FOLLOWUP: What’s next for southbound 1st Avenue South Bridge after ‘temporary repairs’

Back on Tuesday, we published the Washington State Department of Transportation‘s alert about short closures this week and next for “temporary repairs” on the southbound side of the 1st Avenue South Bridge (which is actually two separate bridges, one in each direction). Tonight we have more information on what’s being fixed, and what “permanent repairs” will entail. WSDOT’s Tom Pearce explains here that “our crews noticed wear on the bearings of two piers during a regular inspection of the bridge. These bearings are critical as they allow the bridge deck to move up and down a little when traffic goes over the pier.”

(WSDOT photo – gap created by the worn bearing is shown, with pen inserted in the opening)

Right now, for temporary repairs, Pearce writes, “During each closure, crews jack up the deck a little, put in shims – in this case a piece of metal to close the gap – to counter the settlement, then lower the deck onto the shims.” But that’ll only last a few months, so they’ll have to do permanent repairs next year: “In early 2021, we’ll have a contractor crew replace the worn bearings atop the piers. We’re still designing how this work will take place, so we don’t have all the details yet. Right now we’re looking at a project that will require us to close two of the four lanes, 24 hours a day, for about two weeks to replace cement and grout. This will eliminate the settlement on that side of the bridge. When one side is finished, it will take another roughly two weeks to do the same thing on the other side.” Again, this is the southbound side of the 1st Avenue South Bridge, not the northbound side (which is older and went through a recent project to replace some of its deck panels – for more background on both bridges, see our report from the start of that work). WSDOT says the southbound bridge “remains safe for travel.

18 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: What's next for southbound 1st Avenue South Bridge after 'temporary repairs'"

  • Flivver October 9, 2020 (6:40 pm)

    Translation: pack your patience getting back to WS. You’ll get home in time to pack your lunch and leave for work the next day.

  • Kyle October 9, 2020 (8:26 pm)

    Thank you WSB! Without your reporting I bet WSDOT would have never written this blog post. We would have been stuck with the 3 sentence alert about “temporary repairs”, and been surprised sometime next year about the impact of these permanent repairs. Based off their projections on what the permanent repairs will entail this project will have a substantial impact on West Seattle residents lives and they should communicate and plan appropriately with stakeholders.

  • D October 9, 2020 (8:41 pm)

    This is great! What will be the next cascade failure in the system when the 1st Ave bridge drops down to 2 lanes for over a month?

    • WSB October 9, 2020 (9:04 pm)

      Again . this is the SOUTHBOUND side that will ‘drop down to 2 lanes.’ The northbound side will be unimpeded. Might be a bit confusing because the 1st Ave. S. Bridge is two bridges – this involves the southbound side (built in 1996), not the northbound span (built in 1956).

      • BW October 9, 2020 (10:22 pm)

        Not sure how south is any better. Those of us who commute  still have to get home.  Just as bad news as if the north bound side was  being closed.

        • WSB October 10, 2020 (12:05 am)

          Yes, lane closures are a hassle. But it’s important for people to understand that this is NOT an entire direction that’ll be closed – it’s HALF of one direction. So under this plan, northbound will be fully open and southbound will be half open.

  • dsa October 9, 2020 (9:36 pm)

    I’m surprised they think they can keep 2 of 4 lanes open while jacking up the deck to work on the bearing surface area.

    • West Seattle Coug October 10, 2020 (9:33 am)

      I agree. When a span is up, all the lanes are unavailable. To the best of my knowledge, all the southbound lanes are one span, not two. If you have to raise it to repair it, all the southbound lanes are lost.

      Southpark will get very, very crowded…

      WSB, can you confirm?

      • WSB October 10, 2020 (9:52 am)

        If you read the description of the permanent work, it’s different.

    • dsa October 10, 2020 (8:07 pm)

      “If you read the description of the permanent work, it’s different.”  I did read it.  And that is why I wonder why WSDOT thinks they can jack up one side of the steel deck (is it flexible?) to insert new grout while traffic is still on the other side.  And while I’m at it, it seems the deck should remain down during the grout cure period.  Is the Coast Guard cool with that?

      • WSB October 10, 2020 (8:22 pm)

        Yesterday before I wrote this, I asked Tom Pearce about the plan for the permanent repairs and his response was, “As for the permanent repair early next year, we need to reduce the southbound bridge to two lanes 24/7. This actually could last up to four weeks – about two weeks to do the two right lanes, about two weeks to do the two left lanes.”

  • WestJack October 10, 2020 (7:20 am)

    The tunnel option for replacing the big bridge is starting to look a lot better with all of the problems these bridges have.

  • CMBell October 10, 2020 (10:54 am)

    Another wakeup call for the City of Seattle.  Our infrastructure has been ignored for years.  No maintenance, no urgency to address known problems.  It’s not just our roads… the electrical infrastructure in West Seattle is a disaster waiting to happen.  Ask the businesses down in South Park about regular power outages that have a devastating effect on them.  The City must focus on infrastructure.  

    • WSB October 10, 2020 (11:12 am)

      This is NOT a city structure, nor does the city maintain it. Note “Washington State Department of Transportation” references. We included the link to our detailed background story from earlier this year, for anyone who missed it. It explains the bridges as well as the state’s maintenance planning.

      West Seattle Bridge = city bridge, city street
      1st Avenue S. Bridge = state bridge, state highway
      South Park Bridge = county bridge (in a “sliver” of unincorporated area)

      • JES October 10, 2020 (4:33 pm)

        I think, as a resident, WHOSE bridges are whose is a lot less important to me than wanting them to function and be maintained. Is that too much to ask?

        • WSB October 10, 2020 (4:37 pm)

          Of course not. Accuracy is important, especially when the gist of a comment is to rail against a specific government agency that in reality has nothing to do with the structure in question. (Same would go for praise. Credit or blame, where credit or blame is due.) – TR

        • K. Davis October 10, 2020 (9:09 pm)

          @Jes … yes; please rant ignorantly.  It helps so much.  

  • dsa October 10, 2020 (8:28 pm)

    Pearce also said above ” We’re still designing how this work will take place, so we don’t have all the details yet. ”  So IMHO we will see if they are able to maintain 2 open lanes or not.

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