By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Tonight marks exactly five months since the city closed the West Seattle Bridge out of safety concerns, with just a few hours’ public notice.
Stabilization work is now under way. But SDOT says it won’t decide until October whether to pursue a course focused on repair now/replace later or replace ASAP.
The advocacy coalition West Seattle Bridge NOW thinks SDOT should just get on with fixing the bridge, since the agency has already said all indications are that it would be possible, and that the decision mostly hinges on whether repairs are feasible. And the group has sent Mayor Jenny Durkan a letter.
Here’s an excerpt from the letter, which you can read in full here:
… Our communities are increasingly concerned that restoring this vital transportation corridor will follow typical major project timelines and get bogged down in process and bureaucracy. We lived through the nearly twenty-year process of restoring the viaduct and this simply cannot be the case this time. We believe the time frame to achieve funding and complete construction could run six to ten years, while repairs to the bridge can be achieved in fewer than two years.
Recently, West Seattle Bridge Now shared an online petition calling for an urgent and accelerated process to restore the West Seattle Bridge and get the people of South West Seattle moving again. Today, more than 3600 people have signed the petition and that number continues to grow.
The message from our community is clear. We need the most expedient solution that restores our mobility. We believe the bridge must be repaired as an interim measure while a long-term solution is put in place. …
The letter goes on to implore the mayor, “Share with us your goals for when tens of thousands of people a day will regain mobility and free our communities of congestion and pollution.”
The same day West Seattle Bridge NOW sent its letter, the mayor spoke to and answered questions from the WS Bridge Community Task Force (WSB coverage here). She insisted that the bridge closure, which she has declared an emergency, “looms very large on my radar.” During a brief interview with her the next day, we asked about her takeaway from the Task Force meeting, and she said that hearing directly from community members gave her an even greater appreciation for how profoundly the peninsula (and vicinity) has been affected.
We asked West Seattle Bridge NOW’s Kevin Broveleit what leads the group to believe that repairs could and should be executed immediately, without awaiting the results of the Cost-Benefit Analysis that is underway. In response, he shared with us an as-yet-unpublished op-ed by an engineer who is working with the coalition, Adam Ludwig, saying in part:
… As a structural engineer and West Seattleite, I’ve been keenly interested in these bridge cracks. I have performed my own analysis of the bridge using the original structural drawings augmented with input from one of the original bridge engineers who informed me of various contractor-initiated changes to the post-tensioning reinforcement that were made during construction. I have a very different perspective on the feasibility of repair and the viability of restoring the bridge back to useful service. This bridge can be repaired, and it should be, at a cost that will be a small fraction of any replacement schemes that are currently being considered.
Shortcomings in the original bridge design are the cause of the cracks. The primary concern is a lack of
reinforcing steel in the sidewalls of the box girders needed to resist shear forces. However, as the
consultant team has learned, the as-built condition of the bridge, with reinforcing substitutions made by the original contractor, is better than what was assumed. The city team has determined that the bridge is repairable, a conclusion that was supported by findings of the Community Task Force’s Technical Advisory Panel. This is news that should have been accompanied by a collective sigh of relief from everyone. …
You can read what Ludwig wrote in its entirety here. Meantime, the coalition is hoping for an answer from the mayor, also sooner rather than later.