VIDEO: Still too soon for a reopening date, West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force told

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

43 years ago today, the West Seattle Bridge’s predecessor was abruptly taken out of service by an off-course freighter.

Will one more of those anniversaries pass before the current bridge finally reopens?

Even without an official schedule update, the repair timeline was a major topic at Thursday’s monthly meeting of the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force. The video is above; our report is below.

WHAT’S UP WITH REPAIRS: SDOT’s Greg Izzo says “everything’s on schedule and on track” now that Kraemer North America has been chosen as the contractor – though, it was mentioned later, the contract has yet to be finalized.

“Very experienced, qualified, collaborative” is how he described the firm, noting they’ve done some work in other states “crossing large rivers.” Then on to who will do the work – as long discussed, they’re planning to embark on a workforce-development program. Izzo said SDOT has worked this way on locally funded projects but it hasn’t previously been used for federally funded projects; a federal pilot program will enable that. Then he got back to the schedule:

Izzo said they’re going to do what they can to try to speed things up – but whether they can or not won’t be known until design is further along. Currently the high-bridge-repair work remains slated to start in November, and it is expected to be complete by mid-June 2022. Once work is done, load testing among other things will be required before traffic can be returned to the bridge. Diane Sosne of SEIU Healthcare 1199 wondered how long all that will take. “We don’t have that time frame yet … we don’t even have the contractor under contract yet,” replied Izzo. “We do not have a date yet – we can’t get that granular.” Sosne wondered, then, what would be the LATEST date the bridge could be open? Izzo repeated that it’s impossible to know until design is further along and the contractor has had some input (the design is being done by consultant WSP). Marx reiterated, “We don’t have enough information to give a specific date.”

Anne Higuera of Ventana Construction (WSB sponsor) wondered if there’s any concern about “supply-chain issues,” which are currently plaguing her industry, residential construction. Izzo said that “risk” – availability and prices – is being tracked and they’re doing what they can to order materials early. Dan Austin from the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce asked if any of the unsuccessful contenders for the project had filed challenges; SDOT said no.

SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe promised that “next month” would bring a detailed update. Bridge project director Heather Marx added that in the months ahead, ‘there’s going to be a lot going on … and you’re going to start to feel the momentum” toward repairs.

LOW-BRIDGE UPDATES: Program manager Maureen Sheehan recapped that 900 applications for access had been received (as we reported previously) – here’s what’s been granted:

Applications are coming in, and SDOT is doing more outreach to be sure all restaurants and retailers are aware of the opportunity. June 15th is the deadline for access starting July 1st – find the application link here. But she warned, as SDOT’s been doing for months, that some of the access might have to be revoked when Terminal 5 opens for cargo early next year. Here’s the criteria they’ll be using:

Work will start shortly on drafting a new low-bridge access policy. Then SDOT’s Matt Beaulieu went over current low-bridge traffic trends. You can see all those slides in the full deck from the meeting. City Councilmember Lisa Herbold asked if SDOT was considering expanding the early morning access-to-all hours. Short answer: No. Beaulieu said they’d analyzed weekdays and weekends and “you see a bump or a spike” at the end of current restriction periods, so they’d be worried about an overload on the low bridge if access was left open later. “It would very quickly overwhelm the capacity of the low bridge,” added Zimbabwe.

RECONNECT WEST SEATTLE: SDOT’s Sara Zora said the temporary asphalt sidewalk north of the Duwamish Tribe Longhouse is done; it’ll be upgraded to concrete when the new signal is put in. Regarding the West Marginal Way protected-bike-lane proposal, no decision yet, but “we’re still on track for a quarter 2 decision” (which would mean, by the end of this month – we’ll follow up on that next week).

She turned to traffic trends – it’s increasing, and they’re worried that the statewide “reopening” at the end of this month will jam things up even further, so they’re encouraging employees and employers to think about different ways of getting to and from work, different times.

They’ll be working with a consultant to get this message out. They’re encouraging vanpools – 8 have started up, with 35 participants, so far – and employer shuttles. (Both of those categories would automatically have permission to use the low bridge.)

Kevin Futhey from Commute Seattle presented results of an employer survey. They got more than 600 responses from more than 400 businesses.

Here’s the most interesting part of the results – when, and if, employers expect their employees to return to on-site work:

Almost two-thirds of the respondents expect more employees to use single-occupancy vehicles and fewer to use transit because of safety concerns. Some companies were making specific accommodations for West Seattle workers:

Later in comments, accessibility advocate Marci Carpenter suggested using “ambassadors” with lived experience in certain types of transportation to better connect with those considering changes. Zora said that might fit into a plan for their forthcoming consultant to engage in “mini-campaigns.”

HIGH-BRIDGE REPLACEMENT PLANNING: Wes Ducey is managing this project for SDOT. Since the bridge “gave us a little scare,” said Marx, this is happening not just with an eye to the distant future – the bridge’s expected end-of-life is 2060 – but also as a “contingency plan.”

Ducey is a West Seattle resident and said this is also taking into account new lessons learned about traffic in the Duwamish Valley area. He said the plan is to evaluate locations for a future replacement bridge – or tunnel – and how it would tie in to all the connections to the current bridge. And yes, they are talking with Sound Transit (since West Seattle light rail is supposed to include a cross-Duwamish bridge). CTF member Jen Temple from West Seattle Bridge NOW brought up concerns about ST possibly delaying light rail in its “realignment” plan – since previous discussions had noted that light rail would mean redundancy. Zimbabwe noted that even with realignment bringing possible delays, West Seattle light rail is still likely to be in place before a new WS bridge has to be built. Higuera noted that there was discussion last year of how hard it would be to fund a new bridge while the old one was still standing; Ducey said that different circumstances will likely apply when it gets to be time for the replacement.

Finally, a discussion that preceded the presentations:

TASK FORCE CONCERNS: Higuera renewed her request for timely, regular updates online, noting that the main West Seattle Bridge High-Rise Safety Program page appeared to have nothing new since May. (Checking it tonight, we see the top of the page timestamped March.) She also has renewed her request for an explanation of “what went wrong” with the bridge in the first place. Marx suggested signing up for email updates to get notification when something new is posted; she also said “this is a time in the project when things aren’t coming as fast and furious” as they had been. As for the “what went wrong” issue, she said that the forthcoming 60 percent and 90 percent repair-design updates will have better answers on that. … Colleen Desmond from Highland Park noted all the SDOT “Home Zone” work that’s happening in the area … Temple said she’s handing off to Liz Powell as West Seattle Bridge NOW’s representative on the CTF … Councilmember Herbold wondered how the third ferry joining the Triangle Route will affect traffic; Zora mentioned some of the traffic-calming features in the area near the dock. They’re collecting data on some of the “non-arterial routes” to and from the dock.

NEXT MEETING: Noon Wednesday, July 14th.

47 Replies to "VIDEO: Still too soon for a reopening date, West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force told"

  • Al King June 11, 2021 (8:43 pm)

    I can’t shake the feeling that SDOT is suffering from “deer in the headlight” syndrome. I honestly hope i’m wrong, that SDOT is doing things as fast as is humanly possible but listening to them and reading what they say does NOT give me a warm and fuzzy feeling. I’ll be very happy to be proven wrong.   

    • Keenan June 18, 2021 (8:29 am)

      Fast as humanly possible??  2-3 years to fix a bridge????  BULL!
      China would have had the thing up and running in a month

  • Kalo June 11, 2021 (8:59 pm)

    Any idea if trucks will kept to low bridge usage? Keeping lighter loads on the high bridge might help extend its life?

  • KT June 11, 2021 (9:09 pm)

    Bridge project director Heather Marx added that in the months ahead, ‘there’s going to be a lot going on … and you’re going to start to feel the momentum” toward repairs.What does that even mean?  Zero new information.  

    • Roms June 11, 2021 (10:16 pm)

      I believe it means that nothing much is going on, and that there’s no momentum right now? But, hey, “they’re encouraging employees and employers to think about different ways of getting to and from work, different times,” so they’re caring! I’m wondering what are the “different ways” though, when for example some bus routes (e.g. 21) have at their frequency reduced and are at times packed (because they allow limited passengers due to COVID-19), making it even harder to use mass transit… Maybe we should swim out of WS at night?

  • Wendell June 11, 2021 (9:32 pm)

    Maybe President Harris will cut the ribbon at the reopening. 

    • 1994 June 11, 2021 (10:39 pm)

      Great vision, I like it Wendell!! But in the mean time West Seattle suffers due to lack of transportation routes!

      • Jort June 11, 2021 (11:29 pm)

        Careful! West Seattle residents who choose to drive a car are suffering. Which sucks for them, but if they don’t like it, they’re more than welcome to start taking the bus or cycling. It’s faster, cheaper, and it’s easier.  It’s not complicated. Just stop driving. 

        • Local Contractor June 12, 2021 (8:07 am)

          “It’s not complicated, just stop driving” is a utopian fantasy. Have you had any home improvements or remodeling done? How exactly is your friendly local contractor supposed to get all of those tools and materials to your house? How do the tradesmen transport their tools by bike or bus? Nevermind if they’re physically spent from riding their bike to your place in the morning, you expect them to put in a hard day’s work on your project and then bike home again? Surely it’s difficult to contemplate these scenarios if you’ve never been faced with them. Just try to think beyond your limited scope when offering input on topics that impact us all.

          • Jort June 12, 2021 (11:43 am)

            It’s not a utopian fantasy, unless you’re willing to admit that many other major cities around the world – which prioritize everything except cars – are actually utopias. It’s not realistic to push a fantasy argument about how all cars on the road are full of “tradesmen” or “contractors.” It’s mostly just people who refuse to look beyond the enormous financial, personal and emotional investments they’ve made into these stupid expensive metal boxes. These people stubbornly throw up a million excuses about why they don’t like riding buses because of icky poor people or because they are scared of riding a bike among extremely dangerous, careless drivers, just like them. Just get an e-bike, you’ll be downtown in 20 minutes and you’ll get over it and move on with your life.

        • NotJort June 12, 2021 (9:02 am)

          Thanks Jort! I guess we should just all give up our cars now. Obviously you have an agenda and it’s getting rid of those troublesome cars! Seriously, you should consider that others might not want to or be able to give up their cars. It is narrow mindedness like yours that continues to plague this city and West Seattle. 

          • Joe Z June 12, 2021 (9:46 am)

            It is YOU AND ME in our single occupancy personal vehicles who are getting in the way of people who actually need to use the detour such as contractors and essential workers. Every person who takes transit or bikes is one less person clogging the roads for everyone else.

            When policies are implemented that makes it more difficult or slower to use transit or bike, it forces more people into their cars which makes things worse for EVERYONE.

            We get it. Some people have to drive. But many have a CHOICE, and our policy leaders can help them. But the reality is that biking is terrifying because there are not enough protected bike lanes and transit is slow because there not enough dedicated transit lanes. If you drive a car, you should support these policies because they will help you get where you are going as well.

          • bill June 12, 2021 (10:10 am)

            Why do you people continue to not understand that if many people who do not absolutely need to drive used different transportation modes then those of you have to drive would have an easier time driving?  

        • FoxMulder June 12, 2021 (11:58 am)

          Jort, I’ve stood by idly for years of your comments but this one takes the cake.  I’ll keep it couth for the sake of being a good neighbor.  Seattle public transportation, with the exception of WSF and the water taxi comparitively sucks to other metro areas around the country. We lack the infrastructure to safely and efficiently move folks from point A to point B.  Boston, New York, San Diego, D.C. all great cities for getting around town w/o a car.  Driving in Seattle, although a huge inconvenience, is a necessity for a lot of folks getting to and fro for work.  This will not change..EVER.. in our life time.  Your sentiments are admirable but undeniably disconnected from where we are on the scope of public transportation in this city.  MY experience was a whimsical trip on the light rail from seatac to the stadium stop years back where disheveled person stood in the corner and masterbated for a few stops before I was able to get off, no pun intended, but that was my proverbial straw. I look at these busses and they are empty man. No one wants to ride these things for a myriad of reasons and I dont know what is to blame for that but for me its a public safety issue and a personally owned vehicle is just the only alternative for commuting right now.  If I can ride a bike and schlep all my crap to work every day, hell yeah man I’m on board with that but how am I going to do that? Hell I’m looking at an electric scooter for getting around West Seattle, they’re great but they’re not practical for commuting.  I’d say stop trolling the autoless pipe dream but something inside me says you won’t, have you been tested for ODD btw? I’m all for better transporation man but we’re not there yet and alienating car drivers is only going to make them more resistant.

          • heartless June 12, 2021 (1:53 pm)

            Just one question:

            What percent of vehicles do you think contain a single person with no cargo to speak of?

            These knee-jerk responses to Jort are low-effort, at best.  

          • FoxMulder June 12, 2021 (8:29 pm)

            Say again!?! What percent of vehicles are driving to and from work (or other legitimate reasons) to Mercer Island, Bellevue, Everett, Kent, Tacoma, Canada, Timbuktu, where bikes and public transit aren’t a viable option.. what is your point?  Are you calling on the statistical Gods here to validate less automobiles.. I dont have those numbers talk to SDOT.. Its a matter of convienece, accesibilty, public safety, efficiency, physical access, and buses/ bikes leave a lot to be desired

          • Joe Z June 13, 2021 (10:11 am)

            Yes, because driving to the east or north side of Seattle on weekdays was really fast and pleasant back when we had the high bridge. LOL. The 20-minute queue to cross the 1st Ave bridge will be replaced by a 20-minute queue to merge onto I-5 NB, just like it was before the pandemic. 

          • East Coast Cynic June 13, 2021 (1:01 pm)

            Re the masterbator on link ride, you could have changed link cars to get away from that person, which one isn’t able to do on a bus or the proposed gondola.The buses are empty because a lot of people are working from home, and choosing the car due to the pandemic.  However, if and when we reach a sustainably low to no infection rate, those buses will start filling up again.

        • JV June 14, 2021 (4:31 pm)

          Of the many silly parts of Jort’s argument, the one that gets me is the pretense that people don’t have kids, don’t have disabilities, don’t have a need to go somewhere besides SODO/downtown, and are basically all fortunate enough to be like him. Yes, a few lucky young and childless people who work somewhere close by should be biking, and we should be doing everything we can to help and encourage all those with the ability to do so in order to relieve the burden on drivers everywhere (as well as help the environment, etc.). Unfortunately, most of those people don’t live in West Seattle, and are instead already downtown. I’d love to be one of those people, but I need to take my toddlers to daycare on the way to work on the Eastside. If you can figure out a biking/public transportation solution that works for all the parents, elderly or disabled people here, then I’m all ears. Until then, I’m going to push to get the damn bridge fixed ASAP so I can get the toddlers home in time for bedtime. 

  • Scott June 11, 2021 (10:37 pm)

    There aren’t going to be a lot of updates at this point in a GCCM delivery method.  I assume Kraemer is providing preconstruction input to the city’s design team (e.g. re constructibility) which ideally avoids issues down the road.  We probably won’t know much more on timeline until construction contract is signed which occurs when design nearly complete.  

  • Rumbles June 11, 2021 (11:24 pm)

    Ok, asking for a friend…. The Brooklyn Bridge is 138 years old and is still in use.  Why can’t we expect the repaired and updated West Seattle Bridge to last as long?  My friend is wondering if it’s because it’s a different type of bridge?

    • SeaSpade June 12, 2021 (11:10 am)

      “They don’t make them like they used to?”It’s actually a good question as that bridge is roughly twice as high and long.  I’m sure the answer lies in the following:  it did take 14 years to build – we never had that much time – and required significantly bigger piers and access points than can be accommodated with existing land and shipping requirements.  And, um, (cough) there probably was an abundance of cheap labor at the time because latte bars and avocado toast hadn’t been invented yet, allowing for more robust construction.

    • WhateverJort June 12, 2021 (11:15 am)

      They don’t make them like they used to.  Good question as the Brooklyn Bridge appears to be twice as long and high.  Probably has to do with the land requirements for the type of structure (including the infringement on the channel) as well as the 14 years it took to build with (cough) cheaper labor.  Remember double foam lattes and avocado toast hand’t been invented yet.

    • Lamont June 12, 2021 (3:06 pm)

      See “The Problem With Reinforced Concrete”:

      Given the fact that everyone complaining here about the state of the bridge most likely also thinks they shouldn’t pay any more taxes to fix anything (and carrying tons of water for millionaires and billionaires to make sure they don’t pay more taxes either), I can only see this kind of problem getting worse in the future as more reinforced concrete rots.

  • Smittytheclown June 12, 2021 (5:51 am)

    What’s the rush?

  • Jim Luce June 12, 2021 (9:21 am)

    A bureaucratic “Catch 22”

  • HarborIslandWorker June 12, 2021 (9:30 am)

    WSB….. don’t forget to mention Dan Austin’s question  in the low Bridge Q&A questions… timestamp 45:33 in the video… once T5 opens how will the T5 freight….. traffic affect regular Harbor Island traffic trying to get off Harbor Island. Listen to their answer Seattle Department of transportation and port of Seattle do not want to admit how bad it’s going to get down there just look at Heather marx’s face when Bob Waters answers the question you can tell that she did not want him to answer it that way….. seems like no one really gives a crap about harbor island workers and how this is going to affect them we should’ve had a low bridge access from the beginning…

  • pjmanley June 12, 2021 (9:38 am)

    The substantive information conveyed in this meeting added up to just over 10 minutes, yet it took them 1.5 hours.  What else do you need to know about why this project is taking so long?  The lack of leadership and accountability on this project is stunning. 

  • Mj June 12, 2021 (9:44 am)

    Jort – what bus?  Not everyone in WS has transit service!  I live in an area that in the past had good transit service and if it was restored would be a viable option.  

    And regarding biking it has two challenges Winter weather and Theft.  The weather is what it is but the Theft issue would require the City to aggressively pursue, catch and prosecute the thieves.  I personally have had a locked bike stolen when I biked to an activity in the middle of the day at a high traffic location thus I no longer will risk this.  

    • Jort June 12, 2021 (11:48 am)

      Then maybe quit demanding at every opportunity that the bridge get fixed tomorrow, which is unrealistic, and start demanding better transit and bus service. If the community organization you purport to represent, WSTC, spent more of its time pushing for multimodal transportation options, including bike safety, then perhaps those options would come. Maybe ask for that, instead of screaming at SDOT to “Get to work NOW” about this bridge? One is a realistic policy request, one is just a foot-stomping emotional release. Pick your priorities.

      • s June 12, 2021 (2:09 pm)

        Jort, it’s not either/or. We can advocate for both car infrastructure AND mass transit….we need both.

        • Jort June 12, 2021 (4:09 pm)

          Exactly! Except people and community groups  don’t advocate for both. They advocate for fixing the bridge for cars as soon as yesterday. The only difference in that advocacy is that transit and cycling improvements can be done immediately, and bridge repairs for cars can’t. 

    • heartless June 12, 2021 (1:47 pm)

      And regarding biking it has two challenges Winter weather and Theft.  The weather is what it is but the Theft issue would require the City to aggressively pursue, catch and prosecute the thieves.  I personally have had a locked bike stolen when I biked to an activity in the middle of the day at a high traffic location thus I no longer will risk this.  “

      Unlike cars, which never get stolen.

    • Reed June 13, 2021 (8:21 am)

      Ah yes the weather is what is it. West Seattle drivers who can change their habits but simply won’t because they are little sugar cubes that will melt with the slightest bit of rainfall.

  • Notjork2 June 12, 2021 (2:00 pm)

    Such a small mind. If you can’t ride a bike or walk you should think about placing yourself in a home so you are away from the special people that don’t need their cars 

    • Reed June 13, 2021 (11:38 am)

      Such a small mind, not being able to think beyond being the slightest bit functional without a car. Keep up the relentless complaining that won’t change anything. Our population is exploding, an no amount of road construction is ever going to alleviate the traffic problems we have.

  • Mj June 12, 2021 (2:50 pm)

    Heartless – yes cars get stolen but at a significantly lower rate and cars are recoverd at a much higher rate.  Further the cost of a decent bike can be greater than many cars, thus it’s time to aggressively pursue catch and prosecute people who steal bikes!

    • Jort June 12, 2021 (6:56 pm)

      What possible bike could you buy that costs more than a car?! I mean, I know some exist, but are you honestly going to argue that the median bike is anything more than 5% of the cost of the median car? Seriously MJ? What on earth do you think bikes and cars cost?

  • MC June 12, 2021 (3:03 pm)

    My application as an on-call medical worker was designed with the explanation that they are only granting applications to on-call transplant teams and other lifesaving medical workers.  I asked them to please modify their description on their website to reflect this before other on-call medical workers go to the effort.  I am an urgent care medical provider, where I am called in last minute regularly, but apparently this didn’t suffice as lifesaving enough for their criteria.  FYI to others thinking of applying.

  • Rick June 12, 2021 (4:36 pm)

    Careful folks. Jort is getting the attention he craves. You’re just feeding his ravenous appetite.

  • Mj June 12, 2021 (10:08 pm)

    Jort ebikes can cost a couple of grand or more as can many good street bikes, more than a older used car.  Are you saying that bike thieves should not be held accountable?

  • More Transparency June 13, 2021 (9:23 am)

    MC- You are right-SDOT’s Low Bridge Access Policy simply states, “On-call medical workers (traveling to and from an on-call work shift only)” and there is no specific, narrowed definition (i.e. only for “life-saving transplant medical workers”) that SDOT is trying to use after the fact. SDOT is changing the rules mid-stream for Retail businesses also! Their Access Policy reads, “All West Seattle restaurants and retail businesses (limited to urgent trips to pick-up equipment or supplies).”  And yet, many West Seattle small blue collar Retail businesses I have talked to have also been denied permits because SDOT says after the fact that it is only for “Retail Stores”, which is a very narrow and inaccurate definition of a Retail business. For example, West Seattle only has a few Retail plumbing businesses with actual store fronts, but we have many more blue collar Retail licensed plumbing businesses based in West Seattle who sell their products directly to their customers, and do not have a storefront, but sometimes urgently need a specialty plumbing part which is not available in West Seattle.  This is exactly why these Retail businesses and Medical workers need urgent access to the lower bridge, and not “when a restaurant runs out of onions” which is the SDOT example given at the last Low Bridge online meeting for “urgent access”! If you have been denied access for the above reasons, you have until June 15th to reapply and SDOT needs to use their original Access Policy definition to accept these applications. There needs to be more transparency on who is actually being granted permits and who has been denied, and for what reason.

    • Reed June 13, 2021 (12:47 pm)

      Spot on. Look at who “represents” the west Seattle business community on the CTF and you will understand why the access policy is what it is.

  • wetone June 13, 2021 (11:12 am)

    There is Zero reason for not opening Highrise at this time. SDOT and mayor are to blame. There is no actual documentation other than from SDOT at this time that states there is a danger with opening bridge now. Work that has been completed since the closure has addressed needed issues. Social engineering going at this point and a grab for federal $$$$.

    • Reed June 13, 2021 (2:12 pm)

      You are absolutely right. SDOT could have had this done by now if they had used city funds. The problem is that from the second the low bridge closed, already reckless/impaired/distracted drivers became even more dangerous when they started wreaking havoc on side streets within West Seattle and other neighborhoods outside of West Seattle. Thus, SDOT was forced to spend city funds mitigating those impacts to protect the non-car driving public, resulting in the need to seek federal funds and adding over a year to fix the bridge. So SDOT and the mayor are not to blame, the reckless drivers we see causing wrecks, taking out utility poles, street racing, maiming/killing pedestrians and cyclists, speeding down side streets and creating traffic on a DAILY basis are to blame.

  • More Transparency June 13, 2021 (1:01 pm)

    Here’s some Lower Bridge access math: Retail/restaurants are allotted by SDOT to a total of 225 round trips per day max. but the Catch-22 is that SDOT limits these businesses to only 10 round trips per month (i.e. 1 RT every 3 days). Therefore, SDOT could approve a total of 675 retail/restaurant businesses (225 x 3), but in reality they have only approved 116 businesses to date. So why is SDOT denying these blue-collar retail licensed businesses for urgent use of the lower bridge also? Whether or not they have an actual store-front, they still are classified as Retail businesses by the City of Seattle and WA State DOR.

  • Mj June 13, 2021 (4:24 pm)

    Jort – I asked if you feel bike thieves should be held accountable?  Personally I would like the City Attorney to aggressively prosecute bike thieves.  

Sorry, comment time is over.