VIDEO & AS-IT-HAPPENED COVERAGE: 28 questions @ West Seattle Bridge community meeting

5:30 PM: This Friday marks 16 months since the emergency closure of the West Seattle Bridge. Tonight, SDOT is presenting updates and answering questions at a community meeting. You can watch above, via YouTube, but if you want to ask questions, participate via Zoom – here’s the link. We’ll post notes every 10 minutes or so.

SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe welcomed attendees, reminding them that he too is a West Seattle resident. Since the bridge closure, “our priority has been first and foremost public safety,” he said, and reiterated the “mid-2022” reopening projection. He was to be followed by Deputy Mayor David Moseley, but technical challenges intervened; instead, Zimbabwe summarized Moseley’s prepared remarks, saying Mayor Jenny Durkan couldn’t be there because she’s “in the other Washington.” City Councilmember Lisa Herbold followed. She said she’s been hearing about traffic and safety issues since the bridge closed, and noted that SDOT had “built more than 200 projects so far” to address them. “We rely on the community to identify these emerging issues.” She also noted that the council has “committed to funding” both the bridge repair and the traffic/safety projects. “Now that businesses are opening up again, we hope these projects are going to makee it easier for people to spend time in our neighborhoods.”

5:53 PM: They’re running polls along the way – first, what zip code participants are in; 98116 led, followed by 98136, followed by 98106. Then: How did you hear about the meeting? Email newsletters came in #1, WSB #2. After that, Deputy Mayor Moseley was brought on. He spoke of a call today involving West Seattle Bridge issues and Washington state members of Congress. He announced $12 million in new federal dollars, routed through the state, bringing total federal funding for the project to almost $38 million.

Bridge program director Heather Marx followed, noting she too is a West Seattle resident. She recapped what’s happened along the way, saying the bridge cracking “was likely caused by insufficient post-tensioning [steel strengthening]” in the bridge. That wasn’t an error, but just the bridge being “built to the standards of the time,” she said.

When will the bridge reopen? She said that at intermediate design, it’s too soon to say anything more specific than “mid-2022.” As has been said multiple times lately, construction of the repair work will start late this year.

She also showed new schematic designs that were debuted at last week’s Community Task Force meeting (see them in our coverage).

She also tried to explain why the design work is “a careful, highly mathematic process” and “how important it is that we get this design exactly right.”

6 PM: Marx handed the baton to Maureen Sheehan, the low-bridge program director. She recapped why low-bridge access is restricted, and which groups are eligible for authorization to use it during the restricted hours. (See all that info here.) She also noted that they are surveying current users as part of determining how access might change once Terminal 5 launches cargo-ship service early next year.

Next poll – how do people want to hear bridge updates in the future? Of the options presented, email newsletters/blog posts led.

6:10 PM: Sara Zora, who manages the Reconnect West Seattle program, was next up. The 200 projects of which she spoke include the speed humps, radar speed signs, and other installations you’ve seen in multiple neighborhoods, particularly Highland Park, many under the Home Zone umbrella. She also touched on West Marginal Way (including, most recently, the future-protected-bike-lane decision).

Then, a pitch for mode-shifting, which SDOT has talked about since the start, to try to keep traffic semi-manageable even as people return to commuting. What you do affects everybody else, she reiterated.

6:20 PM: Wes Ducey, yet another West Seattle-residing SDOT manager, talked about planning for replacing the bridge … in 2060. “Where the replacement bridge” should be built – or maybe a tunnel – is the focus of the study they’re doing. Its “draft findings” will be available this fall. Then the last poll – what do you want to hear about going forward? (Consultant/facilitator Angie Thomson said respondents could make multiple choices.) “Repair progress,” unsurprisingly, led. Then, a quick reminder of ways to stay updated.

Q&A followed. As noted in comments, the written questions submitted via Zoom were NOT visible to all (we’ll be asking for the list). Questions were addressed to specific participants, so that’s who replied.

#1 – What can be done to speed up the repair? Zimbabwe replied. “I can assure you there is urgency in our work to achieve the repairs.” He said “very delicate design” and material procurement are things that take time. He insisted “everybody at SDOT is working urgently … day in and day out.”

#2 – Why hasn’t the design been done over the time the bridge has been closed? Marx: “Design has actually been under way for a significant portion of the closure” – first the stabilization, then full repair design started last November.

#3 – Can we promote more local services in West Seattle to “stay local”? Herbold: “I’m happy to do whatever I can.” She said she would be happy to use her weekly newsletter to promote things, and “we all can do more.”

#4 – Have there been any thoughts on increasing frequency of/extending hours of water taxis, and adding one from Fauntleroy? Zora noted that King County runs the WT, and ridership has been increasing. They did look at adding foot ferries, but “the assessment we had seemed like it would not necessarily improve the mobility option in the timeframe we needed it.”

#5 – Once bridge is reopened, will work continue to plan for a replacement? Ducey said that the study focusing on siting as well as figuring out how traffic would flow during a replacement will be helpful.

#6 – Why not open the low bridge at more times? Sheehan noted that the weekend mornings added 3 hours recently, “and we continue to evaluate.” But if they opened it further, it would be too crowded for emergency passage.

First verbal question at 6:34 pm – #7 – Why can’t Uber/Lyft use the low bridge more hours? Sheehan replied that while they’re evaluating, “it’s a finite resource” and the rideshare group is “too large” to grant access and still preserve emergency vehicles’ mobility. Marx added later that traffic apps have been a bit problematic lately and SDOT is working with them.

#8 was a written question. There’s construction everywhere – how is it being coordinated? Marx said for one, the Delridge project will be done in a couple months. Otherwise, “we ARE coordinating construction.” She gave examples such as the early-morning work hours for the West Marginal/Highland Park Way weekend work. “We do everything we can to be sure we can complete work in off-hours.”

#9 – Is Zimbabwe working from home or commuting? He said “a mix of both” (he was at his home near The Junction while participating in the meeting).

#10 – Will a mayoral change mean changes in the bridge program? Herbold said the Council approves funding and no dramatic change would be possible without councilmembers’ support. She doesn’t see “any big changes” likely no matter who moves into the mayor’s office next year.

#11 – What are law enforcers doing to prevent line cutting, especially at the 99/509 onramp by the transfer station? SDOT’s Trevor Partap said enforcement is the best way to address that and there’s been some – they’ll “send a reminder.”

#12 – Are motorcycles allowed to use the low bridge and if not, why? Sheehan said no, because urgent trips and emergencies are prioritized. (We published a longer reply to this months ago.)

#13 was a verbal question at 6:45 pm – What could have prevented the bridge getting to the point it needed to close, and what’s being done to keep other bridges from getting to that point? He also voiced concerns about side-street safety. For the first part, Zimbabwe said “the bridge was built to the standards of the time” as Marx had said earlier and all the records have not revealed “a fatal flaw.” The stabilization work, and repair work, require opening up the bridge deck and so whenever the problem was caught, a closure would have resulted. As for other structures, they’ve added “real-time monitors” to look for the kind of problems that might require closures. Regarding side-street safety, Zora said the Home Zone program has been focused on that. westseattleblog@seattle.gov if you have specific areas you want to see evaluated.

#14 – Has SDOT considered opening the bridge for limited traffic? Marx said no, because there are holes in the road surface so the interior can be accessed. Also, the engineer of record says “that is not a safe option.”

#15 – What is the plan for light rail on the new bridge? Ducey said that the Sound Transit need for a new cross-Duwamish bridge does not align with replacement planning for the bridge but their work keeps “informing each other.”

#15 – How can all these construction projects improve traffic – should we be doing so many while the bridge is closed? Zimbabwe said a lot of “large scale and small scale changes” have been made and they did require construction – remember the emergency signal at Highland Park Way/Holden? He said the safety improvements are vital.

#16 – Could new park-ride lots be set up near the low bridge? Zora pointed out the existing one under the high bridge.

#17 – Will you be offering low-bridge passes for students who have to cross the Duwamish? Sheehan said school buses can use it and they urge people to get ride-share permits.

#18 – Toll? Herbold said that would require a public vote. And it wouldn’t be fair to restrict access to those who could pay.

#19 was a verbal question at 6:55 – he said the closure was the city’s fault for adding a fourth lane on the bridge and not limiting weight of vehicles. Zimbabwe addressed it, saying “We don’t plan any change to the operation of the high bridge when it opens. …. There’s no indication that the change in travel lanes led to the structural problems.”

#20 – Does SDOT intend to promote a kindness initiative for drivers using the detour route? Marx said that was a great idea. “We are all in this together. All the people on the detour routes are your friends, your family, your neighbors … Make sure you extend to people the grace you hope they would extend to you.”

#21 – Any way the bike paths can be cleaned? Bridge to South Park to Tukwila, also Fauntleroy Way. Zora said yes.

#22 – Will the same number of lanes be used when the bridge opens? Will the .4 mile bus lane be removed when the bridge reopens? Marx reiterated, “We expect to return the bridge to its original configuration,” maybe with wider shoulders on the westbound side. “All those buses were using it before the bus lane.” so it’s not considered to have been a problem.

#23 – a verbal question at 7:02 pm: Is 9 pm the wisest time to start low-bridge access? There’s a massive backup at 8:58 pm every night. Also – re: construction, why did they all have to be started at the same time? Sheehan replied to the low-bridge questionm saying it’s likely to happen whatever time the low bridge opens, Zimbabwe answered regarding the construction that they’re trying to mitigate some of the bridge impacts as quickly as they can, so that’s why so much construction.

#24 – When will we start seeing workers on the bridge? Marx said some were up there on Monday – some asbestos testing – and if you watch the bridge, you’ll see more things like that. But much of the repair work will be inside the bridge. (Work platforms will go up in November, as previously announced.)

#25 – Thistle Street/35th has become problematic with detour traffic. Zora said they can get some folks out to analyze the signal timing and see if other improvements can be made.

#26 – Are they working with the Port re: T-5? Marx said yes, they’re working closely, and T-5’s first berth is expected to open in January. “Freight is an incredibly important part of our system” and that’s why they need to ensure things flow smoothly.

#27 – How are you managing traffic at Highland Park/West Marginal, and can you install signage at the Chelan intersection? Partap said regarding the first, they are “constantly monitoring intersection operation and adjusting signal timing as needed” plus have improvements under way. At Chelan/WMW, “we can work with SPD to be (look at enforcement)” regarding cutting but they also can look at engineering possibilities.

#28 – Did the heat wave cause any new cracks? How did the bridge perform? (We reported on that.) Marx said the stabilization work prevented anything from going awry and they’re “really confident” in what they’ve done.

That was the last question and the meeting wrapped at quarter past 7 (with a video recap of the situation to date). If your question didn’t get answered, an FAQ will be posted. Marx also said questions are always welcome at westseattlebridge@seattle.gov.

7:32 PM: The archived video is playable now in the window above.

37 Replies to "VIDEO & AS-IT-HAPPENED COVERAGE: 28 questions @ West Seattle Bridge community meeting"

  • olivist July 21, 2021 (6:09 pm)

    Despite WSB raising to SDOT the specific issue about handling of Q&A from past meetings, “with questions sent off into the ether, most unseen by other participants, most unanswered” the Q&A function tonight has the same issue: questions are again sent off and seen only by panelists, not seen by other participants with SDOT being able to answer those they want and ignore the rest. Also, not a lot of new information so far.  

    • WSB July 21, 2021 (6:14 pm)

      Noticed that. Unfortunate they chose to use the “visible to panelists only” setting. I’m going to request the full list of questions asked.

  • KP July 21, 2021 (6:43 pm)

    It is frustrating to see the slip shod speed humps suddenly everywhere, this does nothing but exasperate already frustrated drivers. They in no way count as the city ‘doing something’. Doing something would have resulted in treating this as the emergency it is and bringing to resolution in under a year. The constant droning on of verbal non-responses is tiring and frustrating. Smart, rational, responsive city leadership is non-existent. 

    • sopissed July 21, 2021 (7:17 pm)

      Spot on KP.I am so so sick of this and this is truly insane.  I wish the governor would step in, or the state, that is if they could.  This is an absolute emergency and sdot is a full blown  joke.Enough  

    • Jon Wright July 21, 2021 (10:07 pm)

      Maybe if people stopped asking the same questions, SDOT wouldn’t drone on with the same responses. Asking “Why is repairing the bridge taking so long?” over and over and over isn’t magically going to have a different answer or get it fixed any faster.

    • 1994 July 21, 2021 (10:53 pm)

      Speed humps are a danger to joggers and walkers…..a person can easily roll an ankle of those speed humps – especially in Arbor Heights where we have very, very few sidewalks. In AH we all walk in the middle of the streets! No stay healthy/safe street closures needed out here!

      • Jort July 22, 2021 (8:49 am)

        This is truly a new one. This truly takes the absuridst cake today. Speed humps are … bad for people walking. Unreal.

        • 1994 July 22, 2021 (10:17 pm)

          Have you been to Arbor Heights? Have you walked along these streets with speed humps and no sidewalks????  If you are busy chatting with your fellow walker and forgot about the speed humps, an ankle roll could easily happen.

        • PG July 28, 2021 (2:36 pm)

          Actually as someone who lives in Arbor Heights I agree with this.  If you are walking facing traffic (as we all should be), the arrows are painted on the side of the speed hump opposite the walker and aren’t immediately visible.  I’ve nearly tripped over these humps several times.  Also, cars tend to swerve to side to drive in the dip in the center, and thus veer closer to the pedestrians.  Maybe you should come down and walk around here before sending a snarky response.

      • I call BS July 22, 2021 (9:14 am)

        This sounds like a concern-troll rationalization. you’re really should back this claim up with proof.

    • bill July 22, 2021 (8:49 am)

      My heart bleeds for your loss. No longer able to speed willy-nilly!

  • Flivver July 21, 2021 (7:11 pm)

    SDOT has proven once again their motto is: “we can’t dazzle ’em with our brilliance so let’s baffle ’em with our b*******t”. 

    • 1994 July 21, 2021 (10:56 pm)

      Exactly. I recently drove a stretch of Delridge to check out the so called improvements. I can already see the residents having to loop around those lovely medians to circle back to their driveways……what a mess and frustrating experience the improvements will be for those who reside on Delridge and the rest of us just trying to drive Delridge. 

  • Meeeeee July 21, 2021 (7:12 pm)

    so far nothing new, they’re sticking to their agreed upon talking points.You could play this meeting side by side to one months ago and the answers/topics are the same.Their definition of urgently working to reopen is drastically different from mine.

  • Karen July 21, 2021 (7:16 pm)

    Thank you WSB for all you do and trying to keep us in the loop during these frustrating times. 

  • Dan July 21, 2021 (7:29 pm)

    I agree with MEEEEEE.   Their definition of urgently working to reopen is drastically different from mine.

  • trickycoolj July 21, 2021 (8:53 pm)

    No one from 98126 because us blue collar industry folks have to work in person and can’t get home that early because we’re sitting in line crawling up Highland Park Way. Thanks for the recap WSB as always. Some day we’ll be able to get home before local businesses close for the night. 

  • Wander July 21, 2021 (9:09 pm)

    I think it’s worth noting that when the I-35 bridge collapsed in Minneapolis in August 2007, a whole new bridge was built. That replacement bridge opened 13 months later. We are now at 16 months on this repair and on track to take 28 months (if the current targets are met).

  • Scrappy July 21, 2021 (9:31 pm)

    I am super curious… I live on 12th Ave SW and SW Holden St, and have a major freeway’s worth of traffic passing my house EVERY SINGLE DAY, for the last 16 months! I received my 2021 (2022) property tax assessment and it went up SKY HIGH! Absolutely Insane! My quality of life has decreased tremendously. How in the h…e…double hockey sticks, did they fail to see the environmental, physical, and emotional degradation this has caused us along the major re-route, and then add monetary INSULT to the situation. Now, I have to sit down, in my already STRESSED LIFE, and write a letter rebutting this major increase “in property value.” I’m so exhausted… Any advice would be much appreciated. 😳

    • Fauntleroy July 21, 2021 (10:50 pm)

      You can try to appeal your property valuation:https://kingcounty.gov/independent/board-of-appeals.aspx

    • Reed July 22, 2021 (6:38 am)

      The city and county are not to blame for your problem. Blame your neighbors who refuse to get around by any means other than driving.

      • wseattleite July 22, 2021 (12:13 pm)

        That is the most entitled elitist comment I have seen in a long time.  It must be nice to be able to make a living and live without having to go to work where public transit does not service, too never have a reason to pick up kids and shuttle them around in a harried schedule to meet appointments surrounded by constraints of school and summer camp times.  Too not have to take tools with you to and from work that would never fit on a bus or on a bike.  Grow some empathy for those not as privileged as yourself, and if you can please don’t call us selfish for living life as we must while you anoint yourself as some lofty self rightous being for not having the restraints some of the rest of us do in our lives. 

        • af12 July 22, 2021 (2:01 pm)

          Well said wseattleite,People are going to use cars now and in the future for the reasons you mentioned.  However, it will be electric cars, etc.  People will use more mass transit if it operates similar to other modern and industrial countries (we are not there yet!).  Like some avid bike riders and promoters we can’t bike our way out of this fiasco!  By the way,  I have not now or   ever been working  for the city of Seattle  or the county!

        • Reed July 22, 2021 (6:30 pm)

          wseattleite you gave me a rant on the thread pertaining to single family zoning renaming that you made choices that got you where you were, to have the house in the neighborhood you wanted blah, blah, blah. How you get from place to place is also as choice YOU make, so deal with the consequences.Me, I worked my butt of in school, academically and athletically, and in the military afterwards to be able to go to work without tools and be able to get their by biking or running, and I will live with the consequences of my choice.

          • Wseattleite July 22, 2021 (11:17 pm)

            Reed, I applaud your diligence and am happy that your hard work and good decisions have led you to a life that you are happy with.  I would simply ask that you not label people who for whatever reasons in life are not as privileged as you as being selfish.  

    • bill July 22, 2021 (8:51 am)

      Or you could sell and discover the assessor is not wrong.

  • Eddie July 21, 2021 (9:32 pm)

    I suppose its my fault for not submitting a question, but I would love to know what visible metric the city/SDOT proposes I watch to track progress and demonstrate urgency. If this were a junior high fundraising project, we’d have some sort of thermometer display, with a target and frequent progress colored in. Should we be watching manhours expended, tons of steel delivered,  rivets installed, what? 

  • Mj July 21, 2021 (10:10 pm)

    Nothing new, same talking points and answers. 

    I ask why has SDoT not started procuring the reinforcement steel yet I’m sure there are elements they know are needed.  Further I’m sure there is prep work that can be underway now.  Expediting work increases cost, but what is the cost to WS residents each day with out the bridge.

  • ARPigeonPoint July 21, 2021 (10:38 pm)

    It took me almost two hours to get to the Cap Hill Kaiser facility on Tuesday, and I deliberately scheduled my appointment for outside traditional commuting hours. Will the city be encouraging downtown businesses to allow West Seattle residents to continue working from home?

  • Civil Engr July 21, 2021 (10:55 pm)

    I was not able to attend the meeting, but two followup questions immediately pop to my mind.1. They are claiming that the additional lane was not a factor in the cracking. But reading between the lines of their responses of it being designed to the standard of the time, it seems clear it wasn’t designed with an extra lane in mind. So my question would be what structural analysis if any was done prior to adding the extra lane (hint: they will avoid answering this because it would expose their incompetence)2. Marx says in Q6-7 that more vehicles on the low bridge would impede emergency access. Fine, but what about all the trucks that will be using it beginning in January when the berth opens? Aren’t they going to impede emergency access? Or are you holding back capacity for those trucks, in which case we are all suffering needlessly in the meantime while that bridge has capacity to spare? You can’t claim that it is full now, while also saying emergency access won’t be impacted by the additional port traffic.

    • AdmiralBridge July 22, 2021 (9:47 am)

      My conclusion to your second question is that we’re going to see a nightmare in January when T5 resumes full operations.        

  • Al King July 22, 2021 (9:09 am)

    Civil engr. I’ve said that before. When-not if-when the low bridge is stuffed full of semi’s-and busses emergency vehicles WILL be adversely affected. SDOT has a need to deny that because they are CLUELESS. Also note if the bridge was full of cars they can pull over leaving room for an emergency vehicle. With it full of semi’s and busses it would be MUCH more difficult to get a fire truck or aid car through.    

  • Kathy July 22, 2021 (9:58 am)

    Have we forgotten the endless angry comments generated everytime the West Seattle Bridge turned into a parking lot? When the bridge is fixed, we will be hearing it again because there will be too many people using a private vehicle to get around. If only we could weed out the people driving because they simply find it inconvenient to use any other means of transportation from the people for whom it’s a matter of life and death that they are able to use their personal vehicle to get on and off the peninsula.  Ask not only what SDOT can do for your local problem, but what you personally can do to make the situation better.

    • My two cents … July 22, 2021 (2:44 pm)

      “If only we could weed out the people driving because they simply find it inconvenient to use any other means of transportation from the people for whom it’s a matter of life and death that they are able to use their personal vehicle to get on and off the peninsula.” If we are limited to life and death, does that mean only those people will be paying for the bridge?

  • Dunno July 22, 2021 (1:50 pm)

    In the future, please refer to these bumps in road as “Speed Jort’s”.    As for the WS Bridge, no need to rush the process.   The good news is that it’s cutting down the amount of traffic on 35th sw north of Morgan!

  • Perplexed July 22, 2021 (6:06 pm)

    So, is this a war on cars or just “gas burning” vehicles? I know some people driving 100% electric cars (Chev, Toyota, Tesla) and I thought that’s the next step in getting away from pollution.

  • Reality Chick July 27, 2021 (4:51 pm)

    WSB, thanks so much for all the bridge coverage–indispensable! I have looked for but not found a discussion on whether the water taxi will not go to its bare bones winter schedule in October so that there can be more options for commuters during the day.  At a minimum a few more runs in am and pm. Looking at SDOT’s Reconnect West Seattle page under travel options, it is very high level without any here’s what we are planning with KC Metro to ensure the alternatives to driving alone really are alternatives and not just another scooter company.  When is the next meeting where SDOT will take (and I sure hope listen to) comments? Thanks! 

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