By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Though the big West Seattle Bridge decision has been made, there’s still a lot going on, and so the Community Task Force will continue.
That’s one of the headlines from the CTF’s online meeting this afternoon. Here’s the video:
Also discussed: Stabilization, repair timeline, West Marginal Way, the low bridge, and more.
TASK FORCE’S FUTURE: CTF co-chair Paulina López stressed that their work includes to be sure “voices are being heard.” Co-chair Greg Nickels added that continuing to “advise the mayor” and “advise our communities” are vital roles. He said he’s asked SDOT for three tools – a “critical path schedule,” a monthly summary “of trends in traffic flow” – noting that vaccination may mean more people returning to workplaces and increasing traffic volume – and information to consider “additional mitigation” as the closure effects continue. He suggested they should meet monthly for updates at least for a while. Others agreed. Deb Barker of the West Seattle Transportation Coalition suggested that continuing to talk about synergy with the future Sound Transit light rail “is important … to keep in the public eye.” Dan Austin of the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce noted that holding SDOT accountable to timelines would be a “powerful” role for the task force, among other things. He also wondered what would be helpful for SDOT. “Your perspective on how we’re doing,” replied bridge project director Heather Marx, as well as CTF members serving as communication conduits for the broader community.
Now, on to the updates:
BRIDGE UPDATE: Marx presented updates as “Phase 1” of the stabilization gets close to its conclusion, including photos of what the carbon-fiber wrapping of the bridge looks like inside and outside the bridge.
The second phase of repair will include more post-tensioning and carbon-fiber wrapping on the center span and the “tail spans” on either side. More monitoring, too – important because “carbon-fiber reinforced polymer can get very brittle, and we want early warning to know if we’re having that brittle reaction.” They also will evaluate the seismic condition of the Pier 18 foundation to see if more work is needed there.
Marx recapped the “GC/CM” alternative type of contractor they’ll be hiring for the repairs – “procurement is under way now.”
This process will help them identify cost and time savings, she explained, compared to the “design-bid-build” method, which would mean they don’t hire a contractor until the project is fully designed. In response to questions, SDOT’s Greg Izzo explained they’re pursuing federal funds for the repairs so that means some specific requirements regarding who’s hired, but they’re going to work for more local inclusion. He said using GC/CM could save 4 to 6 months.
Responding to other questions – Marx said it’s too soon to estimate when in 2022 the bridge will reopen. She said they’re now looking at not reopening the bridge until they can open all lanes – that’s a change from a recent suggestion that they might reopen in phases.
So what’s next?
The “alternatives analysis” – first step in Type, Size, Location study for a future replacement bridge – starts soon. Meantime, if you have a group that wants a briefing – just ask.
RECONNECT WEST SEATTLE: SDOT’s Sara Zora presented this update. They’re working on a “project dashboard” – connected to Google mapping – to show progress on the 55 projects comprising the action plan for this year and next. See the map here. So far, 17 RWS projects have been completed, she said. The Home Zone proposals for Georgetown and South Park are ready to unveil, and the Highland Park ones will be soon – these are for cut-through traffic.
West Marginal Way decisions are still being made – they’re seeking more feedback including some walks with community members. A community open house/workshop will be happening around mid-January, with a decision to follow. Here is the timeline:
Overall, the Mobility Action Plan is still aiming for a reduction to 35% drive-alone trips once the pandemic eases.
One big question – when to get the Mobility Action Plan going in earnest, including addition of some services such as more feeder transit to get to the Water Taxi. There’s a project list, though some of it is aspirational (additional Water Taxi boat would require unspecified funding):
They’re also working with UW to study how “urban goods access” is working during the bridge closure. Speaking of which, Zora also recapped the current low-bridge-access policy:
No word of any potential access-policy changes yet. SPD is still out for enforcement until the automated system is ready to go. They’re still “working on the exact policy approach” for that, though. She recapped what we reported earlier this week – that the cameras (two of them) will be installed the week of December 7th and activation is scheduled for January.
REPAIR DECISION AFTERMATH: Community Task Force members were asked how the “repair now, replace later” decision is being received. Barker said “absolute relief that a decision was made” is one big recurring theme – one person was close to tears, she said. But she’s also heard “absolute terror/fear” in regard to what it will be like post-COVID/pre-bridge-reopening. What are people most interested in hearing? “Timing, timing, timing” regarding reopening. Monthly updates are important even if nothing big’s happening, she added. Colleen Desmond from Highland Park said she’s also hearing relief, as well as an interest in what’s really going to be done regarding traffic mitigation. Jen Temple from West Seattle Bridge NOW also echoed that she’s hearing relief as well as concern about increased traffic when the pandemic eases. “People are not going to be getting on their bikes to go to Bellevue, or their doctors’ appointments,” she said in urging “realistic” addressing of traffic. City Councilmember Lisa Herbold added “a lot of relief” had greeted the decision, with people considering the projected time frame “manageable.” She’s hearing “more-focused questions about the repair pathway” – cost, life cycle, length of time to complete the repair, among them. “There’s increased interest in the details … now that a decision’s been made.”
Anne Higuera of Ventana Construction (WSB sponsor) also stressed the importance of regular communication, including better signage to direct people on ways to get off/on the peninsula. She also noted that she had to cross the 1st Avenue S. Bridge two days in a row and was caught in a maritime-opening backup both times. Nickels said he’s hearing some optimism, even from people who supported ‘replace now” before the decision was made. He added that “Transit is going to have to be a very vibrant part of the solution” once the pandemic eases and businesses/schools reopen. Lora Radford of the West Seattle Junction Association said merchants are relieved and “looking forward to commerce going back and forth” across both bridges “when appropriate.” Marci Carpenter, Admiral resident and transit advocate, said “people are interested in having more transit options” and suggested showing more video of the work that’s being done. She also mentioned people being willing to take chances in not getting caught violating the low-bridge rules. Austin said it’s important to recognize that it was a half-half sentiment on repair vs. replace so “a victory lap” is not in order and future replacement planning should indeed carry on, as well as intensive work on relieving the impacts along detour routes. He also stressed collaboration with Metro – maybe a route reconfiguration to get people to light rail and to the medical facilities on First Hill. David Bestock from the Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association said lack of affordable high-speed internet remains a barrier to work/study from home for many families. He is advocating for more support of vulnerable families who are being left behind.
WHEN WILL THE TASK FORCE MEET NEXT? They’ll be polling members to set the dates.
GOT BRIDGE-RELATED QUESTIONS? SDOT stresses they are answering community questions as quickly and thoroughly as they can via firstname.lastname@example.org.