1.

      First Tacoma Narrows Bridge was a design failure that was shredded by winds.

      I90 sank after WSDOT saw nothing wrong with filling the pontoons that keep the bridge floating with water.

      The Viaduct remained in use for 19 years after it was damaged by the Nisqually Quake.

      The West Seattle Bridge had a bearing failure and cracking issues that were discovered in 2013. After 7 years of watching the cracks grow and hoping the bearing would fix itself this bridge is another failure.

      Is it just me or is there a pattern of failure, ignorance and poor infrastructure management in this state?

  • JKK August 4, 2020 (11:18 pm)

    1. The city of seattle is broke. They can’t even mow the lawns in the school parks.2. They are stalling.  There is no fix, nowhere in sight. 3. They will keep talking about it, and getting people to look at it and weigh in for another year or so, and still not be able to afford to fix it.4. They honestly should just tear it all down and start over for the price its costing to TALK about it for five months.5. All of the extra apartments and Thousands of cars and people that live in West Seattle and all of the TRAFFIC people SIT IN FOR HOURS on that bridge for the last year or so, can have NOTHING to do with the fact that this bridge is failing.6. I will be honest… I DONT know anything about bridges… but this is something that will sit and sit and sit, and will be made to look like something is happening, and years will go by and NOTHING will be done.  7. Overpopulated, overstressed bridge…. The city is broke and has no money to fix it.  Even if they upped everyone’s property taxes and taxes on cars, they would still be short.  #getoutwhileyoustillcan #thisshouldhavebeencaughtalongtimeago #seattleshouldbeashamed

    • Ann August 5, 2020 (7:43 am)


    • TonyG August 5, 2020 (4:15 pm)

      Supported 100% JKK 

    • More August 5, 2020 (4:27 pm)

      More….People are already moving out of Seattle in droves as investments in wfh lead to less office space demand and more remote options. Companies are leaving due to new business taxes. Tax revenue will decline as housing values decline. Borrowing cost (bond interest rates) will rise as lenders see revenue issues. Seattle is cooked.

  • 22blades August 5, 2020 (1:43 am)

    Don’t spend a penny more on this pound foolish bridge. Shore it up, tear it down & replace with an immersion technology tunnel.

    • Neighbor August 5, 2020 (9:27 am)

      ^^ THIS^^Find the cheapest possible way to bring it down and put the money toward a better solution for the future.

    • jakjak August 5, 2020 (10:10 am)

      It could easily cost $100Million+ just to demolish it safely.This is a prime example on why they should not have squandered 30 years worth of road funding on low-ridership light rails and that boondoggle of a tunnel

  • Don August 5, 2020 (7:43 am)

    Did anyone see the new the Genoa Italy bridge (a high long one) was built in 15 months for 200m euros ??Is what they did an option??

    • WSB August 5, 2020 (9:44 am)

      We reported/discussed that here three months ago.

    • Marc August 5, 2020 (10:40 am)

      200m euros is 9 digits: 200,000,000. It seems unrealistic to expect anything less than 9 digits, frankly, given the likely complexity of any solution.

  • RayWest August 5, 2020 (8:15 am)

    This is just like the shady condo builders who built all those shoddy condominiums and townhouse that leaked, had rotting siding, and developed other serious issues that didn’t start showing up until just after the construction statute of limitations (four years), leaving them off the hook for costly repairs and subsidized the “condo repair” businesses, which most of the builders probably owned.

  • Wavy David August 5, 2020 (9:27 am)

    A year-long, quarter-billion dollar gamble? Just to determine whether or not to replace or repair an obviously unsound bridge? A quarter billion is more than one third the cost of building the new Tacoma Narrows bridge, which was built in just 29 months. So the good-money-after-bad clock (along with the regular clock) is now ticking — big time. Meanwhile, West Seattle suffers & waits to be be taxed & tolled for the City of Seattle’s massive infrastructure failure. Yes, they are already “exploring” tolling. We all know what that means.

  • llr August 5, 2020 (9:29 am)

    Sdot seriously needs to accept full responsibility for this mess.  That’s step one.  And yes, some heads should roll. That’s only fair.  Then someone somewhere needs to realize that this city is in way way over their head on this.  This is a very serious and very unusual problem and it cannot be handled in the typical Seattle way.  It is crippling a huge portion of the city and they need to stop taking their time and treat it as a big emergency.  We don’t need to talk about everyone’s feelings for two years. Get it replaced within two years. Like other cities have done. Genoa. Enough already. 

    • JenT August 5, 2020 (11:22 am)

      Absolutely agree. News reports about the Genoa bridge in the last few days talked about how it usually takes 10-14 years to get a project like that complete, but it took only 15 months — because of political will and cutting through the usual nonsense. I’m tired of all the excuses for why we can’t do the same, not to mention the patronizing language continuing to come out of SDOT about doing “what’s best for West Seattle.” Excuse me, they are not elected officials, and they are in WAY over the heads here. We need actual experts in crisis management and massive infrastructure rebuilds to be taking charge.

    • seachasbo August 5, 2020 (1:03 pm)

      The Italians have a tradition of building stuff that last, coliseum, aqueduct, Pantheon…  Hopefully, we can mimic their success.  And fast.

  • Craig Lovely August 5, 2020 (9:51 am)

    Give everyone on this side of town a jet-ski and create a dock down town.

  • WSRedux August 5, 2020 (10:02 am)

    As a reference, we should look at the process used to replace the major bridge in Genoa, Italy that collapsed in August, 2018, killing 43 people. The replacement  bridge was designed, built and reopened in several months shy of 2 years and came in under budget. I’m not absolutely certain of the cost and can’t find my earlier reference article, but my recollection is that the replacement cost was under $300 million (design fee by Renzo Piano, a noted architect, was waived). Here’s a link to a recent article on the reopening in the Reuter’s News Service. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-italy-bridge-idUSKBN24Y0FU  Check out the 5 slide set of bridge photos about halfway through the article…the replacement bridge certainly is the equal if not more complex than our West Seattle bridge. Also note that the group responsible for bridge maintenance is being investigated. Italy is not noted for speed and efficiency with its infrastructure projects, but they got this one done. I think Seattle should be held to the same standard . 

    • JenT August 5, 2020 (4:12 pm)

      This is dead-on. On the Community Task Force call today, though, there was a lot of talk about how they need to message “how long this is going to take” to the public because this work is going to take years. In a 2.5 hour call, I heard zero indication that they are treating this as an emergency. Incredibly disheartening.

      • WSB August 5, 2020 (5:12 pm)

        That was a very specific discussion regarding people not understanding why a potential six-year project length was part of the Cost-Benefit Analysis discussion, and one of the Technical Advisory Panel co-chairs – that is also an advisory group, as is the Task Force – gave a technical explanation.

  • Frustrated with SDOT August 5, 2020 (11:34 am)

    I know many of you don’t want to put money into this bridge which I disagree with. If you think the city can build a new tunnel or bridge in 5 years I have to say you’re dreaming. Just plan for 10 years. The way I look at it, it’s way cheaper to fix the bridge and connect us back in 1 1/2 years. This additional cost to repair and eventually replace the bridge will be offset by the toll it will have on all of us in term of our time, stress, home value, and road rage for the next 10 years. We need SDOT to be transparent. I feel like they are using the CBA and this huge estimate to push the public to support a replacement. SDOT should just give up the right to manage this bridge and give it to WSDOT. WSDOT has a record of using existing infrastructure while building a new one (i.e.  the 520 bridge, I90 bridge in the 90s, and the viaduct). Please email Lisa Herbold and the mayor and ask them to be leaders and take charge of this problem vs. deferring to SDOT. SDOT has taken 4+ months to get to platforms up and want us to cheer for them. For the amount of time they have spent, I would expect the two platforms up with some carbon fiber wrap done and the structure around Pier 18 to be partially built.

Sorry, comment time is over.