Here’s what the top of the West Seattle Bridge looks like now, after 17 months of closure

(WSB photos/video except for bridge-interior photos)

By Tracy Record and Patrick Sand
West Seattle Blog co-publishers

For the first time since the West Seattle Bridge’s sudden, shocking shutdown almost a year and a half ago, we were back on the bridge, briefly, today. The reason: Reporters and photographers were invited to accompany a delegation from D.C., Deputy Secretary of Transportation Polly Trottenberg and U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell. The feds are contributing to the funding for repairs, so the tour was touted as a chance to see where the money’s going.

The bridge visit was part of a morning tour that started at Terminal 5 in West Seattle (a separate story is coming about that). The cars and vans carrying the dignitaries and media left from Terminal 46 on the downtown waterfront and crossed the high bridge to get to T-5, seeing this work on the way (slow going because it’s a 10 mph construction zone):

That crane, we learned later, was lowering fiber-optic cable into the bridge, part of relocating monitoring equipment in preparation for the repair work this fall. (We reported recently that this kind of advance work is happening now, while the repair design and schedule are being finalized.) The crew was done and the crane was gone by the time we returned and were able to get out onto the bridge, but here’s what else we saw:

SDOT recently reiterated that one reason it’s not safe to even partly reopen the bridge is that there are holes in the deck. The ones above line the outer edge of the south side of the center span – they were cut for those platforms suspended from the bridge during the stabilization work last year, as SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe explained in a quick briefing setting the scene for visitors:

We took note of other openings in the bridge deck – such as this hole used for ventilation:

That ensure safe breathing conditions for people inside the bridge, explained SDOT’s roadway-structures division director Matt Donahue – sometimes the air that comes in from openings on the underside can be overwhelmed otherwise with, for example, diesel fumes from trains passing below (he was wearing a monitoring device just in case). In the westbound lanes, there’s a covered hatch with the warning NO DRIVE written all around it:

But the main access for workers – and visitors – is surrounded by this repurposed shipping container:

Donahue accompanied Sen. Cantwell, Dep. Sec. Trottenberg, and interested media crews down into the heart of the centerspan. We chose not to make the climb down, but obtained photos from SDOT:

In that last photo are the steel cables added to stabilize the bridge (with more planned as part of the final repairs).

After everyone emerged, Cantwell and Trottenberg took questions for a few minutes, calling the bridge “incredibly important”:

By then, they were running behind on a packed schedule that sent them to I-90 this afternoon to visit the Sound Transit light-rail expansion project. We and the rest of the media crews were shuttled back to Terminal 46, after another look at a view that we used to take for granted:

22 Replies to "Here's what the top of the West Seattle Bridge looks like now, after 17 months of closure"

  • Max August 18, 2021 (7:59 pm)

    I think that is carbon fiber cable, not fiber optic.

    • WSB August 18, 2021 (9:22 pm)

      My notes from our conversation say fiber optic; I will ask SDOT tomorrow.

      • Mark47n August 19, 2021 (4:53 am)

        Fiber optic is a medium for transmitting information using light. It’s also notoriously fragile. Carbon fiber is constructed similarly to fiberglass but is much stronger and lighter.

      • BlairJ August 19, 2021 (10:18 am)

        They say the fiber optic cable is “part of relocating monitoring equipment”, which would make sense.

    • Eddie August 19, 2021 (7:31 am)

      Fiber optic for monitoring/data communications.

    • Mark August 20, 2021 (4:13 pm)

      Fiber Optic Cable can be used as a very sensitive strain gauge and also measure temperature, pressure and vibration.   As pressure changes the shape of the fiber, even very small changes can be detected by lasers shining through the fiber.  Numerous articles on how fiber optic cable can be embedded in concrete and buildings for this purpose. Fiber-optic sensor – Wikipedia

  • Reed August 18, 2021 (8:29 pm)

    Clearly the photos are fake because, according to all the commenters on here, SDOT hasn’t done anything to fix the bridge!

    • Jill Loblaw August 21, 2021 (11:45 am)

      Wow! Clearly you’re an expert. Perhaps you should be up there reporting instead.

  • Al King August 18, 2021 (8:43 pm)

    Any word on when a completion/reopen date could be put out. I’m assuming they’ll know more than a week in advance. Could be wrong on that-we’re dealing with SDOT after all.

    • WSB August 18, 2021 (9:02 pm)

      As mentioned a couple times in recent coverage, a schedule update is expected nedt month.

  • bolo August 18, 2021 (8:46 pm)

    Wouldn’t it have been better or at least more appropriate to “shuttle the dignitaries” along one of the detour routes (HPW, WMW, 5-points, Roxbury, 1st Ave S Br., etc.)?

    Let them experience “the real deal.”

    • WSB August 18, 2021 (9:01 pm)

      Oh, we got to see traffic too. Coming off the Delridge offramp, trying to get through the 5-way to the West Marginal entrance of T-5 took a good long time. (We of course already had a fun time trying to get to T-46 in the first place, aiming for 509 NB shortly after the morning’s power-line closure ended…)

      • Pelicans August 19, 2021 (11:49 am)

        TR and Co.,Many thanks for your intrepid reporting!

      • Pelicans August 19, 2021 (12:33 pm)

        Oh yes. Would love for those “dignitaries” to have been detoured the way the rest of us have been since March of 2020.

    • WS% August 19, 2021 (7:26 pm)

      I hope those “dignitaries” also saw that there is a adequate bike path on WMW and that we don’t need all the construction on WMW to make another bike lane. We need funds to be used elsewhere, like pot holes, roadway cleanup, graffiti cleanup, repairing bridges just to name a few.    

  • WS Resident August 19, 2021 (8:36 am)

    Work is being done on the bridge and these photos are not fake.  I’m sure SDOT would be happy to answer any questions individuals might have about the project.

  • WS_Native August 19, 2021 (10:49 am)

    I hear that “Speed Bumps” are now part of the budget…

    • WSB August 19, 2021 (11:15 am)

      Ha ha. But yes, there will be some repaving to do before reopening, SDOT’s director confirmed when we asked while up there. For those who keep asking about the Spokane Street Viaduct section (which is not closed), no plans beyond spot repair.

  • Frustrated in West Seattle August 19, 2021 (5:28 pm)

    Damage so extensive that after 17 months they still can’t estimate when repairs will be complete…Shame on the city and responsible agencies for putting the citizens of West Seattle at such risk, by ignoring regular maintenance. Time for real city leadership which understands public safety and its responsibilities to tax payers. After living here 24 years, that would be a refreshing change!

    • WSB August 19, 2021 (6:08 pm)

      They have an estimate. It’s “mid-2022.” The repair design – which is being done by consultant WSP – is not complete yet. SDOT says that when it’s close to done, 90 percent, next month, then their contractor will be able to narrow it down further.

  • Bridge to the 21st Century August 19, 2021 (9:03 pm)

    Given a choice, I’d prefer excuses to actually fixing the bridge. Or investigating why a 70 year projected bridge life only made it to half that.

  • wetone August 20, 2021 (10:00 am)

    Hope lower bridge holds up long enough to get all lanes opened up on highrise. If not then we will be in same place as today or worse (if only one lane is opened up on highrise) As it would be surely dedicated to same using lower bridge today. Heavy use by buses and big rigs, many over there GVWR have took a toll on lower bridge. Then we have major issues with Spokane st viaduct. Surface is separating from structure and needs stripped to be repaired properly. Once the rain starts the road surface is going to fail quickly leaving a very dangerous surface. T5 will have huge impacts once opened for those traveling in/out of WS as they will always get priority. So get ready for a lot more impacts from train (noise, traffic) and big rigs. Enjoy 

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