VIDEO: From repair timelines to low-bridge access policy, West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force gets a wide-ranging briefing

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force‘s first meeting of 2021 was far more of a briefing than a discussion, two hours stuffed with information tidbits on almost every bridge-related topic.

When the volunteer advisory group’s members agreed to keep meeting even after Mayor Jenny Durkan announced her decision to have the closed high bridge repaired rather than replaced, that was one major role they agreed to keep – community information conduits. So as co-chair Greg Nickels described it, what happened at Wednesday’s meeting was the start of their “second phase of work”; co-chair Paulina López also urged CTF members to let them know how they’d like to “devote (their) energy … to next steps.”

The meeting video is above, and the full slide deck is here; below, highlights of what the group heard:

BRIDGE UPDATES: The high bridge has now been closed for almost 10 months. Project leader Heather Marx said stabilization work – a necessary first step no matter whether repairs or replacement had been chosen – is done and now they’re monitoring the bridge’s stability. She showed a schedule for both high- and low-bridge work ahead:

The point of saying that both are pre-30-percent design (until next month) is an explanation for why time and money estimates are both very loose. They’re currently developing documents for the contractor selection that’ll be out in March. Why will the same contractor handle both bridges? asked City Councilmember Lisa Herbold. Marx said. “It’s similar work, and it’s kind of specialized,” adding “this could save time and maybe money.” Her presentation dwelled more on what needs to be done on the low bridge than the high bridge; she noted that some of the work was planned before the high bridge was closed. It’s planned for strengthening, control-systems work, and replacement of one of the two cylinders that enable the bridge to swing open.

All the low-bridge work will be done by the end of the year. (A “determination of non significance” decision related to the work, part of the permit process, was published earlier this week.)

LOW-BRIDGE ACCESS POLICY: Now that enforcement cameras are up and running (as of this past Monday), is there a chance to expand low-bridge use to more people? SDOT’s Meghan Shepard led this presentation. She said the Community Task Force’s low-bridge subcommittee has met 11 times. Here’s who’s on it:

On day 3 of enforcement-camera use, Shepard said it was too soon to say how the change is affecting traffic, but they hope to have a report in a few weeks, and will have updates at each CTF meeting. She showed usage data from the low bridge as chronicled on August 2nd and December 10th:

They’ve been studying bridge capacity, including how traffic recovers from being stopped during maritime openings. They’re also looking at what’s ahead, including the first berth opening at Terminal 5, which means more longshore workers using the low bridge (the first ships are expected in June). There is more capacity, they know – the gap between the bars and the dotted line:

Shepard pointed out there’s a “midday pinch,” the hours when the bars and dotted line are closest together – so if you use the low bridge, please use it outside midday hours! – and they’ll be watching carefully. They hope monitoring will make it clearer how usage can be expanded without overwhelming the low bridge. Maybe health-care workers, for example. Subcommittee member Diane Sosne from SEIU Healthcare 1199 explained those are on-call personnel who would have to respond to weekend calls.

Shepard recapped who can use the low bridge now, outside the 9 pm-5 am “open to all” hours, and what they are allowed to use it for:

“Using the low bridge is when you’ve GOT to use the low bridge, time sensitive, to support your business,” Shepard summarized. They can update the access list monthly, so if you think you meet the criteria, email westseattlebridge@seattle.gov. Lora Radford, the West Seattle Junction Association executive director who’s on the subcommittee, said the authorized businesspeople are being very careful to keep their usage low and only when very necessary.

What about people in need of life-saving medical treatments? asked King County Councilmember Joe McDermott. Along with health-care workers, that’s high on the list of who they’re looking at next, SDOT reps said. McDermott said it’s “very important” to consider individual needs, not just “commerce,” suggesting that someone going in for daily cancer treatments, for example, should have just as much priority, if not more, as a business owner making a supply run. It was noted in response that identifying those people in advance, or figuring out how to quantify/nullify a ticket, would be challenging. Maybe contact the health-care providers and work with them to offer West Seattle-residing patients the option of using the low bridge, he suggested.

HIGHLAND PARK WAY/WEST MARGINAL WAY INTERSECTION: SDOT’s Trevor Partap reviewed the rechannelization at this intersection, done last year.

The three “yellow flowers” in that map show where there’s equipment that ‘talks to each other’ regarding traffic flow. Here are the results:

They’re getting about 45 more vehicles an hour through the intersection as well as improving travel times, Partap said.

ALSO REGARDING WEST MARGINAL WAY SW: SDOT’s Sara Zora said the temporary signal by the Duwamish Tribe Longhouse will be installed this year, the permanent one next year. The idea of a northbound freight-only lane on WMW is dead, but they’re still looking at repurposing the outside southbound lane north of the Longhouse:

In addition to what’s on the list shown above, another public way to comment will be at the January 28th West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting, Zora said. CTF members Deb Barker from the Transportation Coalition and Dan Austin from the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce had been on a site walk and both expressed concerns about the safety of a bicycle lane alongside freight. The schedule for WMW is part of the Reconnect West Seattle schedule grid:

ALSO REGARDING RECONNECT WEST SEATTLE: Zora is point person for Reconnect West Seattle, the umbrella name for traffic-mitigation and mobility-improvement projects. She said all the 2020 projects have been completed. For 2021, they’re planning at least 33 projects:

Those 8 new radar speed signs are planned as the result of a “speed study” done through the area; Zora also said they studied the pavement on detour routes and have already filled 29 potholes, with repaving and concrete-panel replacement on the way. There is also a clickable project map for Reconnect West Seattle – see it here.

MOBILITY GOALS: Remember back when SDOT laid out how it hoped people would shift their modes of travel while the bridge is out? Here’s how that’s going:

For bus riders, some capacity will be added on Metro Routes 50, 60, and 128, and they’re hoping to use Transportation Benefit District money for more additions:

TRAFFIC STATS: At the start of the meeting, Partap went over stats from the pandemic, showing how traffic changed on the three bridges when circumstances changed.

Traffic “bumped up” in December. He expects a drop with the start of low-bridge camera enforcement. You can see this and other data on this dashboard. Reviewing transit and bicycle usage data, he pointed out that for example the week in September with heavy forest-fire smoke took the bike stats down.

NEW MEMBERS: Two spots on the Community Task Force have new representatives because the original ones have moved on to new jobs. For the King County Executives Office, Rachel Smith replaced by Shannon Braddock; from the Seattle Mayor’s Office, former Deputy Mayor Shefali Ranganathan has been replaced by Deputy Mayor Casey Sixkiller (overseeing SDOT is part of his portfolio).

NEXT MEETING: Rather than always meeting at noon Wednesdays, they’re looking at alternating that slot with Thursday late-afternoon meetings, so 4 pm February 11th is the current plan for the next monthly WSBCTF meeting.

33 Replies to "VIDEO: From repair timelines to low-bridge access policy, West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force gets a wide-ranging briefing"

  • CarDriver January 14, 2021 (12:50 pm)

    September before starting repair on high bridge??? YIKES. But i have to comment here that because there’s no real penalty for crossing the low bridge the $75 simply make this a toll bridge. Those with money get access that ordinary people can’t afford. 

  • Alf January 14, 2021 (1:36 pm)

    So is the bottom line they have no clue when the upper bridge will re open 

    • WSB January 14, 2021 (1:44 pm)

      Not before finidhing the plan and hiting the contrsctor.

    • Sparky January 14, 2021 (7:46 pm)

      The city clearly doesn’t care about fixing the bridge with any level of urgency.  We’ve been hung out to dry.  

  • Alf January 14, 2021 (1:58 pm)

    I appreciate process but I still feel the autocrats don’t appreciate the urgency the community feels also why are longshore folks deserve the opportunity to use the lower bridge and essential healthcare workers not?folks getting cemo not but businesses no?with everything else going on it feels like a long drawn out demise of West Seattle 

  • Mj January 14, 2021 (2:23 pm)

    The timeline is tooooooo looooooong!  The repair needs to be expedited and be done by Fall this year.  

  • CarDriver January 14, 2021 (2:31 pm)

    WSB. $75 is real to me also. Unlike moving violations which have insurance penalties this fine is simply “cost of doing business”. Seeing the EXPENSIVE cars of many WS residents this fine really is trivial to them. I know that SDOT has NOT done a good job of dealing with this situation. Clearly, the low bridge cannot be opened to all. It would be a clogged up mess. But it’s clear that more capacity can be added without major impact. I’m NOT an expert. I have no magic wand. But, isn’t SDOT being paid by us, the taxpayers to have capable people that can work through this and give us and communicate a real path forward?

  • Leon January 14, 2021 (2:42 pm)

    One thing confuses me: the repairs are not scheduled to start until September because they are now in the process of being designed. Designing the repairs, if I am understanding correctly, only started when Mayor Durkan decided to proceed with the Repair option in November 2020.  If they had decided right away back in March 2020 that we should Repair, couldn’t they have started the Repair design process right away, and be starting the actual repairing at around this time? We have been told, over and over again, that postponing the Repair Vs Replace decision until November 2020 did not delay the ultimate repair process at all….

    • wscommuter January 14, 2021 (5:28 pm)

      It wasn’t known back in March whether repairs were even an option (versus replacement).  That information took several months to sort out – so if you want to pick a date to base your complaint upon, choose the point at which engineers figured out that repair was a viable option.  

    • Kyle January 14, 2021 (5:42 pm)

      Clearly they lied. It could have been done faster. It just still fits within their bloated first time estimate.

  • AA January 14, 2021 (2:47 pm)

    Can someone please explain to me why the “capacity” line on the charts is 400 veh/hr up to 9am, then  300 veh/hr from 10am onward? 

    • Dan January 14, 2021 (10:45 pm)

      The bridge openings historically increase in that window. That is the cause for lower capacity.

  • Seabruce January 14, 2021 (4:01 pm)

    Is there any way they could open the highrise to one lane of general traffic in each direction (maybe with a toll to help pay for the repairs)?

    • sna January 14, 2021 (5:00 pm)

      This is a very good question.  The phase 1 repairs largely fixed the design flaw and stuck bearing that were the cause of the cracking.  And those 4 platforms they had hanging from the bridge likely weigh more than 1 lane each direction if heavy vehicles are not allowed. 

  • Kyle January 14, 2021 (5:40 pm)

    Glad to hear that the stabilization work is done. Sad that the lack of urgency and all the hemming and hawing over the summer means we have to wait 6-9 months more for the design to finish instead of having one ready when stabilization work finished.

    • Leon January 14, 2021 (6:38 pm)

      This is what I think too. Was it really not possible to start the repair design earlier? 

  • We are f'ed January 14, 2021 (5:51 pm)

    Why why why?Sep?I demand they do it now!I’m mad as hell.

    • Radcycle January 14, 2021 (6:51 pm)

      Get a bicycle so you can get across the low bridge and have an outlet for your anger.

  • Bw January 14, 2021 (6:56 pm)

    I don’t really understand how going on a “supply run” entitles someone who works/owns a West Seattle business to use the low bridge.  Every single one of who commute could say we’re on some sort of supply run,and that taking the detour is a huge inconvenience.  I realize the number of people is probably relatively low, but seems like an incredibly favorable deal.  

    • Dan January 14, 2021 (10:52 pm)

      If it’s winter and the furnace at an elderly parent’s house breaks the part is most likely at on of the supply houses in SODO. The total 500+ business community has very strict rules in place and are kept to 30 total trips per day to keep economically viable and your neighbors with access to services.  30 trips shared between 500 businesses. Not really a windfall.

  • wetone January 14, 2021 (7:40 pm)

    Could someone please explain why longshore workers are able to use low bridge when others working in same areas are required to drive around ? 

    • Carter January 14, 2021 (8:36 pm)

      Port of Seattle has a lot of political power, my guess

      • Anon January 14, 2021 (11:32 pm)

        Yup, this. Unions vote together in local elections that typically have low voter turnout, that gives them an enormous amount of power. The port is also a public/private partnership so they have their own elected officials (the port commission) advocating for them. We all have jobs to go to, but they’re special.

  • Alki resident January 15, 2021 (12:26 am)

    That is the worst timeline I’ve ever seen. Who are these clowns in SDOT! It is so vague with no details and actual milestones. If I was their boss, I would fire them. They need to be held accountable. No urgency at all. I agree with many comments that they could have been fixing all along. 

  • Peacelover January 15, 2021 (12:24 pm)

    The “people” making these decisions, are the “people” YOU VOTED FOR! Think about that…..Peacelover

  • KT January 15, 2021 (4:44 pm)

    Why do they spend so much time making it harder to transit to and from West Seattle i.e. traffic cameras etc. but not actually fixing the bridge? They WATCHED it crumble (see Seattle Times article) and they are still NOT actually repairing it. I will be selling my property in West Seattle and moving out of the city after repairs have finally been completed. This is absolute malfeasance. Scoot across the lower bridge? Is that what we tell my 80 and 90 year old neighbors in order to get to their doctor appointments? This city can’t get out of its own way. They obviously don’t give a damn about their citizens. Disgusting.

  • stupidinseattle January 17, 2021 (7:59 am)

    Did you notice buried in the descriptions of West Marginal Way was what to do with the Southbound outside lane just before the Duwamish log house?  The city blocked the sidewalk side lane of Southbound West Marginal way a couple of years ago to provide street parking for the log house and “safety.”  With more and more cars having to depend on that avenue this needs to be fully opened up into two lanes southbound again – for additional capacity but also a lane that can let traffic get around stalled vehicles and other traffic problems that come up.  The city keeps trying to turn this 2nd lane into a bike lane, or sidewalk chalk art zone…or I don’t know what other dumb idea.  Anything other than improve traffic flow for those of us that now depend on it.

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