As West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force gets more repair-vs.-replace info, members suggest something major is missing

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

“This has been bad. It’s been awful for West Seattle. And there’s no immediate fix … no matter what options we take here, we’re in this for a number of years.”

That’s part of what Mayor Jenny Durkan told the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force today at its 10th meeting, two weeks before she is expected to announce her choice between “repair now and replace later” or “proceed directly to replacement.”

But the centerpiece of the meeting came in toplines from the report that is supposed to shape her decision, along with input from the CTF and the Technical Advisory Panel: The Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA). And members voiced concern that it doesn’t give enough consideration to the misery the mayor mentioned. The toplines presented by SDOT seemed to be leaning toward “proceed directly to replacement,” but without some key information: Cost estimates in dollars, and cost estimates in impacts to area residents and businesses.

Though the mayor spoke first, as one CTF member observed, it would have been more helpful for the CBA toplines to have been presented first, so that’s where we’re starting, right after the meeting video:

(Note: Meeting stopped for 15 minutes starting 55 minutes in due to technical trouble)

COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS: Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) co-chair Barbara Moffat (a vice president at Stantec) noted that the TAP is both an input-giving group in the repair-or-replace decision, and has helped shape it themselves. The TAP is now coming up with the pros/cons – “a guidance document” – of what’s in the CBA. “All the alternatives that have been considered in the CBA are technically feasible from an engineering standpoint …. (but) a dollar figure is not the only consideration,” Moffat noted, while reiterating that, after the upcoming decision, the CBA will not be the determining factor of HOW the bridge would be repaired/replaced. She also noted that SDOT’s interim roadway structures director Matt Donahue was also advocating for consideration of ‘asset management” as decisions are made.

Here are the considerations they’re weighing:

Regarding that last point, Moffat said that information “is not critical” for decisionmaking.

City Councilmember Lisa Herbold. one of several elected officials on the CTF, noted at that point that it’s important to note that what the TAP said previously wasn’t that repair is feasible so much as that nothing was found to suggest repair was infeasible. Moffat acknowledged that was a sort of double negative. Herbold expressed concern that the decision was to be made before technical information was available about the bridge’s response to colder weather and the about-to-happen release of a stuck bearing. Regarding the temperature, Moffat said that there’s a “tremendous correlation between the current models” and what actually happened during the summer, so they have a confidence level that their models and monitoring can sufficiently predict winter response. As for the stuck bearing, Moffat said the unlocking is “only a good thing” and would not play into the repair/replace decision.

CTF co-chair Greg Nickels asked about the “would a repair be good for 15 years, or 40 years” conundrum. Moffat said they developed a range – 15 to 40 – but they can’t get much more specific. To get more specific would require a much more specific, time-consuming analysis. “This is an older structure, and because one issue is fixed doesn’t mean others might not occur,” she added.

SDOT’s Greg Izzo presented the alternatives and “key factors that are influencing our recommendations.” First, a caveat – these alternatives studied for the CBA was for comparative purposes, not a full menu of options for potential repair/replacement

Alternative 1 – Shoring:

This one “does not offer a lot to us regarding longevity of service life,” Izzo warned, and it’s not the cheapest – it would last about five years. “The overall ownership costs … are in the middle of the pack. … The cost/benefit info doesn’t pencil out for us.” Another factor of risk with this – “there’s not a lot of regional experience.” And this would still be temporary, while a replacement is designed/built. Also, this would only enable 3 to 5 lanes to be restored – compared to the 7 lanes on the bridge pre-closure – and would be a “two-phase construction approach” second phase, a reference to the bridge replacement.

Alternative 2 – Repair:

The CBA suggests repairs would be the cheapest alternative but would have higher “ownership costs” over the bridge’s life, so it would still eventually cost almost as much as a replacement. Repairs, however, are “the quickest way to get traffic back onto the bridge” – mid-2022 or so, if “immediate mobilization” happened post-decision. It would last at least 15 years, they think, but could be less or more. It would not be as seismically sound as a new bridge. And choosing repairs would require another bridge closure for replacement, eventually. Izzo added, “This option does not enable what a replacement can in terms of planning for future traffic,” with West Seattle continuing to densify. And finding funding for a replacement would be harder with a repaired bridge in action, than it would be now, with a closed bridge.

He then noted that what had been alternative 3 – partial replacement – has been tossed out. “Too high of a risk to consider,” Izzo explained.

Alternative 4 – Superstructure replacement:

It’s “the middle of the pack” on capital costs, with a lower ownership/maintenance cost because it would be new. It could open by 2026 – maybe, Izzo said, a little faster if they found “alternative” ways to do it (which would require extra funding). This could last at least 50 years; after that, it would likely require strengthening. One risk here is that the U.S. Coast Guard, as previously mentioned, might require a higher bridge. “If we have to go higher with the bridge,” they’d have to deal with the approach spans too, and that would be an added cost. Other risks could include.a change in seismic requirements.

Alternative 5 – Full replacement

The CBA shows a cable-stayed bridge as the example here, not because that’s necessarily what would be built, but for comparative cost estimates. The risks/benefits here have a lot in common with #4 -they too could take until 2026 but they would try to find “alternative” faster ways. This would be a steel bridge and time of fabrication is something else to consider. Finding funding for a bridge replacing a closed bridge would be easier.

Alternative 6 – Immersed tube tunnel

Izzo first noted that they’re evaluating this with a potential route on the north side of the current bridge. It would have the highest capital costs because of the cut-and-cover section it would require across Harbor Island as well as because of the immersed tube itself, plus other connections. The maintenance costs “given the amount of HVAC and (other) systems .. will be quite high” and the lack of experience with it also would add to that. It would take the longest period of time to build; they project 2030. And that’s WITHOUT consideration of adding light rail, which would require “an off-site casting facility.” Other risks would include “a lot of casting on site” of the cut-and-cover sections and in “trenching across the island.” Getting enough funding would be “quite a challenge,” since the cost would be maybe two or more times the full replacement.

In summary, the attribute comparison:

And then the bottom lines and “key takeaways”:

Here’s what would happen if repair is the choice

Or if replacement:

“Designing a replacement is going to be necessary even if we repair and reopen” the current one, bridge project director Heather Marx underscored.

In CTF discussion – co-chair Paulina López and Greg Nickels suggested an extra meeting next week to hear opinions, since a technical glitch cost some time in the meeting. The CTF feedback is framed as “what are the most important things the mayor should consider?” rather than polling everyone “repair or replace.”

So instead Nickels asked a question about alternatives 2 and 4 – whether each dollar sign on the slides represented an equivalent cost value. No – #4 is probably “5 to 10 times the cost of alternative 2,” Izzo said. #4 meantime would be about half the cost of #2.

SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe jumped in on that. It’s all “big numbers,” he noted, but reminded everyone that they’re making comparisons “at zero percent design level” so “any number we put out right now would likely be incorrect,”so the comparison is more important than the specifics.

Nickels noted that the four years that would be saved by the repair option look priceless in their value to people’s lives, but it’s hard to weigh that without knowing the actual dollar estimates too.

“That type of feedback is exactly what will be helpful” in decisionmaking, Zimbabwe said. But the repair option “does come with a level of uncertainty” about how soon the bridge would subsequently have to close again for replacement.

CTF member Jen Temple of West Seattle Bridge NOW said, “The choice seems fairly obvious” for repairs, given the effects on people’s lives, and criticized the fact no “economic modeling” has been done to factor in the costs of closure.

CTF member Anne Higuera of Ventana Construction (WSB sponsor) wanted clarification on how long a replacement closure would take if repairs are done first – would the eventual replacement closure be shorter? “It would depend on what kind of replacement, what kind of delivery mechanism,” said Marx. She also said there are different possibilities for alternative 4 that could take different lengths of time – so that’s why they’re trying to hone in on community values – do people want something done ASAP no matter what? for example. (In response to CTF member Charlie Able‘s similar question later, it was also noted that permitting time would play into the length. Able said he just wanted to clarify, even if fixed now and replaced later, there would still be a closure – yes, Zimbabwe said, because they would almost certainly be using the same alignment.)

Peter Steinbrueck, Port of Seattle Commissioner, suggested it was unfortunate the CBA presentation hadn’t preceded the discussion with the mayor. How are they going to be able to inform the mayor’s decision once they have more details? “I can’t help but feel that the repair option is being shortchanged on a couple levels,” he suggested, especially given that the cause of the bridge’s current problems still has not been determined. And what about, say, an option 2-plus, with repair and some upgrading, he wondered. “Sometimes these analyses can lead to a hybrid,” and that’s what he hopes will be considered. He also suggested that the funding possibilities shouldn’t be shown as equal across all options because different projects would have different funding sources.

At that point, Moffat said they do have a good understanding of what went wrong with the bridge, though she didn’t go into full details. “We do know what we’re fixing, and we know what we can fix,” she clarified. “We were suspecting a shear failure at joint 38 … since that time the analysis and modeling has developed what the actual failure mechanism likely is … we do have the analytics behind understanding why and what occurred.” That said, she cautioned: “With an aging structure, other issues could arise … that’s the uncertainty,” not an uncertainty over what went wrong. Remember, she said, this bridge was ahead of its time, including seismic protection, in 1980, but things have changed – such as, bridges are supposed to withstand 900+-year earthquakes, not just 400+-year earthquakes. “There is a certain limiting factor with an existing structure regarding what you can do to repair or retrofit it.”

CTF member Peter Goldman then said some parts of the tube tunnel evaluation might need to be rethought in light of what’s been done at the Fraser River, as well as the concept of whether to put Sound Transit light rail in it.

Moffat at this point reminded all that the decision is repair – 2 – or replace – 4, 5, or 6. They are not choosing what type of replacement now; the Size/Type/Location study would hone in on that. Regarding including ST, the “grade perspective” is a challenge and might require lengthening the approaches as well as a “fire life safety” consideration, with a pump station, ventilation, cross passages, maybe even a full-time staff. “There’s a lot of considerations. … As you start getting into the actual needs … those are things that a Type/Size/Location study would flesh out,” but the costs they have are “very preliminary.” “I would caution that it’s not being thrown out.”

Bottom line:

Earlier in the meeting:

CONVERSATION WITH MAYOR DURKAN: “The impacts of the bridge outage have exacerbated all the other crises we’re experiencing right now … daily impacts,” noted the mayor. She listed a variety of decisionmaking factors, while noting that any option is a significant investment of tax dollars and time.

The mayor also observed that taking maritime-industry concerns into consideration has added weight now because it’s more “critical to the future of Seattle and our region” than ever, given the recent Boeing news.

Task Force feedback: “People just want some certainty,” offered Deb Barker of the West Seattle Transportation Coalition and Morgan Community Association. Next, John Persak, representing Georgetown, pointed out that detour-traffic impacts there are unique because it’s a neighborhood without a grocery store, pharmacy, or geographic center. “Lack of internet access … (requires) more support from the city” for those working and studying at home, noted David Bestock of the Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association. “Internet IS equity,” agreed the mayor.

Diane Sosne of SEIU Local 1199, a health-care union with 1,000 members in this area, noted that the “financial impact to workers is huge.” She wondered if there’s a “hybrid” way to handle concerns, especially helping health-care workers get to their job. “We’re looking at every option,” affirmed the mayor. “Every option will be a hybrid … repair or replace.”

WS Bridge NOW’s Temple underscored the importance of certainty, and wondered why both can’t be done “in parallel” – repairing while moving ahead with replacement. “We’ve been pushing really hard not to do an ‘or’,” replied the mayor, saying the duration any option will last, and how it will work with the “built environment” such as the Terminal 5 modernization process, is a vital consideration. Goldman, a bicycling and environmental advocate, voiced concern about commenting because ‘we don’t have any numbers in front of us” in terms of dollar figures. “If you are going to look at dollar figures in a vacuum and we don’t have those dollar figures,” the CTF is being asked to “put the horse before the cart,” he said.

Lora Radford of the West Seattle Junction Association said the low-bridge passes made available to small businesses (the WSJA has access to 6.passes to be shared by its 230 businesses) have been invaluable. Marci Carpenter of the Washington Federation of the Blind said she’s hearing from transit riders that the low bridge is working OK and more van shuttles are needed, given the access challenges to bus stops amid our hilly topography. “Almost uniformly, people want the bridge to be opened as soon as possible,” but other people with whom she’s spoken don’t feel like it’s right to just “kick the replacement down the road” so someone else has to deal with a long closure like that. “How much is it going to cost, how long is it going to take, how long is it going to last,” are the three factors Durkan cited again. She also mentioned the Seattle Transportation Benefit District measure on the upcoming ballot, with some money set aside for West Seattle transit needs.

BRIDGE UPDATE FROM SDOT: Marx presented a brief update. She started with a stabilization update:

The brackets inside the box girders are being attached so the post-tensioning steel can be secured, she said, adding that contractor Kraemer NA is now working seven days a week. She also recapped some of the recent Reconnect West Seattle-related work, including Sylvan Way, West Marginal Way, Alki Trail, 32nd/Barton and 1st/Olson repaving, and the Home Zone walk earlier this week in South Park, with Highland Park and Georgetown coming up.

The low-bridge subcommittee has met once and will meet again next week, looking ahead to the installation of enforcement cameras enabling “fine-tuning” the policy.

NEXT: The co-chairs are working with members to schedule a meeting for next week devoted to discussion of the CBA, so they can get more feedback to the mayor before her decision, which she is currently scheduled to brief them on in two weeks.

76 Replies to "As West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force gets more repair-vs.-replace info, members suggest something major is missing"

  • Scott October 7, 2020 (9:45 pm)

    Why is SDOT assuming that an eventual replacement will need to use the same alignment as the existing bridge?  Particularly if the Coast Guard requires a higher span, so the existing approaches would not work, I don’t know why that is true.

  • Scott October 7, 2020 (9:51 pm)

    As for “kick[ing] the replacement down the road,” wouldn’t it be better for any closure to occur after we already have light rail as an alternative transportation option than now, when we don’t?

    • Steve M. October 8, 2020 (8:46 pm)

      This makes sense. Would the proposal be, then, to repair now, then build (or concurrently build) light rail, then replace the bridge once mobility via light rail has been established?*Can* they build light rail concurrently? I’ve been wondering if the proposed 2025 start date and 2030 finish date for a West Seattle connection is even still on the table given the circumstances…

    • ANONINSTL October 9, 2020 (10:24 am)

      With the current economic situation we’re looking at decades before light rail is an option here. It was already planned for decades out for West Seattle. 

  • The truth October 7, 2020 (9:52 pm)

    The numbers need to be released.  I believe if the repair is the cheapest upfront option we should pull the trigger ASAP.  We should then plan for a replacement sometime in early 2030’s after light rail is established.  If we pivot to replacement now we have no additional capacity to move people for the nest 6 years and the timeline would include EIS, TSL studies and design work and permitting.  If we repair, we can do that work while still having mobility access via the repaired bridge.   Then take the bridge down while  we have the ability to move a lot of people off the island via light rail.  Seems pretty straight forward.  I would always encouraged a planned out project of this magnitude than one rushed and slapped together.

    • Derek October 8, 2020 (7:36 am)

      I agree with you. 

    • BBILL October 8, 2020 (11:07 am)

      “I would always encouraged a planned out project of this magnitude than one rushed and slapped together.” And yet you’re quick to “believe” that the “cheapest upfront option” is the best. This, of course, is a costing question, and some like to consider the opportunity cost of lost time, and others only look at the price tag of the structure, and others use a discounted cash flow approach, where distant benefits are less valuable.

  • maddad October 7, 2020 (9:53 pm)

    This is a joke!  Fix the bridge now.  IT’S BEEN MONTHS !  Build the new solution next to it When you do the Light rail in 14 years. 

    • Derek October 8, 2020 (7:39 am)

      Yeah I don’t get why this isn’t the plan. There’s room right next to the current bridge to start building. The traffic is awful. 

    • anoninstl October 9, 2020 (10:26 am)

      Wasn’t light rail for WS planned for like 2030? and now we’re dealing with them having less revenue to even build light rail.

      • WSB October 9, 2020 (10:53 am)

        It’s still 2030 but as we’ve reported, Sound Transit still has to “realign” and delaying not-yet-under-construction projects is the most likely scenario.

  • sna October 7, 2020 (9:55 pm)

    I wonder if they don’t want to commit to the repair scenario until they know how the stabilization turns out.  They don’t want to say “we’re gonna repair it” then have it all crumble during the stabilization post tensioning and have to backpedal. 

  • Rachel Lazar October 7, 2020 (9:56 pm)

    What a mess, and how can it be called a cost benefit analysis without costs included? I heard no sense of urgency yet sure seemed a repair option makes the most sense, providing time for a thoughtful, planful replacement when necessary. Let’s fix the bridge and get West Seattle back at it!!

    • BBILL October 8, 2020 (11:11 am)

      Many people, including comments to this blog entry, have suggested that time is off the essence, so the time to gather the data for all the cost computations is not worth the benefit. These suggestions are made, of course, without clearly outlining the cost-benefit computations. Loosely, some of the comments suggest, “I’m so desperate to have a bridge that a short-term fix is preferable to a long-term solution.” Without the economic data, we won’t know what the “cheapest” option is, and discount rates are always at issue.

  • Mj October 7, 2020 (10:12 pm)

    Scott – agreed repair the bridge ASAP, frankly it should be done by Fall 2021.  Work to get Light Rail to WS quickly and look at other alignments for the future.  WSDOT keeps highways open while adding new facilities, yes some weekend closures.  Remember the Viaduct stayed open until the very end then a few weeks of closure and walla a new route was opened up.  

    • Trickycoolj October 7, 2020 (11:17 pm)

      It’s “voila” not Walla(Walla)

  • CM October 7, 2020 (10:26 pm)

    I am troubled by the continued lack of transparency from a government agency, SDOT, which ultimately is accountable to us—the citizenry. To not disclose proper figures, costs, bids or estimates; to repeatedly attempt to deemphasize cost amounts, misrepresent cost scale on comparative figures—this is all incredibly troubling behavior for a governmental agency. It suggests a deeply ingrained departmental culture where accountability to the tax payer is not a given mandate and where obscuring the truth is not discouraged but actively rewarded. We deserve better.

    • Chemist October 8, 2020 (1:26 am)

      Yeah, hiding things to engineer public opinion has been infecting SDOT for a while now.  Remember that 35th Phase 1 Before and After Study that was supposed to be released 1 year after ?  Only a very tiny amount of data was published, even though the full report was promised in the 2017 Vision Zero status report as “We’ll release a before and after report in summer
      2017”.   The 35th report never happened (just a few summary boards) and phase 2 was scaled back.  However, the Spring 2019 65th NE project of about equal size as 35th Phase 1 has a new Before and After Study that’s 22 pages long. —  I’d really not be surprised if some polling for the STBD renewal is closer than Seattle leaders would like and they’re trying to keep other big ticket expenses from gaining headlines with things like “replacement bridge options expected to cost $1.5-2 billion with construction and anticipated maintenance”

    • WSDeservesBetter October 8, 2020 (11:53 am)

      Well said, CM. 7 months in and the situation gets murkier while we watch our neighbors move, businesses close and the time sitting in traffic grows exponentially by the week. I have never felt so let down as I do with our councilperson, SDOT and mayor that I voted for.  I think what really cemented the tone of this whole situation is that they announced punitive measures of cameras on low bridge  before they announced any significant update or plan. How much more are we supposed to take? Truly shameful,

  • Simple math October 7, 2020 (10:44 pm)

    Please fix the bridge! Enough is enough. The idea of six more years without access out of West Seattle is absolutely mind boggling. If a repair is feasible and it’s the cheapest option, this has to be the easiest decision anyone could ever be asked to make. And even if we stipulate to SDOT’s claim that the cost of a new span equals the cost of repair and maintenance over whatever timeframe, they haven’t considered the economic impact of five extra years of no high bridge would cost our community in jobs, health, property values, pollution and just plain quality of life. So the simple math would be: Bridge cost: $X million repair = $X million replaceBridge outage: 1 more year repair ≠ 6 more years replaceSounds like it’s time to get to work. Mayor Durkan, Please repair the bridge! 

  • Mj October 7, 2020 (10:47 pm)

    CM agreed, the City is being very opaque.  SDoT failed to properly maintain the bridge and and the City is now scrambling to figure out how to pay for it’s mistake and we WS residents are left out in the cold.

    What is the cost of no bridge, the City’s minimum wage is $16 an hour.  What is the average added commute time, what is the personal cost of not going to see friends and family? 

    The WSB served 100,000 vehicles per day.  What is the cost of lost productivity, let’s say $5 per trip that is $500,000 per day x 365 days per year, $180,000,000 a year.  

    Fixing the bridge needs to be done, 6 years of no bridge is simply unjust to WS residents for SDoT’s failure to properly maintain the structure.

  • Trickycoolj October 7, 2020 (11:22 pm)

    The person from Georgetown is right we need better internet access. Every single house in West Seattle — including High Point— needs to have *two* providers of gigabit or faster internet. None of this Clink 3mbps for $50 is the fastest we can do as an alternative to Comcast whom I’ve been fighting with all summer with reliability issues trying to work from home and stay off the bridge. I was ready to cancel yesterday but the  next fastest alternative is my cell phone. Comcast praises me for being a loyal customer since 2007… as if I had a choice in the matter! Fix. It. Now. CLink needs to stop discriminating the less affluent neighborhoods  and if they can’t expand their fiber then the city needs to provide gigabit+ fiber to provide competition to Comcast and allow us to work from home reliably. It’s embarrassing in a city overflowing with tech headquarters!

  • Josh October 7, 2020 (11:30 pm)

    Looks like the City of Seattle is hiring for a West Seattle Bridge Strategic Advisor 3 to lead the charge. Anyone here qualified and interested?

  • Matt P October 8, 2020 (12:30 am)

    A couple questions: 1. When is the stuck bearing being released? 2. I thought the bridge was already higher than any boat that could possibly need to pass under it, so why is the coast guard clamoring for an even higher bridge?Reparing the bridge and then immediately beginning its replacement side by side would be the most logical course of action, but this is Seattle.  At least with repair, by the time it’s ready for replacement, we’ll have light rail.    

  • Smittytheclown October 8, 2020 (5:51 am)

    It still feels like they are sandbagging so as not to get our hopes up.  Post tensioning and carbon wrapping will allow for a reduced lanes opening by late summer 21.  Git  r done! 

  • DRC October 8, 2020 (7:12 am)

       People lite rail does not move cars

    • JenT October 8, 2020 (9:10 am)

      No, but it’s at least a substantive mode of transportation for mobility throughout the region versus the absolute nonsense of trying to get us to ride bikes.

  • Derek October 8, 2020 (7:37 am)

    Please just repair and get this going by next year some time. Stop all other projects until it’s done. The effects of this bridge are “felt” all over town. This is a PRIORITY

  • Aerial Observer October 8, 2020 (8:11 am)

    ‘As for the stuck bearing, Moffat said the unlocking is “only a good thing” and would not play into the repair/replace decision.’

    Why not? If unlocking the bearing results in the bridge’s crack propagation rates returning to  following structural models, that would be a significant data point in making the decision, and one definitely in favor of ‘repair-then-replace’. (Recall that SDOT closed the bridge after crack growth exceeded the rate their structural model had predicted.)

    ‘“Designing a replacement is going to be necessary even if we repair and reopen” the current one, bridge project director Heather Marx underscored.’

    Exactly. The least-painful path for West Seattle residents and businesses is to repair as efficaciously as possible, and start the replacement plans NOW. Whatever time repair buys eases the transition to the replacement(s).

  • Mj October 8, 2020 (8:20 am)

    Economic impact of the closure of the WSB.  100,000 vpd is over 100,000 people a day.  Seattle minimum wage is $16.39 per hour for large employers and other smaller employers $15.75 an hour.  This provides a base time value of about $16.00 hour.  

    The closure has increased commute time, would be way worse without pandemic, of 30 to 60 minutes.  Presuming 30 minutes this correlates to $8 a trip, $800,000 a day and about $292,000,000 a year.  I suspect the true economic and life impact is even greater.

    It is clear that repairing the bridge is the best option!

  • JeffK October 8, 2020 (8:43 am)

    1.  Prioritize light rail to WS.2.  Do the job right and replace the bridge.We are all used to the status quo now, reopening and closing for repairs and eventual replacement will just be an ongoing headache for the next decade.

    • WSB October 8, 2020 (9:13 am)

      One thing to remember regarding light rail: Sound Transit has yet to make its decision on how to “realign’ projects that are not yet under construction; there is a very real possibility at least a few years will be adde to the timeline. (West Seattle currently remains on a path to a 2030 opening.)

    • Martin October 8, 2020 (11:03 am)

      Yes, if we repair and build a high capacity public transport alternative before embarking on a bridge replacement, then we could move a lot of traffic to such alternative and free up the other bridges to people who depend on their cars and trucks. If we build a separate Link bridge however, it probably gets in the way of any bridge replacement efforts. May be we need to look at other public transport options such as suggest in

  • North Admiral Resident October 8, 2020 (9:04 am)

    Please REPAIR the bridge and get us moving again! 15 years out a repair is plenty and gives you time to figure out alternatives.  Unbelievable that the repair option isn’t being taken seriously. You can even see in the bullet points that they are trying  to position for something else. Is anyone accounting for the 15 minute maddening detour we are facing (each way!) every time each one of us leaves or comes back to West Seattle. It is getting darker and harder to navigate all those many turns, too. Plus, as a woman, those areas make me feel unsafe, especially in the dark. C’mon, who is fighting for us West Seattleites? 

    • Derek October 8, 2020 (12:17 pm)

      15 minute? It’s an hour extra sometimes for me. 

    • Colonel Mustard's Wrench October 9, 2020 (1:18 pm)

      My commute is easily an additional 40 minutes longer – one way. 
      Add another 20 + minutes if the First Avenue bridge is up, for a total of 60 minutes longer, one way.

  • quiz October 8, 2020 (9:11 am)

    Why can’t the bridge be temporarily repaired (and opened sooner) to the extent that it would last 10-15 years, during which time a full replacement and light rail is build next to it on a a different alignment? Once the new one is completed demolish the old one. It would cost a bit more, but worth every penny. Am I missing something?

    • Derek October 8, 2020 (12:18 pm)

      I agree! I do not understand why this no-brainer approach isn’t what is settled on so we can get this bridge up and running. Take trucks and busses off of it if you need to, call it a day! For real!

  • anonyme October 8, 2020 (9:18 am)

    Tricky: thumbs up to your comment!  I hate that one, too.

  • Bob October 8, 2020 (9:26 am)

    Our lives, livelihoods, and wellbeing are in the hands of SDOT bureaucrats who have shown very little empathy towards the community since that first disastrous town hall.  They’ve stacked the cards in favor of a lengthy replacement.  They are going to have a complete mess on their hands when their ridiculous mobility plan fails, and traffic is immovable for 6+ years.  

  • EH October 8, 2020 (9:28 am)

    Just replace it!

  • L October 8, 2020 (9:39 am)

    So we’ve been waiting around for months for them to finish their cost-benefit analysis and there are no costs calculated.   The incompetence at SDOT is shocking.   The crippling impact of no bridge will only get worse as society continues reopening.   Fix the bridge now and make it an all hands on deck effort.   Get it done and stop wasting time!!

    • Will October 8, 2020 (12:06 pm)

      You are absolutely right about the sdot incompetence as well as severe lack of urgency and communication..  All of this time and no clear numbers or clear answers. Watch while nothing changes.   Someone needs to hold them accountable or nothing will change.   My guess is 2027. 

  • Mr C Vu October 8, 2020 (9:40 am)

    The giant consulting firms on this task force and SDOT clearly see this as a cash cow not an emergency. If they did not there would economists and planners providing decision making criteria and guiding the decision making not the agency heads and firms that stand to benefit from turning this into as large a project as possible. As a licensed civil engineer I have seen first hand how these types of decisions get warped by politics and the mission to serve the public get forgotten. Don’t be dazzled by false precision of the matrices used to guide these decisions. These are very easy to manipulate to reach predetermined outcomes.  The lack of quantification of economic harm to the community is a tell that something fishy could be at play . Until we know there are no conflicts of interest driving this decision (political pressure, dangled promotions, lobbying, favors for favors) and we have an honest  cost comparison that factors in  socio-economic impacts to citizens for the period of closure, rebuild should be strongly opposed. If they can rebuild while preserving even partial access to high bridge then that would have my support if this decision hasn’t been corrupted and the accounting and engineering are sound. 

    • BBILL October 8, 2020 (11:53 am)

      “The lack of quantification of economic harm to the community is a tell that something fishy could be at play.” As a licensed civil engineer, what is your estimate of the cost (both as measured in time and money) to gather all the data and quantify the economic harm?

  • wetone October 8, 2020 (10:35 am)

        ” Moffat said they do have a good understanding of what went wrong with the bridge, though she didn’t go into full details”   Why won’t they explain exactly what went wrong ? does it involve maintenance work not addressed or work that was done incorrectly ?  was it SDOT or contractor snafu ?  We need explanation and accountability so these issues don’t repeat or we have gained zilch towards improving future building/maintenance  practices and public trust of Seattle government.  

    • WSB October 8, 2020 (10:49 am)

      I already have a request out to SDOT for elaboration on what she said, even if it’s highly technical, which was what she appeared to be saying.

  • formerresident October 8, 2020 (11:30 am)

    So many graduates of armchair university in the comments here! My god you folks are insufferable. Accept the reality of the situation and be open to the best solution for EVERYONE and not just you and your commute.  Saying things like “yeah well this SHOULD have been fixed” and “they SHOULD just go with the fastest option” and trying to blame people for not finding the problems earlier, taking time to decide the best path forward, etc etc is just being in denial of reality. Finding a scapegoat won’t make your commute better. The reality is that it’s a huge, complex, expensive, unpredictable problem with huge impact.  Accept it and quit trying to blame someone. 

  • Joe Z October 8, 2020 (11:45 am)

    All of the replacement options seem to large/complex for me. A second draw bridge with 2 lanes in each direction would be sufficient, but they continue to obsess over these massive replacement designs which are way beyond the scope of what is reasonably needed. As a city we need to get away from the idea that every neighborhood in Seattle should be connected by freeways with thousands of parking spots on either end.

    In the long run our freeway system should be downsized in favor of the light rail options that we are spending over $50 billion to build. At the end of the day the light rail is going to be cheaper and faster than paying $5 to cross a “superstructure” toll bridge. 

  • JVP October 8, 2020 (11:53 am)

    Economic impact needs to be considered. The impact on WS business, all the bloody wasted time of WS residents driving around, the decrease in our property values, the decrease in property tax collections. There’s a LOT more $$$ savings that go into quick repair than they’re indicating. Repair it, if it’s feasible!

    • Question Authority October 8, 2020 (5:14 pm)

      Who said your taxes are going down?  Not going to happen as broke as the City and County are and will continue to be 

  • KM October 8, 2020 (11:56 am)

    I was hoping the major missing issue here would be the lack of climate considerations for rebuilding/replacing a 6-7 lane city bridge primarily for cars.  Ah well, nevertheless.

    • Jort October 8, 2020 (12:58 pm)

      But somebody put a “I believe in climate change” sign in their yard, so maybe that’ll do the trick! Automobiles are the number one source of carbon emissions in the city of Seattle. The “liberals” and “progressives” of this city want to do nothing to change that. They want a repaired bridge AND a replacement bridge AND they want it to be as big as it was before just so they can keep driving their vroom-vrooms around.

  • cory October 8, 2020 (12:52 pm)

    This is a great write up. Many thanks for your work in keeping us informed. 

  • Mr. SeaVu October 8, 2020 (1:02 pm)

    In response to BBILL:Economists know how to put a dollar sign to impacts like these not engineers so I will pass on doing more than spitballing based on my experience.  Hopefully the stakeholder group has an economist that could provide an estimate. I know the City does. When I have done engineering studies with economists they would usually be 10-25% of the project budget for the study. In the projects I am familiar with the focus is on finding best value to the agency inclusive of all capital costs, including design, relocations, construction, and long term maintenance. Benefits of the project doing its job are quantified usually divided by the total cost. If the ratio is greater than 1 you have a project that is worth doing.  If you have several alternatives you rank by B/C ratio and the one with the highest  is usually  picked. Societal impacts  often remain unquantified unless they include things that are easily monetized. Loss of property value,  loss of revenue, loss of employment, increased commute times, fuel cost, are all things at play here so perplexed why City isn’t factoring this in.  Take a SWAG and multiply by years of closure to build a new bridge.  Add to total project cost. Not that hard but the cost of study will have a big impact on precision of the B/C ratio. Garbage in = garbage out. Things really get fuzzy when we start putting $$$ on human lives saved due to higher design standards. So you have to have an experienced economist to do this right.  Always best to work with ranges than hard numbers. As far as cost for these types of studies its all in the scope of work. You could ask an expert panel to provide opinions and take an average. You could spend years as part of an EIS or major capital project planning study (Sound Transit).  I think the advisory group should identify criteria for economic analysis and empanel a few experts to put some numbers on impacts to the community even if the City won’t. I think the opinions of a few well qualified economists could go a long way here to allaying community concerns and I hope that there are economists reading the blog that would love to help. Engineers pride themselves with staying inside the lines but if you give them permission and direction to think outside the box they will do so happily.

  • MightyMoh October 8, 2020 (1:25 pm)

    I find it fascinating how much attention (not just on WSB for sure) the immersed tube tunnel option was given earlier this year. And yet either proponents completely left out the true costs (time and money) of that alternative in their boosterism *or* SDOT is purposefully inflating those potential costs to effectively take that alternative off the table in any “replace” scenario. It was definitely sold as cheaper and much faster to assemble and install than any rebuild option.

  • Blang October 8, 2020 (2:19 pm)

    REPAIR REPAIR REPAIRNobody wants to wait 6 yrs.

  • Bach October 8, 2020 (2:35 pm)

    Whatever decision is made regarding the bridge, West Seattle
    desperately needs better public transit options to supplement using personal vehicles.  Bus transit exists locally
    and to the downtown corridor; however, it’s burdensome or impossible to get to farther
    destinations (UW, Eastside, Tacoma, Everett, etc.)   A light rail line would solve that problem
    but cannot be delivered until 2030—and now probably 2040.  Instead why not build an AERIAL CABLE TRANSIT from West Seattle to the International District Light Rail station?   Aerial cable transit can be constructed quickly
    and for far less money than light rail and continuously move thousands a people
    a day—on a different pathway than roads and bridges!

  • Eric Nesheim October 8, 2020 (2:44 pm)

    Just build a steel girder under the existing structure to reinforce it. The build larger footings and pillars to spread the weight in a wet zone. 1 year Mac to finish with The Army core if engineers taking responsibility. No more oh the salmon. Currently it’s a ten mile drive instead of 1 mile.

    • BBILL October 8, 2020 (3:24 pm)

      Marine traffic has the right-of-way, and no one is allowed to build in the existing navigation channel without federal approval, and there is basically zero chance of getting Congress’ approval. In other words, no way will there be any permanent construction below.

    • Ron Swanson October 8, 2020 (3:35 pm)

      That would lower the navigation clearance under the bridge.  That’s something the Coast Guard would have to approve and that’s not likely to happen.  If there’s a repair it can’t lower the bridge.

  • Question Authority October 8, 2020 (4:36 pm)

    Yes, the traffic is awful and who wants to except that each WS residents is partially to blame.  It didn’t get crowded over there by magic and now comes the reckoning.

  • Gary Danielson October 8, 2020 (5:04 pm)


    • Question Authority October 8, 2020 (6:24 pm)

      What Judge is going to rule in favor of any citizen who voluntarily chooses to live in West Seattle?  If an earthquake knocked it down would you be less troubled and willing to pull out the lawsuit card?  

      • L October 9, 2020 (8:20 am)

        I’m pretty tired of hearing that argument.   How many other neighborhoods / cities in Western Washington are dependent upon a bridge?   Mercer Island?  Magnolia?  Bellevue?   Gig Harbor?   The list goes on and on.   The people of West Seattle made investments and life-changing decisions based on their well-founded belief that we would always have a bridge to use.   The city failed us, and now they are trying to tell us we won’t have a bridge for 6 years (and probably more).   It’s completely unacceptable and illustrative of the incompetence that permeates city government.

    • Chemist October 9, 2020 (1:49 am)

      I think it would be kind of messed up if the only toll roads entirely in Seattle city limits were the Alaskan Way Tunnel and the West Seattle Bridge.  Shouldn’t SDOT toll Fairview Ave’s bridge too? 

      • Rick October 9, 2020 (11:42 am)

        How about tolling all the bridges in Seattle to spread out the pain and make it more equitable? And to alleviate the issue of dollars needed to  repair/replace the West Seattle Bridge. Then everyone could be equally happy/unhappy. 

        • flimflam October 9, 2020 (12:24 pm)

          why would you want others to feel “pain” and be “unhappy” just because you are? that is a very strange outlook in my opinion.

  • Bosa October 8, 2020 (9:22 pm)

    So their fix is to have cameras and citations to those desperately traveling onto the lower bridge.  Chaching revenue!   Can’t they build a semi temporary bridge suited for those semis to access the terminal instead and have lower bridge even on rush hour so folks can to get around?  Instead of patching up with epoxy on the high bridge, give us a way out please!!!! 

  • Dan October 8, 2020 (11:17 pm)

    SDOT leans toward replacement and supports this idea with an argument of cost of maintenance over time…….. Before we allow SDOT to have any influence on this decision is there a way we can allow the public to weigh in and determine as to whether SDOT should have any and I mean ABSOLUTELY ANY involvement with the decision on the bridge and it’s future? Honestly, if it were up to me I wouldn’t even allow SDOT to drive a truck over the bridge.  There is no way the failures at SDOT can argue that a replacement is better in the long run using maintenance costs to support it. Disagree with me? Ok, fine but first tell me how well they’ve done with maintenance on the bridge so far? A random side note/question- after experiencing so many trips over the bridge at night in complete darkness due to no functional lighting on the bridge has anyone else noticed that all of the lights on the bridge are all on at night now days? 

  • Colonel Mustard's Wrench October 9, 2020 (11:18 am)

    Thank you WSB for your coverage, and your request to SDOT to be forthcoming and transparent on the causes of the bridge failure.  We will all want to see SDOT’s answer.Mayor Durkan, we are counting on you to get our bridge repaired.  A six year (or likely much longer) solution is unacceptable.

    • WSB October 9, 2020 (11:21 am)

      Still waiting for the three questions I sent to be answered. #1 was for the full CBA if available, or at least the missing $ figures; #2, elaboration on what Barbara Moffat mentioned about the bridge failure no longer being a mystery; #3, when the Task Force is meeting for its comments.

  • Stevie J October 9, 2020 (2:59 pm)

    Where do commenters wish to put a hypothetical parallel bridge for a repair and replace situation? South of the bridge, there is a rail right of way (BNSF Duwamish crossing) and lots of businesses. Not to mention you would have to remove many homes on Pigeon Point. I remember those residents were demanding a tunnel instead of surrendering their homes to a cheaper light rail alignment, so I don’t know how they will feel about a freeway. Then you can’t forget about Nucor, and Jesus Christ, the LUNA PARK CAFE! Yeah that’s not going to happen. North of the bridge, you have the lower bridge and all sorts of business happening on Harbor Island. 

    Planning for light rail ( is hard enough, and a giant automobile bridge is going to need a lot wider of a right of way than light rail. I think demolishing the whole thing and replacing it with rail accommodations, like the I-90 bridge that was built with future light rail in mind, is the best option. 

  • Nick October 10, 2020 (6:03 pm)

    I find the whole tunnel scenario completely insane given the build time projection and problems that could arise, plus the past history in massive delays and cost overruns associated with a certain nearby tunnel.

  • Jen October 11, 2020 (6:49 am)

    Forgive my ignorance here but shouldn’t we be given a reprieve on property tax? I understand we can’t eliminate it but they should be drastically reduced to all the fire sales in the area decreasing our home values. I can’t fathom how this approach is acceptable. An hour in and out of West Seattle and the only focus is installing cameras on the first avenue bridge to catch people illegally using it. I live here, why is it illegal to use another route to get out? A 6 minute drive to Costco is now 45 minutes sometimes, it’s ridiculous! I want to sell but don’t want to lower prices just because the city of Seattle can’t get it together. 

  • Gatewoodresident October 11, 2020 (1:46 pm)

    I don’t understand how any cost benefit analysis can be complete without analyzing the cost to community ? Particularly cost to community +businesses already hurting due to Covid …. utterly absurd. They’ve got to repair. The repair could last longer than the damn bridge did in first place according to their analysis . Let WSDOT figure out the light rail connection – that’s not SDOT’s problem. 

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