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: