WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE: Another visit, with a look ahead to what’s about to happen

(WSB photos/video. Above, the repurposed shipping container covering entrance to bridge interior)

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

A year and a half after closing the West Seattle Bridge, SDOT is giving tours while getting ready for repairs. Among those who are being offered a firsthand look, according to an SDOT email shared with us by a source, are “members of the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force, Technical Advisory Panel, and our governmental partners and supporters.” Plus, this afternoon – the media.

We were up on the bridge five weeks ago, but that was part of a visit by dignitaries from D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell and Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg. Today’s tour was intended solely to give reporters and photographers (attendance was limited to one person per media organization, so it was one or the other) a firsthand look. That included another view inside the bridge, where most of the upcoming work will happen:

Among the SDOT reps leading the tour, roadway-structures director Matt Donahue, the man who broke the news to city leaders in March 2020 that he’d discovered cracking that necessitated the emergency closure.

Donahue and bridge program director Heather Marx recounted the explanation of “why the bridge broke” (as covered here in August). Once the bridge was stabilized last year, that took care of the cracking problem. Intensive monitoring continues, with a few visible signs on top of the bridge.

Today in fact, some SDOT staff was on the bridge for a monthly monitoring visit (which is in addition to electronic monitors in place that are watched remotely). We talked with Marx about the “early work” that’s been mentioned as starting soon:

We asked Marx for a list of what “early work” is likely to entail:

Core Drilling
Hydro Demo
Ground Penetrating Radar
Carbon Fiber-reinforced Polymer
Tug Service
Deck Grooving
Saw Cutting
Traffic Control

As was the case when we visited the bridge in August, some work is in evidence now:

(Updated: Crane truck ‘lowering equipment through the deck in to the north center span girder’)

SDOT still isn’t getting any more specific about the projected reopening than “mid-2022.” They’ve said that the contractor was providing schedule estimates as part of design milestones; we asked for that proposed schedule and were told earlier this week by an SDOT spokesperson that “it’s part of an active negotiation with our contractor, so we aren’t releasing it.”

17 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE: Another visit, with a look ahead to what's about to happen"

  • Jeepney September 24, 2021 (5:25 am)

    Lots of tension inside that bridge.

    • Boinsted September 24, 2021 (11:53 am)


  • JVP September 24, 2021 (8:37 am)

    So it sounds like the mid-2022 timeline is holding so far? This is good news. 

    • WSB September 24, 2021 (9:01 am)

      Yes, Heather Marx repeated that yesterday and at recent public meetings.

  • Dave P September 24, 2021 (9:07 am)

    After watching SDOT make virtually no progress on re-opening the bridge over the past 18 months, I must sadly conclude that they are way over their heads and incapable of taking decisive action to accelerate its re-opening.  18 months and they haven’t even completed the repair design.  When folks don’t know what they’re doing they fall back on what they do know.  That explains the plethora of speed bumps, street closings, signal work, work force agreements and task forces.  So we end up with an agency that touts being on schedule and budget, when in fact there’s been no sense of urgency and the standard bureaucratic approach to a once in a generation problem.  May the next mayor see fit to rebuilt this agency with some action oriented staff.

    • Sasquatch September 24, 2021 (4:58 pm)

      That is an accurate and thoughtful summary. In addition to everything you’ve pointed out, SDOT failed to successfully monitor the bridge for collapse. Had they been doing their job, we would’ve had plenty of advanced warning that the bridge needed to be closed for repairs and they would’ve had time to ramp up before actually closing the bridge. It would be laughable if it weren’t so scary. All of this would be much easier to swallow if they would simply admit that they totally screwed up and apologize.

    • Doug September 25, 2021 (4:39 am)


  • bfly September 24, 2021 (9:34 am)

    I for one really like that it only takes 15 minutes more in the morning to get to Tacoma as it takes to get to Seattle Center these days. It’s awesome!

  • S - in West Seattle September 24, 2021 (9:58 am)

    Less talk more working on opening the bridge. 

  • anonyme September 24, 2021 (11:02 am)

    Enough with the grandstanding and money-wasting carnival distractions such as “Flip Your Trip”.  Just get to work and do your job.

  • namercury September 24, 2021 (12:12 pm)

    The pace of design and construction and traffic management reflects the fact that SDOT will always do the bare minimum that they can get away with where motor vehicle traffic is concerned.  I’m a civil engineer and am firmly convinced design and construction could be much faster.  The problems are bridge issues where engineering has a great amount of experience.  Also, I agree with Kenneth Wilson, the engineer running for Position 8 on the City council, the bridge could be safely opened to one lane of car traffic each way.  The load on the bridge for cars is virtually insignificant compared to the design load  for several lanes of trucks and buses.   

    • Fauntleroy September 24, 2021 (3:02 pm)

      Bump 1+. Inept leadership.  How many speed bumps,  detours, radar signs, traffic signal changes have we seen.  They could have taken off the “diet “ for 35 th and Roxbury so things could actually move and stop the single sitting.  People peel off because of this and clog the neighborhoods.  Nice job.  So we all sit behind the obnoxious Prius in front of us waiting eternity for the light to change only to get 3 cars thru.   The city is great at managing traffic for the damn Seahawks game but not for people’s basic travel needs.  There are so many empty buses clogging the streets too. Come on 1.5 years and they are still negotiating a repair contract?

  • Jimmy September 24, 2021 (12:41 pm)

    I hope SDOT is negotiating 24/7 work activities with the contractor. Nothing less will suffice. This is a community, business, climate, access and safety emergency. Sense of urgency required.

  • Railroaded September 25, 2021 (4:57 am)

    Looks like some good progress. Nice!

  • Incompetence September 25, 2021 (2:17 pm)

    The delays and failure to take decisive action is at this point incomparable. As someone who believes in the role of government in our lives, it has been frustrating, extremely disappointing, and borderline offensive to witness the inaction and indifference toward a huge portion of Seattle citizens. 

  • Mj September 25, 2021 (5:09 pm)

    By chance anyone look down at WMW while up on the bridge?  If they did they would see the adverse impact of the closure with a birds view!

    • bolo September 26, 2021 (11:36 pm)

      Yes quite often. During popular times the lines of idling vehicles stretches as far as the eye can see. I really do feel sorry for those that are forced into that situation.

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