When will the West Seattle Bridge be fixed, and how much will it cost? New information emerges as city launches contractor search

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

At the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force meeting that’s happening right now (video above), SDOT is announcing a milestone in the preparations for repairing and reopening the bridge: Now that the repair plan is 30 percent designed, they’ve officially launched the search for a contractor.

“It’s the point where we can start to see light at the end of the bridge,” observed task force co-chair Greg Nickels.

Today’s milestone – just under two weeks before the closure’s 1-year anniversary – also brought new information about the scope and projected cost of the high-bridge and low-bridge work ahead, which, as announced last month, are being bundled together in the same contract. We got a preview in a pre-meeting media briefing. Here are the highlights:

SDOT’s Heather Marx and Greg Izzo led the briefing. Here are the cost numbers:

That $175 million includes, SDOT says, not just the high- and low-bridge repairs, but all the costs incurred since the bridge closure, including traffic mitigation and stabilization work that’s already been completed. (Updated: Marx said during the meeting that $124 million of it is secured so far; she told the Task Force today that they’re seeking an INFRA grant from the feds for up to $21 million, and some other federal funding is already in hand, plus they’re seeking help from other “regional partners.” More financial info is promised at next month’s meeting)

The projected date for reopening remains “midyear” 2022 – the contractor will be expected to be done by June, and then, as we’ve reported previously, the bridge will be reopened in phases.

Marx said the phasing-in will be done “over the course of a couple weeks” to “be cautious.” Not only will they have a schedule, she said, they also will have a plan so that “everybody doesn’t rush” to use the bridge when just those initial lanes are open.

The method of choosing a contractor, GCCM (General Contractor/Construction Manager) – which has been in the plan for months, noted here when the mayor announced the repair plan in November – will make the process more “collaborative,” but won’t necessarily speed up the work. Marx said SDOT is wary of “making a promise we can’t keep.” So the deadline for prospective bidders to submit their qualifications is April 12th; SDOT expects to make a choice in late May, and the work should start in November. The months inbetween will include finalizing design, “negotiating maximum allowable cost,” and seeking subcontractors.

Also noted during the briefing, the work will go beyond additional strengthening with carbon-fiber wrapping and steel post-tensioning, which has been done as part of the stabilization project “to keep the bridge from falling down,” as Marx described it. The ground around Pier 18 will be “stiffened” with grout/slurry injection, to make it more earthquake-resistant. This pier is being targeted because it’s an “expansion pier,” and they’re considering the same thing for the ground around Pier 15. This part of the work will take about a month and a half but does not have to be completed before the high bridge reopens to traffic, SDOT says.

They are also considering “additional repairs,” which Marx explained would be “regular maintenance activities” that they would like to get done before the reopening, such as concrete work and expansion-joint replacement; those would not add to the $175 million cost estimate, she said, because they would be covered by already-allocated money designated for bridge maintenance.

Asked whether the low-bridge work will result in significant closures before the high bridge is open again, Marx said no – “any closure of the low bridge is going to be brief,” and they would aim for weekend/holiday periods. The low bridge work overall is expected to continue until fall 2022.

We are expecting more information as the WSBCTF meeting continues, and will add to this report.

ADDED 2:56 PM: Here’s the SDOT post about today’s milestone. The other major topic at the WSBCTF meeting was the status of expanding low-bridge access; we’ll publish a separate report on that.

45 Replies to "When will the West Seattle Bridge be fixed, and how much will it cost? New information emerges as city launches contractor search"

  • bolo March 10, 2021 (2:46 pm)

    The good news is that they seem to have obtained most of the money required for the repairs. Seems like this is a major milestone?

    Let the calls begin to “fasttrack it!,” “allow cars through during non-work periods,” “allow cars through during rush hour,” “24/7 work crews,” “TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE!,” “use the Italy/Birmingham/Wisconsin/etc. method,” etc.

    • WSB March 10, 2021 (2:51 pm)

      The question of “why not allow some traffic on it now?” was asked at the briefing. Answer: It was stabilized enough to keep it from falling down, not enough to allow traffic.

      • bolo March 10, 2021 (6:03 pm)

        Yes indeed, and also there are large access holes cut into the pavement.

  • Jason March 10, 2021 (3:08 pm)

    1 year in and 30% thru the design plan to FIX the bridge!!??  Am I the only one who thinks this is crazy?  I’m guessing there will be more people upset about this when we all get back on the road in 4-6 months and it takes two hours to get out of W Seattle.  Does not seem like this is being approached like the emergency situation it was classified as. 

    • Jon Wright March 10, 2021 (4:30 pm)

      What’s your background in structural engineering and $100 million infrastructure projects? I’m guessing it’s nonexistent. Personally, I choose to put my faith in subject matter experts vs. random folks on the interwebs.

      • John March 10, 2021 (5:34 pm)

        You mean the same people that allowed this to happen in the first place by not taking preventive measures?

      • Smittytheclown March 10, 2021 (5:36 pm)

        Classic.  “Are you an engineer”!  “Are you an epidemiologist”!  “Are you a doctor”!  My god, what has this world come too? Experts disagree all the time!  Should we not question police unless you have a degree in criminal justice?  Should we not question the Supreme Court unless your an attorney?  This tired, standard response is lazy and incurious.  Enough.   

        • Jon Wright March 10, 2021 (10:24 pm)

          If by your post you are referring to the unfortunate phenomenon of laypeople who are convinced their ill-informed opinions are just as valid as those of trained, experienced subject matter experts, yes indeed: what has this world come to?

          • Bronson March 11, 2021 (6:58 am)

            So Jon by your logic, since I’m not a politician, I shouldn’t demand better results from them since I don’t know what they know. Or try this one – Congress shouldn’t regulate businesses since they aren’t a business. I think we can all appreciate the expertise required to fix the problem, yet demand better, faster, and more efficient responses to problems. Frankly put, it is not good enough. If you reference the other article about the bridge on WSB, Marx states that they haven’t expanded access to the low bridge because they haven’t heard from everyone they need to hear from yet. Are you freaking serious?!?! It’s not that complicated – Capacity – Current Use = Excess Capacity. Expand the hours for all, particularly the weekends, while working on weekday capacity prioritization. This is Exhibit A in why people lose faith in government and how small government ideologies take hold. Man, the Seattle process is infuriating. 

          • Mellow Kitty March 11, 2021 (10:28 am)

            @Bronson – YES! My thoughts exactly! 

          • Adam March 11, 2021 (12:23 pm)

            That’s correct, Bronson.It’s called the Rule of Unintended Consequences. Which is why a majority of people are smart enough to not let you represent them in government. 

      • Kyle March 10, 2021 (5:47 pm)

        The design could have been started earlier than this fall, but we hemmed and hawed all summer on the repair/replace decision instead of doing the repair design in parallel.

        • bolo March 10, 2021 (6:08 pm)

          Didn’t they have to collect data from their installed crack-o-meter gauge measuring instruments over the coldest winter periods to see if a viable repair was even possible?

    • wscommuter March 10, 2021 (5:37 pm)

      @Jason … echoing Jon Wright … if you knew anything about civil engineering design (I assume you don’t) you’d understand that “30% drawings” is a term of art that is utterly standard in the design process and the point at which projects typically go to bid, as is happening here.  Believe it or not (and I assume you won’t want to believe it), it does actually take time to, you know, design stuff.  Math.  Lots of math.  It’s what engineers do.  So now bidders can start to pursue the work while engineers designing the fix move onto 60% drawings, then 90% drawings and finally, “issued for construction” drawings that involve what will be built.  Relax.  It’s happening.  

      • wserin March 10, 2021 (11:12 pm)

        The reality is somewhere in between…

        Yes, it’s true that these things take time, and expectations of it being done by now were never realistic no matter what kind of emergency this was considered.

        But I actually do have extensive experience with SDOT (and with civil and structural engineering, but that’s irrelevant to this comment), and while there are many very smart people who work there, SDOT (and SDCI, and related agencies) are collectively, extremely inefficient, disorganized, and borderline incompetent. They excel at mismanagement, pettiness, and time wasting. The best and brightest don’t tend to make careers there. All the slogans about transparency and accountability are a complete crock – they’re always trotting those out, but their record speaks for itself. They willfully mischaracterize how well they serve the public with fantasy-land performance reports. They often represent the worst that government has to offer.

        Should people be upset and demand better. Yes. Will they get it, no matter how much they complain. No. All you have to do is take a good hard look at how well our city and state governments are performing across the board. Again, not blaming the individuals – these are systemic problems.

        Hopefully we’ll have a usable bridge by mid 2022.

      • Mellow Kitty March 11, 2021 (10:41 am)

        @wscommuter – so, if a person doesn’t have expertise in a certain field, they can’t give an opinion? If that is the case, the comment sections should be closed on all platforms. How many people here have a degree in civil engineering, education, political science, business, medicine etc? Using the argument, “well are YOU an engineer,” is irrelevant. People with no experience teaching give their opinions about how schools should be run. People with no experience in politics give their opinion of how cities should operate. People with no experience in traffic mitigation have opinions on how roads should be built. I could go on and on. People are allowed to have an opinion – expert or not. Opinions, as the saying goes, are like @**holes, everybody has one.  

        • Jon Wright March 11, 2021 (5:46 pm)

          People who don’t have expertise are certainly free to share their opinions. The problem is people who don’t have expertise (or even a basic grasp of relevant concepts) yet think their opinion is just as meaningful as those of people who do have expertise. Those people seem to conflate volume (“Lots of people believe the election was stolen!” et. al.) with validity.

        • AJP March 11, 2021 (7:35 pm)

          Yes, most times, the opinion of a person with expertise is worth much, much more than the opinion of a person without expertise. Not all opinions are equal. Give an opinion on it if you want, but without some study and knowledge of the subject, you’re just talking out of that body part you mentioned at the end of your post. 

          • Mellow Kitty March 12, 2021 (11:09 am)

            That’s fair; however, right or wrong, people are allowed to voice their opinions. I know a lot of people who, on occasion, talk out of that certain orifice (myself included). My opinions have been way wrong, but I don’t claim to be stating facts. Opinions are not fact. Opinions are not evidence. Opinions are ideas based on one’s own experience. I’m not saying you have to agree with every opinion you hear, but to say other people’s input is unimportant (unless you’re an expert) is counter productive and not very community-minded. You don’t see surveys that say, “we want to hear from you, but only if you’re an expert.” (My apologies for rambling).

    • Josh March 11, 2021 (11:28 am)

      No it absolutely insane. 

  • Smittytheclown March 10, 2021 (3:12 pm)

    What’s the rush?

    • Plf March 10, 2021 (4:09 pm)

      Silly comment from a clown, seems appropriate 

  • Derek March 10, 2021 (4:06 pm)

    We need them to be building the new bridge alongside NOW. West Seattle population is jumping from 80k to 110k very soon with these new apartments. 

    • WSB March 10, 2021 (7:16 pm)

      A “new bridge” is decades out … here’s hoping. Unless you mean the Sound Transit bridge. BTW we’re already 100K.

  • Mj March 10, 2021 (4:12 pm)

    Really, six months after Contractor selection to get started on the work?  Come on it’s time to speed up the timeline!  The fact remains they had a capable Contractor on site already that could have been prepping the bridge for the added reinforcement already. 

    By Fall Covid-19 should be in the rear view mirror and traffic will increase, T5 is projected to be operating late this year further exacerbating traffic congestion.

    • Reed March 11, 2021 (6:49 pm)

      Fall huh? That should give you plenty of time to prepare for riding your bike in the rain! 2021, MJ is no longer a fair weather rider!

  • Johnny March 10, 2021 (5:17 pm)

    Am I the only one who doesn’t care if the bridge re-opens? We seem to be doing fine without it right? We adjusted. Pain in the butt sometimes but it’s all relative to life before the bridge. If we never had one in the first place, I think people would embrace the island like feeling the shutdown has created. Lots of money, with what in return? Convenience? Property value? I understand those opinions. I don’t hear many people talk about the positive aspects of the closure. The fact that people maybe spent their money in West Seattle as opposed to downtown. Or the community bonding component. I feel it made us a stronger, closer community. I would rather see the money dumped into something that brings us closer, not that takes us further away. 

    • Igor Duckman March 10, 2021 (10:40 pm)

      This has got to be the stupidest take on the bridge situation yet. Let me guess, we should also not build any more roads because “people will drive more” and not build more housing because more housing makes it more expensive?

    • RK March 11, 2021 (6:03 am)

      Hey man, I’ll trade houses with you so you can experience the massive amount of traffic and reckless driving that the bridge closure has introduced to my once quiet little neighborhood!

    • Derek March 11, 2021 (10:14 am)

      This is an awful take. Wow. Has to be a troll. Sorry not every one of us is retired. We have work in downtown or north seattle. This closure has made me feel like I live in Tacoma. 

  • PatientlyWaiting March 10, 2021 (5:21 pm)

    I’m curious about the ‘phased in’ opening.  I know it’d be voluntary but if you live near (say south if Morgan) the current routes off the peninsula it might be close to the same time travel-wise to keep what doing what you’re doing.   Or if you plan on heading south on I-5 then don’t use the bridge but take 99 or 509. 

    • WSB March 10, 2021 (7:14 pm)

      Absolutely. We’ve lived in the south end for 28 years and only took the bridge if we were heading someplace north (downtown or beyond) … but since the shutdown we’ve noted traveling to Bellevue is faster via taking the south route to 405 – at midday, anyway.

  • Tom March 10, 2021 (5:52 pm)

    Any update on Motorcycles? I still don’t understand SDOT citing safety around trucks as the reason motorcycles aren’t allowed on the lower bridge. I ride next to the same amount of trucks if not more during my 6 mile detour

  • Zipda March 10, 2021 (6:15 pm)

    Will be completed before the next epidemic.

  • WS5 March 10, 2021 (6:27 pm)

    I wish they would keep the graffiti off the bridge, it is already an eye sore with fences and road barriers.  

  • bill March 10, 2021 (8:35 pm)

    Ah, the usual collection of foot-stamping grumps, armchair experts, and a clown. None of whom I wager has ever done a job involving public safety as the overriding first priority.

  • Fed Up March 11, 2021 (6:42 am)

    I’d like to know why a vital medical services permit program has not been implemented, so residents who need to travel to Seattle / Eastside DAILY for vital medical treatment, such as radiation are able to succinctly and swiftly travel out of and back into West Seattle.  This is NOT a difficult program to implement. It’s shameful that this topic was brought up several months ago by King County Councilman Joe McDermott, and still SDOT has implemented nothing! This should have been one of the top priorities within weeks of the bridge being closed. I, and several other West Seattle cancer patients trying to save their lives, will be waiting right here for your answer. An answer, NOT an excuse.

    • Derek March 11, 2021 (10:08 am)

      Leave earlier. That’s just what you have to do.

  • Jeff B March 11, 2021 (7:30 am)

    I see the pandemic, stay safe measures and isolation has made this group of wsb posters a much happier more accepting bunch. Why not open the upper bridge early to motorcycles and compact vehicles and the busses and truck traffic continue permanently onto the lower bridge thus reducing uber heavy loads on the upper bridge. Thoughts?

    • WSB March 11, 2021 (9:17 am)

      That question has been asked repeatedly, including at yesterday’s media briefing.
      Heather Marx’s answer was that the bridge was stabilized enough to not fall down, not enough to hold any traffic until fully repaired.
      Past instances of that question also have brought the reply that the work so far has left holes in the bridge deck.
      Those factors aside, imagine trying to manage some form of restricted access. Motorcycle-sized hole in the fence? Scale that pops up spikes if your vehicle weighs too much?

  • Bill T March 11, 2021 (4:51 pm)

    Are we really so naive as to believe that 70% of the design for bridge repair, the bidding process and complete repairs to the bridge will be accomplished in 16 months when it has taken a year for 30% design and emergency strengthening to keep the existing structure from collapsing? And what contractor will bid on 30% plans?

  • Laughing and crying March 11, 2021 (5:25 pm)

    SDOT reports that some of the $174 million cost [snip] “would be covered by already-allocated money designated for bridge maintenance.” [/snip]  HA! What money! That’s the funniest line yet if you remember reporting from 6 months ago about how underfunded bridge maintenance is in Seattle to begin with.   Poor funding was the main finding from the City of Seattle Audit report dated September, 11, 2020: “What We Found – The City of Seattle (City) recognizes the need for more investment in bridge maintenance, but is not spending enough on the upkeep and preservation of its bridges, and risks becoming out of compliance with federal regulations. National data show that most Seattle vehicle bridges are in fair condition (using the federal rating system of good, fair, and poor), and the condition of the City’s bridges has worsened over the last ten years. We also found legacy practices that affect the use of SDOT’s current maintenance funding.”  https://sdotblog.seattle.gov/2020/09/14/city-audit-echoes-sdots-call-for-future-bridge-maintenance-funding-reinforces-ideas-for-improving-our-already-strong-bridge-maintenance-program-to-support-our-aging-infrastructure/

    • JD March 13, 2021 (4:54 am)

      Agree! There are two things I’m fairly certain of and that’s the 175 million budgeted for this project will be significantly exceeded and the bridge will have a delayed opening date. No need for alarm though because the 25 mph speed limit on most of our commuting routes is generating lots of cash and no one really wants to go back to the office anyway when working from home has so many advantages. Let’s all sit back, relax and enjoy the view. 

  • Mountain Dawg March 12, 2021 (6:33 pm)

    This may have been answered earlier, but I couldn’t find it… Are ALL lanes on the WSB going to be open when the bridge reopens?

    • WSB March 12, 2021 (6:40 pm)

      Phased in over days/weeks, eventually yes, all lanes.

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