VIDEO: West Marginal, immersed-tube tunnel, and other hot topics @ West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The “repair now, replace later” vs. “replace now” decision for the West Seattle Bridge is now as little as a month away.

Today’s West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force meeting explored how the in-progress Cost-Benefit Analysis will “shape” that decision.

But the CTF briefings/discussion also spent significant time on the advisory group’s other focus – how people are supposed to get to and from the peninsula until that connection is restored. And when the “Reconnect West Seattle” plan hit the spotlight, one previously undiscussed element did too. Here’s our video of (all but the last few minutes of) the meeting:

Ahead, the highlights, including some of the slides (see the full deck here):

RECONNECT WEST SEATTLE: The plan has been finalized, says SDOT (though they haven’t released a copy publicly yet). Colin Drake from SDOT and Danielle Friedman from the Department of Neighborhoods led the meeting discussion. The key points:

The initial investment in community projects: $6 million, said Drake – $1 million each of the four neighborhoods that were part of the project-prioritization process, and $1 million each on freight and bicycles, with the understanding that more is to come. We hadn’t heard about the Home Zone program before; if you hadn’t either, here’s an explanation – it’s a “holistic” way to look at neighborhood traffic calming. Friedman said it will be expanded to Highland Park/Riverview/Roxhill/Georgetown, South Park, and Georgetown.

The plan’s overall goal: To figure out how to get as many people across the Duwamish River without the bridge as were able to cross the river before the bridge closed, and to reduce “environmental injustice” in the areas where traffic has increased dramatically because of detouring. The neighborhood/mode plans are only the start. Drake also noted that the plan will be updated quarterly. Friedman stressed that “community input” will continue and that they’ll continue “meeting with community leaders and groups” to figure out how that will work.

Community Task Force co-chair Greg Nickels expressed concern about one project planned for this year, from/for the freight list – creating a NB freight-only lane on backup-beset West Marginal Way SW north of Highland Park Way. “I think it sends exactly the wrong message to the community … reducing capacity” when community members are looking for more capacity. (The project is described on the full freight-projects list as “West Marginal Way: between Highland [Park Way] and the 5-way intersection, consider options for do-not-block the box hatching at major driveways used by large trucks, and for restriping WMW so that large trucks can use a center turn lane to insert themselves into moving traffic. Ensure business access and traffic flow.”)

“If that’s not the way” to address West Marginal problems, “we need more discussion with the community,” Drake replied.

Duwamish Longhouse director Jolene Haas also brought up West Marginal, saying that the Longhouse Safety Project – crossing improvements by the center – had previously been omitted from “Reconnect” discussion and she had been told West Marginal was being discussed separately, so, she wondered, why is there suddenly a West Marginal project on the list? “That’s a good question,” replied Drake, saying West Marginal was mostly not on the list previously because it was “not on the survey.” (Freight projects were discussed in a separate process.)

We’ve also been told that West Marginal-related issues would be addressed in a “separate” plan at some point in the future.

Meantime, City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, one of several elected officials on the CTF, said the projects overall need a better communication “loop” for the community – not just knowing comments have been received, but hearing what will (or won’t) be done about them.

COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS: This is the process that will “shape” to an official decision of “repair or replace” in October. As previously reported, engineers believe repairs are POSSIBLE – but the Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) will determine if they are FEASIBLE, based on a variety of factors. The presentation and discussion was a deep dive into what the CBA involves (highly technical at points – you can see it in its entirety starting at 47:40 into our video above).

Greg Banks of consulting firm WSP took the reins here. For all the immersed-tube tunnel advocates, he noted that three versions of it are among possible bridge replacements being studied in the CBA:

Banks also went into specifics of how the CBA will weigh attributes – of that and other options previously spotlighted:

Banks’ presentation went into copious details of how the Cost-Benefit Analysis is looking at repair vs. replacement, including costs, durations, etc. No estimates on any of that yet – but that’s what you’ll see when it’s ready. An example of a potential risk noted along the way: If the bridge is replaced, the clearance might have to be higher, which would in turn affect the approaches – but he clarified that this is hypothetical, as are many of the possible risks they are considering:

Banks stressed that it’s a “living, breathing document,” so what you’re seeing in the preview slides isn’t necessarily what will be in the final CBA. Here’s what happens next:

In comments along the way as well as Q&A: Labor reps advocated again for the CBA to address workforce effects. SDOTs bridge-project leader Heather Marx said construction jobs are already taken into effect but bigger economic impacts are something that can’t be included in the relatively quick timeframe with which they’re working. Overall, “this is primarily an engineering exercise,” she stressed.

One previously voiced concern was resurfaced by Austin: Whether the CBA would really be complete without a season of evaluating the bridge’s response to winter weather. Banks said there’ll be a contingency taking into effect how the bridge responds to the stabilization work that’s being done now, and he said “analytics done to date” are giving them information already on how the bridge reacts to various things – such as what they learned when the work platforms were hoisted. That response matched what their modeling enabled them to predict, and so they are using existing thermal data to anticipate how the bridge will handle the winter.

What about seismic danger? asked Amanda Kirk from West Seattle Bridge Now. The bridge was designed in a time when there was already a lot of seismic understanding, said SDOT’s Matt Donahue, so that’s not a “risky” aspect of the potential project right now.

In response to a question from CTF member Deb Barker from the West Seattle Transportation Coalition and Morgan Community Association, Marx said the CBA is a highly technical “deliberative’ document so they’re not going public with more of it along the way. Port Commissioner Peter Steinbrueck wondered about “fatal flaws” in the immersed-tube-tunnel idea, such as clearances and “dredging of contaminated soils.” SDOT’s Marx said, “There isn’t anything that would prevent us from doing an immersed-tube tunnel, but there are a number of challenges.” WSP’s Banks said those would include where the segments would be cast, and “all of the utilities running through this area, how are you going to make those connections” as well as port and railroad connection impacts.

How will we know if the stabilization work is working out? asked Anne Higuera of Ventana Construction (WSB sponsor). There’s some load on the bridge daily, such as those work platforms, said Banks, but he reiterated that the stabilization work being done now is not meant to return the bridge to service – it’s just literally to stabilize it. State Rep. Eileen Cody wondered about the document mentioning the higher clearance, and that is when Marx clarified that the Coast Guard COULD require a higher clearance, not that it HAS – so that’s a risk that has to be taken into effect. As for possible Sound Transit light-rail inclusion in a replacement, they’re still talking to ST, said Marx, but “that’s more of a policy question” than an engineering question. Barker asked a followup about what would happen over shore areas where the immersed-tube tunnel would begin – would there be new housing, or? “That’s a land-use question” for the future,, said Marx.

Summarizing it all, SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe stressed that this is a process, “not a machine that spits out an answer” and so they want to hear more from Task Force members about this information’s value, or lack of same.

STABILIZATION UPDATE: Marx began the meeting with a quick update on this work, explaining that the epoxy being used protects the steel that’s inside the concrete – it’s not a “repair” component. She showed photos, including the work zone inside the bridge:

SDOT is continuing to publish weekly stabilization-work updates on Fridays – the newest one is here.

LOW-BRIDGE ACCESS POLICY: Marx had an update on this:

There’s a change in need for low-bridge access: Longshore workers now do NOT need regular access to T-5, since Matson‘s move to Tacoma. So the city is now looking at phased use of automated enforcement once that starts – as previously mentioned, overlapping camera use with continued use of police. SDOT is proposing a Community Task Force subcommittee to deal specifically with access questions. Marx said that group “would sit at the table with staff to determine how things would change once automated enforcement is in place” as well as what would happen when cargo calls resume at Terminal 5 next year. It was clarified that the business community and maritime community already are already working together, per CTF members John Persak, maritime rep, and Dan Austin, business rep; small businesses already have accessed to some shared low-bridge passes via the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce and West Seattle Junction Association.

NEXT MEETING: The task force will meet again at noon September 23rd – which will be exactly six months after the bridge’s sudden shutdown.

34 Replies to "VIDEO: West Marginal, immersed-tube tunnel, and other hot topics @ West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force"

  • ACG September 9, 2020 (10:09 pm)

    Oh boy, I am wiping the tears of laughter: “Meantime, City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, one of several elected officials on the CTF, said the projects overall need a better communication “loop” for the community – not just knowing comments have been received, but hearing what will (or won’t) be done about them.. This is coming from the council member who has never, ever, responded to any of my attempts to communicate with her.  (And, many other WS residents that I’ve heard from as well).  

    • Jon Wright September 10, 2020 (12:13 am)

      Councilmember Herbold has a phone. Councilmember Herbold shows up at a lot of public meetings in the community. Councilmember Herbold has (now virtual) in-district office hours (save the date, Friday, September 25 is your next opportunity). If you really wanted to, I bet you’d find a way to reach Councilmember Herbold. So I guess it comes down to deciding what is more important to you: actually talking to Councilmember Herbold or being able to claim aggrieved status because she didn’t email you back?

      • Barton September 10, 2020 (7:32 am)

        Yes, I’m sure she is answering her phone and busily returning calls to constituents (Sarcasm).  Not everyone has the time to fit into Herbold’s office hours schedule.  Point is, if a Councilmember puts email out there as a way to contact him/her, a lack of response us a failure of a commitment to constituents.  Otherwise make clear that emails will not be responded to. You are putting the burden on the wrong party in your haste to defend Herbold.

        • Chemist September 10, 2020 (10:00 am)

          My experience is that you’ll get a Herbold response if it’s something that can be forwarded to someone else/other agency or you’ll be included on a mass email about some popular council action that you’ve contacted them about.  However, if you follow-up about something that forwarded agency not addressing the issue, even after Herbold’s forward, then you might end up in the “crackpots list” that doesn’t seem to get individualized response to your emails anymore.  Or that was my experience in her first term.

          • 1994 September 12, 2020 (4:22 pm)

            My experience was to receive an e-mail reply that read like a ready made reply to address concerns I wrote about. I probably fall onto the “crackpots list”.  Squeaky wheel e-mails take up someone’s valuable time and don’t get a genuine reply.

      • HumorMe September 10, 2020 (8:17 am)

        Less “aggrieved” and more exhausted, because live confrontation shouldn’t be required to get a response from a city council member. That is a low bar, indeed. Also worth noting that when I tried calling during business hours, I got a “Voicemail box is full” message.

    • Kayo September 10, 2020 (6:13 am)

      Interesting because she has responded to every email I have ever sent.  Guess I just got lucky with that then.  

    • Derek September 10, 2020 (9:40 am)

      She has over 200k constituents. Let’s see how you do replying to each one.<eyeroll>

      • Barton September 10, 2020 (12:04 pm)

        Because all 200,000 are contacting her at any one time (and the vast majority most likely never)  <eyeroll>

        • WSB September 10, 2020 (12:17 pm)

          Also since we strive for accuracy:

          I don’t have an exact number but it’s nowhere near 200k. 100k is the general WS estimate. South Park is four digits last I heard.

      • Peter September 10, 2020 (1:28 pm)

        Huh? Where did you get 200K? The real number for D1 is ~90K for West Seattle, plus a few thousand for South Park.

    • Email at all time high September 10, 2020 (1:13 pm)

      From Lisa Herbold’s August 21 blog (most recent): 

      E-mail Volume / No Newsletter Next Two Weeks

      E-mail volume recently has been at an all-time high, with tens of thousands of e-mails coming in. I’m sorry it’s taking longer than usual to get back to everyone.The City Council is on its summer recess for the next two weeks, and there won’t be any Council meetings during that time. My next update will be in September in a couple of weeks.

      • Barton September 10, 2020 (1:24 pm)

        No doubt there is a high email volume given her recent actions contrary to the platform on which she was elected, but according to many commenting on this blog, a lack of response to emails to Ms. Herbold is not a new occurrence which is why she is not getting the benefit of the doubt here (except by her ardent supporters).  P.S.  I respond to emails during my vacation – maybe Ms. Herbold could try that too.

        • KM September 11, 2020 (8:18 am)

          If you respond to work emails during your vacation, I’m sorry. That’s not a vacation. That‘s working from a different location part time. Americans are really bad at taking time off (I would know, I’ve done it too! Awful.)

          • Barton September 11, 2020 (11:14 am)

            Thanks for your clearly sincere sympathy . . . I think based on your frequent comments, you are also a strong Herbold supporter, right?  Look, I’m all for Americans slowing down and taking time for themselves as a matter of self-care and the health of society, but is that really the issue here?  (Hint: no.) If a councilmember that was elected based on a platform that she is now abandoning for the opposition position is overloaded with emails about the same, as well as a critical infrastructure failure in her district, perhaps now isn’t the time to get away from it all.  That should be implied as part of the job.

  • Trickycoolj September 9, 2020 (11:32 pm)

    Those draft tunnel plans will have to include significant costs for imminent domain of multiple businesses. That won’t be cheap.  

    • Duffy September 10, 2020 (2:45 am)

      Eminent domain.

  • Chemist September 9, 2020 (11:40 pm)

    “I think it sends exactly the wrong message to the community … reducing capacity” when community members are looking for more capacity.

    I feel the same way about SDOT’s refusal to consider reversing the “it’s just paint” 4-to-3 rechannel project on 35th SW during the bridge closure.  It was a safety project that was halted half-way and SDOT never finished the “after” report on phase1 for a reason (they released a poster).

    • 1994 September 12, 2020 (4:27 pm)

      Yes, the SDOT Jim Curtain (does he still work there?) stated the road diet was just paint.  They should undo the road diets to increase capacity to move all traffic. Many drivers need to head south and they can’t move south if the east west bottle neck doesn’t allow them to efficiently move south. When the WSB is opened again they can redo the paint and the road diet. Just paint should not cost that much.

  • Smittytheclown September 10, 2020 (6:07 am)

    Yesterday’s Times article gives me hope for a minimum 15 year fix (potentially 40).  As they shore it up they keep running into more and more good news.   Summer 21 open is my guess.  Git r done!

  • Joe Z September 10, 2020 (9:04 am)

    One can only hope this is the last we hear of the tube tunnel as a serious alternative to a bridge. 

    • Derek September 10, 2020 (10:23 am)

      Seriously. This is so dumb. Just fix the bridge we have. Build a replacement next to it in a few years so it’s ready when new one is done. Not hard. Do a toll if you must. Just get it up. 

      • Neighbor September 10, 2020 (12:36 pm)

        I’ve heard they can’t build a replacement bridge next to the existing one. So replacing the bridge with a new bridge will require years without any bridge. An immersed tube tunnel, on the other hand, *can* be constructed while the existing bridge is in place. It will save time, last longer, and be safer in earthquakes.

  • AlkiCommuter September 10, 2020 (10:08 am)

    SDOT still continues to ignore many motorcycle commuters that could use the low bridge, but no…

    • alki_2008 September 10, 2020 (12:19 pm)

      Yep.  Meanwhile, I’ve already had several close calls because car drivers don’t want to let me merge on Marginal Way (going east just after Chelan Cafe and going south by the Duwamish longhouse). And I’m not on a motorcycle, but a Vespa-type scooter.  The high bridge was never an option for me, and I used to take the low bridge.  But since the closure I’ve had to use detour routes that are much more dangerous.  I’ve taken Delridge as well, but all the construction and grooves and cover plates in the roadway have made that option dangerous as well.And my multiple missives to Herbold about allowing motorcycles/scooters on the low bridge have elicited zero response.

      • AlkiCommuter September 10, 2020 (4:09 pm)

        Yep, but as many people pointed out — it seems that SDOT is entirely clueless when it comes to differentiating motorcycles from cars, bicycles, buses, freight, etc. It’s a different dynamic in which the heads of SDOT are clueless, and would rather wash their hands with fear mongering and non-committal lip-service advice to “ride a bicycle/bus/water taxi” instead of finally acknowledging motorcycle commuting as yet another option to driving, taking the bus, or riding a bicycle.

  • Sillygoose September 10, 2020 (11:55 am)

    Greg Nickles suggest spending more money to re-stripe West Marginal!! Why not spend that money on Freeway signs directing the trucks over the low bridge, after all that is who is allowed.  Re-striping means nothing when you already have miles of cars who have crossed a solid white line (hammer head Lane) to speed down the center lane all the way to Highland Parkway!  Not a traffic officer in sight!  So tell me Greg what good is striping going to do?

    • WSB September 10, 2020 (12:20 pm)

      Please re-read. He was not making the suggestion. It’s in the SDOT plan and he was questioning it.

  • Ben September 10, 2020 (12:03 pm)

    Yes, motorcycles please!!  I swear I can get out of the way of any emergency responders!  But wow that would so helpful (to me).  

  • TJ September 10, 2020 (12:21 pm)

    The plan’s overall goal: To figure out how to get as many people across the Duwamish River without the bridge as were able to cross the river before the bridge closed, and to reduce “environmental injustice” in the areas where traffic has increased dramatically because of detouring”   I understand how they can measure the first parameter (the number of people who were able to cross the bridge before it was closed), but I’m curious as to the objective metric(s) that will be used to measure ‘environmental injustice’ ( a term I am not familiar with). 

  • Mj September 10, 2020 (10:40 pm)

    SDoT claims to be data driven, the after speed data shows that the change in speed limit from 40 to 30 mph, they had no technical basis, resulted in higher speeds at 4 of 6 locations and reduced safety,  based on other traffic study data I have seen over the years.  The 40 mph limit was technically appropriate and needs to be reinstituted.

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