From repair planning to West Marginal Way questions @ West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force’s February meeting

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

SDOT says it’s making progress toward high-bridge repairs, though they are still more than half a year away.

The bridge update brought most of the new information at Thursday’s monthly meeting of the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force, but with so many related projects, the meeting was stuffed so full of presentations that CTF members had little time to discuss anything, and the plan for breaking into groups for opinions of the West Marginal Way bike-lane proposal had to be scrapped.

First, here’s video of the two-hour meeting:

Here’s what caught our attention:

BRIDGE UPDATES: SDOT’s Greg Izzo said the high-bridge repairs and low-bridge strengthening will be part of one contract.

Last month’s low-bridge inspection didn’t reveal any bombshells but did add some information that’ll be part of the contract. Preliminary – 30 percent – design milestone was reached earlier this week. After it’s reviewed by partner agencies, it will be what they send out to bid as soon as late February. Other documents for that are being developed.

He described that schedule is “very aggressive … we understand the pressure that is on us.” They are meeting with state and federal agencies – the contract needs to be ‘federally compliant’ – to pursue needed approvals. The work will be done between Piers 15 and 18 and will include carbon-fiber wrapping and post-tensioning as with the preliminary stabilization. Right now, they are continuing the monitoring:

The bridge is responding well so far, “a very good sign” for the success of future repairs. “The thermal cycle is not finished” until April, and this wintry weather will certainly “put it to the test” too. “The cracking has significantly reduced” since stabilization. “We could expect some cracking to occur during thermal changes – as long as it’s within tolerance, we’ll be fine.” The monitoring will be expanded to cover the Piers 15 to 18 span. The contractor will be on board for the rest of the design, with a final price expected around August, and work on both bridges expected to start in October/November. Here’s a closer look at the low bridge:

Replacement of the cylinder later this year will require some low-bridge closures, Izzo said. No timeline yet. “We are still working out what the closures will be, particularly the cylinder replacement.” They’re working on a system that will help future work take less time – maybe as little as two to three days of closure required for that replacement. Speaking of time, here’s the low-bridge timeline:

Izzo was asked, what’s a higher priority? They’re both priorities but if the high bridge is done first, that would take some pressure off the low bridge. Asked what additional detail they’ll have by next month’s meeting, Izzo said they’ll be able to “tighten up” the information when they get the response from those partner reviews that are under way now. Co-chair Greg Nickels requested a detailed report for March.

LOW-BRIDGE ACCESS: Izzo handed over to project leader Heather Marx. She began by talking about low bridge access – its traffic is down since the start of camera enforcement, as expected (and as we reported last week). In response to what they’re hearing, they are adding some variable message signs to be sure people are clear on enforcement. She said that SDOT is revisiting low-bridge access policies because of the Terminal 5 delay – as also reported here last week. She showed a slide featuring the T-5 reserved capacity in gray – “we didn’t want to give people whiplash by giving access and taking it away … but now that it’s going to be months” they’re looking at loosening up, at least until T-5 opens. These charts show low-bridge traffic, with the gray representing capacity expected when T-5 goes back into cargo service:

They still aren’t sure how much additional access they can allow so they’re going to start by adding more business, on-call health-care provider access (as also detailed in our recent low-bridge update), and patients who have to cross for life-saving medical treatment, though criteria for that are still being developed. But “whatever access we allow at this point we’re going to have to pull back when Terminal 5 opens,” Marx warned. In Q&A, West Seattle Transportation Coalition rep Deb Barker asked about a Harbor Island worker who wants commuter access. That’s not a category up for being added any time soon, Marx said.

RECONNECT WEST SEATTLE: SDOT’S Sara Zora opened with an update on the Home Zone programs, showing the final plans for Georgetown and South Park, and noting that Highland Park is still a work in progress (answer that survey by next Monday – so far 342 people have responded, Zora said). Here’s what’s ahead for Georgetown:

And here’s what’s planned for South Park – including 40 street trees to be installed March 11th-12th, with a lot of community input in hopes those will help cut down on air pollution:

They’re also putting out a call now for ideas for projects that can be done in 2022. Ideas are due by March 31st – it can be a full project proposal or even just an idea.

Almost all the projects planned so far will be “crew-delivered,” Zora explained, except for the Duwamish Longhouse signal project, which predates the bridge closure.

WEST MARGINAL WAY: As we have been reporting, SDOT is proposing options for southbound West Marginal Way north of the Duwamish Tribe Longhouse – whether to build a protected bike lane, and possibly to add more street parking, or to remove even the parking that was added a year and a half ago. Project lead Brad Topol reviewed them for the CTF, reiterating first that no changes are currently planned for the northbound side. As we have reported on the proposals in detail recently, we won’t rehash them (here’s our close-up report from earlier this week). Topol explained, by the way, why W. Marginal can’t be expanded to two lanes going under the bridge – the railroad on the north and the bridge supports on the south are constraints.

The meeting was running significantly behind schedule by the time he concluded, so the plan for detailed discussion in breakout groups was scrapped, and general Q&A happened instead. First question from Nickels: Is SDOT really accurately estimating what kind of delays would happen with a single lane extended and trucks/other vehicles having to turn into facilities in the area, such as the Parks building? Topol insisted delays would be minimal; Nickels was skeptical.

More Q&A: Georgetown rep John Persak took issue with how SDOT did – or more, did not – communicate with community members before designing the proposal. They designed it, there was pushback, and then there was engagement, he said. Beyond that, he said that other parts of the city have bike-safety needs that should be prioritized over this. South Park’s Aley Thompson said in her area there’s both concern and excitement over the lane; she supports it, having been injured in a collision while riding there. Topol reiterated that only 20 percent of current motor-vehicle traffic is using the outside lane anyway.

Maritime rep Bob Watters said he also suspects that safety and delay issues are being “underestimated.” Overall, he said, “taking capacity” out of a freight corridor is a problem. Peter Goldman said he supports SDOT’s preference and doesn’t believe that “just because bikes aren’t there doesn’t mean they won’t be there [in the future].” But he says he also understands Persak’s points. “I think there’s room to do this but I want SDOT to assure us there’s no way to enhance the sidewalk alternative a little bit.” He also said even as an experienced bicyclist, he finds the prospect of a bike lane inches away from speeding traffic somewhat daunting. Topol said that as they dive more into details, they may beef up the buffer – maybe some concrete, maybe extra width.

Dan Austin from the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce also thought the sidewalk had better, safer potential than an in-street bike lane. He also thought that West Marginal would be an even bigger draw for trucks when the 509 expansion brings a toll lane that will be attractive to trucks. “That’s not expected to open until 2028,” said Topol, also noting that the car traffic on West Marginal will ‘drop way down” when the high bridge reopens. Diane Sosne of SEIU Healthcare 1199 said that with all the stress added by the bridge closure, adding yet another variable could stress out people “already at their max capacity for change.”

NEW MODERATOR: Michael Harold has left his job as SDOT’s director of communications, which had included moderating the WSBCTF meetings, so Angie Thomson from consulting firm EnviroIssues is filling the moderator role now, and introduced herself at the start of the meeting.

NEXT MEETING: The group is now alternating midday and late afternoon meetings, so next month is scheduled for noon March 10th.

8 Replies to "From repair planning to West Marginal Way questions @ West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force's February meeting"

  • Kyle February 12, 2021 (5:26 pm)

    Still can’t believe we waited all summer hemming and hawing on a decision, so design isn’t even at 30% yet. Even more so it doesn’t seem like the repairs are anything earth shattering. If this was a true emergency, design would have been finalized and ready to roll by the time stabilization work was completed.

  • Mj February 12, 2021 (5:49 pm)

    Kyle – molasses moves faster than SDoT.  It’s obscene that the repair is taking so long.  A competent Contractor was already working on the stablelization and could have simply been retained and conducting the repair now, think of it like painting the wall and then picking up the edges at the end aka design specific elements.  The basic strengthening needs are already known and were anticipated by the original design Engineering conducted.

  • bill February 12, 2021 (10:07 pm)

    Yeah, major repairs to a huge bridge are just like painting a wall. Explain why anyone should take you seriously. rofl

  • Mj February 12, 2021 (10:42 pm)

    Bill – it is an analogy, maybe a poor one my bad. 

    Are you saying that the Contractor that did the stablelization work could not have already started work on the repair?  The original designers of the bridge foresaw the potential for it sagging and provided space to add tensioning steel reinforcement that could be underway now and the designers working out other details concurrently.  The only reason that this is not happening is the City is wanting someone else to pay. 

    Franky it’s infuriating that the City seems to find money for other items but a bridge that served over 100,000 people, moved goods and services they can’t find the $50 million to repair it?  If it wasn’t for the pandemic that has muted the adverse impact heads would be rolling by now.

  • KayK February 13, 2021 (8:37 am)

    Where did Michael Harold go? He barely held that post for 10 months.

    • WSB February 13, 2021 (8:50 am)

      He started the day the bridge closed, to be specific. His farewell note said it was a non-city gig “at the intersections of international trade and foreign policy” but still here in Seattle (he too is a WS resident). – TR

    • JimmyNimbles February 17, 2021 (4:42 am)

      According to LinkedIn, he got himself a job at Amazon. 

  • JVP February 13, 2021 (9:45 am)

    I agree that this is being treated like a normal project, not an emergency. You can’t skimp on design, but you can accelerate bidding, procurement, and permitting if there’s the political will. There’s obviously not. Durkan should be on the phone with Feds and flying to DC regularly to secure more funding (>$= speed) and the Fed portion of the approval. No one said it would be easy, but let’s see the effort. 

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