VIDEO: Here’s what the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force heard about the bridge itself

(Bridge update starts 1 hour, 9 minutes in)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

What SDOT calls the West Seattle Bridge Program has ranged so far beyond the bridge itself, today’s Community Task Force meeting was more than an hour old before the bridge’s status finally got the spotlight.

We’ve already published three updates on other matters that preceded the bridge progress report:
West Marginal Way bicycle-lane decision
WMW/Highland Park Way intersection work starting Saturday
Low-bridge access status

So now – here’s what’s up with the bridge-repair planning.

West Seattle Bridge Program director Heather Marx recapped that the repair design has reached 60 percent, with the plans in the hands of contractor Kraemer North America, with whom they’ll work to get to 90 percent design in “late summer,” and full design in fall. Marx recapped what’s planned for the work – strengthening the bridge beyond the center span – “from the edge of the tail span through the center span and to the other side” – and the ground beneath part of it:

She also showed new schematic looks at what the repairs will resemble, inside and out, with more post-tensioning steel cables and more carbon-fiber wrapping:

“There is a great deal of engineering that needs to go into adding this strengthening equipment to the bridge,” she said, explaining that those saying the design “takes so long” need to understand that changing one part of the bridge requires planning “compensation” for the other parts. If planning and engineering aren’t done thoroughly and painstakingly enough, something like the Miami condo collapse might result, she warned.

Asked by CTF co-chair Greg Nickels about what the internal carbon-fiber wrapping will do, Marx said it will convey added “rigidity,” and likened it to “wallpaper.” As for the schedule, still nothing more specific than “mid-2022” for reopening, but today’s briefing got slightly more specific along the way. For example – final design is expected in October.

Some “early work packages” will start in September; work platforms will go up on the bridge in November; the major work will happen after the first of the year and continue into the second quarter. Low-bridge work, which is also part of the contract with Kraemer, will also ensue next year, though Marx assured the CTF that the high bridge is the main event. She added that no closures are expected for the low-bridge work, at least for surface traffic, but communications-system work yet to be done this year will likely require some closures. The overall timeline as it exists now for the high and low bridge work:

Also ahead – some maintenance on the Spokane Street Viaduct (the bridge east of the 99 overpass), a “deck scan” that will include reviewing its paving.

CTF member Deb Barker from the West Seattle Transportation Coalition and Morgan Community Association wondered about pavement conditions toward the I-5 end; the state is reviewing that, said SDOT’s Trevor Partap.

Will the contractor brief the Task Force when the schedule is more refined? Yes, said Marx. Can the bridge open in a limited capacity before the full repair completion? asked Liz Powell of West Seattle Bridge NOW, saying some in the “structural engineering community” speculated it could, No, said Marx, countering that those not directly involved in the project shouldn’t be speculating. SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe added that doing the repairs requires some opening of holes in the deck. He also said that the engineers involved in the project recognize that it’s an emergency and are working “as quickly as possible.”

City Councilmember Lisa Herbold then said she continued to receive many emails from constituents who are skeptical that anything is happening. So she wondered whether a big banner could be hung on the bridge along the lines of “Work is happening inside.” Marx said right now it’s mostly engineering/planning work that’s under way but once they start on-site work, “that’s a great idea.”

NEXT WEEK’S COMMUNITY MEETING: The meeting also touched on the plan for an online community meeting about the bridge, announced last week, happening one week from today, at 5:30 pm Wednesday, July 21st, SDOT’s Danielle Friedman said they’ve been going all-out to be sure that people know about it, including 50,000 postal mailers. They’re making a “video featuring community members” as part of what’ll be presented. At today’s meeting, they asked task force members for their thoughts on what they’ll be asked. CTF member Barker said the number-one discussion point remains “what’s taking so long?” (Info for watching/participating at the July 21st meeting is here.)

NEXT CTF MEETING: 4 pm August 12th, online. Questions or comments can be sent any time to

35 Replies to "VIDEO: Here's what the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force heard about the bridge itself"

  • My two cents … July 14, 2021 (10:00 pm)

    What???? No, I can’t be reading this correctly: City Councilmember Lisa Herbold then said she continued to receive many emails from constituents who are skeptical that anything is happening. So she wondered whether a big banner could be hung on the bridge along the lines of “Work is happening inside.”A banner?!?! Apart from coming off as being extremely lazy and dismissive, if this is the “representation” our community, I think we have hit a nadir.

    • WSB July 14, 2021 (10:14 pm)

      See 1 hour, 27 minutes into the video.

  • West Seattle Bob July 14, 2021 (11:24 pm)

    Knee jerk reactions to a councilmember who has had our best interests at heart. Watch that video and the context to her comments at the time WSB noted above. Come on, we can all do better!!! We are so close

  • Jeepney July 15, 2021 (5:08 am)

      a councilmember who has had our best interests at heart”I respectfully disagree with that comment.

  • Doug Greenswag July 15, 2021 (5:32 am)

    While I wish the problem had never happened I applaud the City for having closed the span when it did.  None of the people involved now were around when the bridge was designed and built.  SDOT, et al. could have ignored the problem or pretended never to have been warned.  But they didn’t and we avoided a tragedy that would have made the Surfside condo collapse look minor by comparison. A collapse at rush hour would have killed an untold number of people on the upper and (probably) lower spans and blocked the Duwamish River for who knows how long. Seattle’s “failure” and “ineptitude” would have been the lead story in the news for months. This situation is inconvenient and aggravating but we are all alive to complain about it. Most all of us feel free to p*** on the City at our leisure, as is our right. I think it is important to publicly recognize what the City gets right. Thank you!

  • Anne July 15, 2021 (6:28 am)

    “best interests at heart” -there are several phrases I would use to describe Ms.Herbold..that definitely isn’t one of them.

  • C Brown July 15, 2021 (6:54 am)

    As a 40 year veteran in construction engineering I wholey agree that more time up front helps the success of any project.  But I would not bet on a 2022 completion. If the present economic conditions alone don’t change sourcing materials will be problematic and the price will go up accordingly. Time will tell.

  • CMB July 15, 2021 (7:26 am)

    The City should be doing a better job communicating with West Seattle residents about the repair status.  Mailers, signs or a targeted web-campaign would help folks understand the status of the repair and that SDOT is working very hard.  I feel like I’ve been in the dark, this conference helped me understand what’s going on… frustrating as well all want our bridge back.  

    • Jon Wright July 15, 2021 (1:41 pm)

      If someone has “been in the dark,” I think that is on them. West Seattle Blog has posted 220 stories about the bridge. The Seattle Times has posted 60. The city’s SDOT Blog has had 39 posts about the bridge year alone. SDOT has shown up at countless community meetings. The Mayor and Councilmember Herbold have included updates in their weekly mailings.  And an internet search comes up with even more hits. Anyone “in the dark” is making zero effort to be an informed citizen. And yet those folks feel qualified to insist in online posts how the repair is taking too long. That’s why we need a banner on the bridge–apparently that is the extent of dumbing-down the messaging that many people require.

      • S.A. July 15, 2021 (7:37 pm)

        Thank you for quantifying this. The combination of arrogance and ignorance in some of these comments is astonishing.  It’s one thing to look at a piece of modern art and say “I could do better than that.” (Of course, you didn’t, but hey.)  But a bridge?  Good grief, people.

  • John Douthwaite July 15, 2021 (8:49 am)

    Over a year later and maybe we will get a banner.  More studies to come, decision on the banner by early 2022.

    • 1994 July 15, 2021 (10:45 pm)

      Or we will  all get another SDOT US mailed fancy, 3 fold, giant, heavy weight paper flyer that has barely any useful information inside! I got mine this week and was so disappointed in the content – what a waste of employee wages, paper, and mailing costs.

  • Another WS Complainer July 15, 2021 (9:01 am)

    Pretty amazing how the continued lack of urgency is acceptable to all involved. A YEAR of planning? And then when the work begins, 3 workers will be standing around watching 1 actually work. And the job site will be vaccant on weekends and after 3pm rather than insisting on round-the-clock activity. Only in America. This fix should have been hired out, planned and completed by January 2020. In any other 1st world nation it would have been. I know, griping on a blog will change nothing – everyone here just likes to complain, like me. I guess we should just vote for decision makers who will do things differently. So nevermind. Gotta go place another Amazon order – Bye. 

    • AlkiFlyer July 15, 2021 (10:32 am)

      Boy, do I hear you.  Yeah, I know construction standards, etc are different in China but if this had happened there the bridge would have been fixed a year ago.  The time to get this done has been totally unacceptable.  I am SO tired of driving through High Point, Highland Park, White Center, ect to get to points downtown and north.  I feel those neighborhood’s pain of the increased traffic but we have no option.  Instead, the city puts in speed bumps and lowers arterials to 25mph, making the drive even more torturous.  Need to go to First Hill to the doctor?  Block off the whole friggin’ day.  :-(

      • Bob July 15, 2021 (10:48 am)

        If you are going to first hill, take the bus or water taxi.  You are making things worse for yourself by insisting on driving.

        • Joe Z July 15, 2021 (11:27 am)

          Yep downtown/SODO access is not a problem without the bridge. Bus is fast and if you don’t live near a bus stop you can drive and park near one. People did that even before the bridge was out. Getting north of downtown or to the east side is more annoying, personally I just don’t go to either of those places anymore except occasionally on weekends. The contractors I’ve talked to seem to have figured out how to get around the bridge closure as well, they just send their people who live in Kent/Des Moines/Burien to West Seattle and it isn’t a big deal for most of them.

          • Roms July 15, 2021 (7:36 pm)

            Joe Z, bus is fast? Have you taken the 21 or 21X or C in the 7-8AM time slot? If you did, you would realize that many days the buses get actually stuck in traffic before they reach the 5-way intersection. I know, because I *actually* take the bus every other day, and use my bicycle the rest of the time. In fact, it’s usually faster for me to go downtown by bicycle than by bus…

          • Joe Z July 15, 2021 (9:54 pm)

            I have not used the bus at peak hour since COVID but what you describe sounds similar to the old days when traffic added 10-15 minutes to the average bus commute. 

        • GALINA July 15, 2021 (9:01 pm)

          you are welcome to take a taxi or a bus. as a tax paying citizen, and I am paying lots of property taxes. my property tax statement says my taxes are going towards road maintenance,  I expect my roads to work. 

          • Bob July 16, 2021 (9:17 am)

            How’s that working out?

    • Another WS Complainer July 15, 2021 (11:33 am)

      Sorry, I meant January 2021 (9 months after it was closed). This past 18 months has often made me forget what year is what.

  • JTinWS July 15, 2021 (9:19 am)

    I’d love to know how much they are collecting in tickets from low bridge scofflaws. Every time I bike across the bridge or pass through the spaghetti noodle intersection I see countless cheaters coming or going on the low bridge. Yes, I know that some users have gotten permission to cross it, but they must be outnumbered 5 or 10 to 1 by the cheaters, so I’d at least like to know there’s some justice being delivered and the city is collecting some compensation. The last time we got an update about enforcement, this winter, they revealed they’d been lying about issuing tickets and had only been issuing warnings for an extra several weeks. The number of blaisé cheaters who seem to routinely use the bridge makes me wonder if they know something the rest of us don’t. Maybe it’s still not really being enforced?

    • Neighbor July 15, 2021 (1:31 pm)

      Since the low bridge access is based on license plate there is no external indication that any car is “cheating”.  How do you know cheaters outnumber approved users “5 or 10 to 1”?

      • S.A. July 15, 2021 (7:39 pm)

        Perhaps it’s the same 6th sense that enables people to discern when another person doesn’t “need” handicapped parking….

  • Joe Z July 15, 2021 (10:24 am)

    By now most of us have learned to live without the bridge. They may as well take their time to do the repair properly instead of rushing it and having another shutdown in 5 years.

    • Roms July 15, 2021 (7:40 pm)

      No they didn’t. “Many people” (I’m just dropping random assertions like you) are still working from home, and on-school education has not resumed. Wait for September to see how “have learned to live without the bridge.” You’ll see they most likely didn’t.

      • Joe Z July 15, 2021 (9:57 pm)

        Why would schools opening have anything to do with the bridge? The West Seattle schools are in West Seattle. 

        • 1994 July 15, 2021 (10:50 pm)

          The buses come from South Park. Plenty of WS kids attend schools outside of WS – whether public or private schools….those school buses transport students and athletes everywhere, including in and out of WS. Schools, K-12 and higher ed, increase the traffic volume.

  • Djet7carn July 15, 2021 (10:40 am)

    The Tacoma Narrows Bridge(aka Galloping Gertie) lasted 4 months. It took  10 years to replace (yah yah war excuses…) . The second span opening 57 years later. The same people bring us the High Bridge (aka the Cracken) repairs. Washington state has a great track record on bridges.  

    • Jeepney July 15, 2021 (1:35 pm)

      Matter of opinion.  The Ballard, Fremont, University, and George Washington Memorial (aka Aurora) bridges have all exceeded their expected life spans.  Unfortunately, they are also all in dire need of replacement.

  • Jim P July 15, 2021 (1:48 pm)

    I am fine with them taking a good ling time to do very complex and serious redesign.I tend to doubt many of the complainers have advanced engineering degrees or experience in complex bridge redesign/repair in which failures could cost lives.I sure lack such degrees so need to trust in the expertise of those who do.I suggest watching a show called ‘Engineering Disasters” or “Engineering Catastrophes”, should be streamable, to see just what can go wrong and that even Europe and Japan get it wrong, badly just as much as we do.

  • steve July 15, 2021 (3:16 pm)

    I cannot help thinking if the WSDOT were the owner they would have responded to the cracks sooner, gone into design mode from day 1, and completed repairs by now. SDOT is great at most of what they do but they are probably out of their league on a bridge this size. I hope there are conversations and sharing happening between those two DOTs.

    • Djet7carn July 15, 2021 (4:50 pm)

      Steve — totally agree.  SDOT is great at speed bumps and lane striping.  A good department needs to know its limitations.  

      • Roms July 15, 2021 (7:43 pm)

        They’re also great at “taking a look at any opportunity” and at trying to *reduce* capacity on remaining access points. At least for this last one they realized after *months* that it didn’t make sense. They gotta justify the pay (where’s the traffic tzar by the way?)…

  • Mj July 15, 2021 (10:48 pm)

    Joe Z there are a lot of College students living at home going to the UW, Seattle U, as well as teachers who live in WS that teach at schools off the island.  The unfortunate reality traffic will be far worse this Fall!

    SDoT has continued to fail at ensuring options for WS residents, ie midday bus service to all areas of WS that historically had such service.  This needs to be implemented this Fall to coincide with schools opening up.

Sorry, comment time is over.