‘We are almost there’: As repair work nears, West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force gets updates

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Repair work to reopen the 19-months-closed West Seattle Bridge is now just weeks from starting.

That’s part of what the bridge’s Community Task Force heard during its monthly meeting, held online Thursday evening. Here’s how it unfolded:

BRIDGE-TOUR THOUGHTS: Since the advisory group’s last meeting, members had been invited to tour the bridge – in visits similar to the media tour we covered last month – and CTF co-chair Paulina López of the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition invited members to offer their thoughts.

(SDOT photos)

Deb Barker of the West Seattle Transportation Coalition and Morgan Community Association said, “I thought I had looked at so many bridge pictures and understood exactly what was going on … (but) my mind is still exploding” with what she learned on the tour. She toured with a group including port reps and an Eastern Washington legislators (SDOT said that was State Sen. Curtis King, ranking member of the Transportation Committee). What startled her. during the tour: “The extent of the floor cracking that preceded the wall cracking.” SODO business rep Erin Goodman said “it felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” She was impressed by the monitoring in place to track the cracks. “These things are tiny and yet they have the ability to stop a bridge.” Colleen Desmond from Highland Park recalled SDOT’s roadway-structures director Matt Donahue explaining “this could have been a different story” but instead was really a “safety-success story.” Dan Austin from the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce said the small cracks were really eye-opening and helped him realize it was an “impressively bad” situation to which photography hasn’t done justice.

BRIDGE UPDATE: SDOT’s program director Heather Marx led off. She noted the $9 million deal with the Port of Seattle (here’s our report on that and what the port gets in return for its contribution to the repair cost). The repair contractor (Kraemer North America) is currently advertising for subcontractors to help prepare, among other things:

Here’s the newest timeline, with construction beginning in late November. “You guys, we are ALMOST THERE,” exulted Marx.

The low-bridge work won’t start until mid-first quarter. Here’s what that work will entail:

Preparations for the low-bridge work will affect maritime operations on dates in November and December, but vehicle traffic will NOT be interrupted, Marx said:

Asked whether the supply-chain problems will affect materials for the high bridge, Marx said that’s possible, but so far not expected. “We are talking (frequently) with our designers and contractors and they are having those conversations with their suppliers.”

That ended the bridge briefing, and it was on to other topics.

MOMENT OF SILENCE: Marx led this in memory of three people killed in Seattle collisions in the past few months, including Michael Hobbs, the pedestrian hit in August while crossing California on the south end of The Junction (his injuries were not described at the time as life-threatening, but he died a week and a half later).

TRAFFIC DATA: SDOT’s Trevor Partap brought data. He showed that traffic citywide is still below pre-pandemic levels:

Bus and Water Taxi ridership is up over last year.

Comparing traffic/collision data for three detour routes – 35th is down in volume and crashes, West Marginal is up in volume and crashes, Roxbury is higher volume but fewer crashes. The data reflects police reports – so please report crashes to SPD so they’ll be on SDOT’s radar too.

RECONNECT WEST SEATTLE: SDOT’s Sara Zora said they have completed 50 of the 70 planned projects and continues working on Duwamish Longhouse interim signal/crossing work, which should be done in mid-November (work will continue this weekend).

Recent accomplishments included 8th/Roxbury turn signal. They also had a “bucket” of community-requested projects, with some accomplished. Here’s what’s coming up:

Barker asked about money for enforcement in areas like Fauntleroy, as discussed in a community meeting this past Tuesday night (here’s our report); Marx said there’s no amount of money that would help because police don’t have the people (although SPD apparently did some spot enforcement the day after the meeting). Marx noted that drivers tend to get less careful when they get closer to home and invited people to be more careful. Zora said they’re still talking about “engineering changes” to help in Fauntleroy. City Councilmember Lisa Herbold noted that even police support that idea.

LOW-BRIDGE ACCESS: We reported separately last night on word of a crackdown on a particular category of cheaters. Meantime, here are the latest stats on authorized users:

NEXT MEETING: Noon on Wednesday, November 10th – watch here for the link. If you have questions in the interim, westseattlebridge@seattle.gov is where to send them. (All our bridge-closure-related coverage is archived here, newest to oldest.)

15 Replies to "'We are almost there': As repair work nears, West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force gets updates"

  • Al King October 16, 2021 (7:10 am)

    Reading here how “bad” the low bridge was before closure highlights  how NEGLIGENT sdot is. It’s CLEAR they were NOT DOING ANY inspections/preventative maintenance on the bridge!! The cracks didn’t “suddenly appear out of nowhere” NOBODY was paying attention. Wringing their hands over “cheater” drivers is simply an attempt to divert attention from their failures.

    • Ron Swanson October 16, 2021 (9:35 am)

      Al, you should really read some of WSB’s previous (excellent) coverage of the bridge before throwing around accusations. SDOT was aware of the cracks and monitoring them – all concrete structures have some cracking, that’s the nature of the beast. 

      They went from small creeping cracks to quickly expanding ones that endangered the ability of the structure to carry even its own weight over a very short time span, thus the closure.

      To the extent anything was “NEGLIGENT” it was not putting enough post-tensioning cable in the bridge to begin with, but this sort of design decision was not as well understood or able to be computer modeled in the early 1980s.

      • waughtown October 16, 2021 (11:22 am)

        The City of Seattle and SDOT are negligent.  The bridge was built with space allocated for future post tensioning to be added if the need arose.  I highly doubt the builders expected future generations to watch it crack to the verge of collapse before adding additional post tensioning.  Furthermore, the stuck bearing has played a significant role.  It was also neglected for far too long.  It’s not a secret that city leadership has placed bridge maintenance near the bottom of the priority list.  They continue to do so.

    • Brenda October 16, 2021 (11:59 am)

      Exactly!!!! I agree Al!

    • Wseattleite October 16, 2021 (12:00 pm)

      Totally agree that all of the uproar over someone taking a faster route than another being a total distraction from the mishandling of this bridge repair. I am not sure why some people constantly apologize and make excuses for the pace of repair, but as someone who has been involved with many fast tracked civil projects, I can attest that the pace of response in no way aligns with a declared emergency. 

  • Chemist October 16, 2021 (1:36 pm)

    I’m not sure you’re getting a very complete view of the crashes and traffic volume along detours if you’re not getting Sylvan Way data.  I understand not having Delridge due to all the reconstruction and maybe there’s a feeling that California is too “distant” but a lot of us who live West of California aren’t going all the way down to Roxbury to detour.

  • Tsenre45 October 16, 2021 (3:28 pm)

    Cracking is the “nature of the beast”, but SDOT was aware of the potential of the cracking in 2013 when they hired HDR to conduct an inspection, write a report, and make recomendations.  HDR recomended that aditional post tensioning be added to the extra PT ducts that were installed in the girders when they were built if the cracking grew. This inspection, report, and the recomendations were made in 2013 & 2014.  The fact that the additional post tensioning strands were not added when the monitoring showed that the cracks were growing makes SDOT negligent in my opinion.   

    • Chemist October 16, 2021 (7:01 pm)

      Even before the cracking, there was the Nisqually quake that made our state and local governments go through all sorts of disaster plans and earthquake retrofits over the decades.  Is this really what the plan for “if the west seattle high bridge fails in a quake” was?  If anything, I think SDOT has been restriping to fewer lanes along major arterial detours since the quake instead of making decades of strategic investments to upgrade potential capacity along the detour routes we’re forced to use now. 

  • Al King October 16, 2021 (6:50 pm)

    Ron Swanson. I’m not an engineer but sorry, can’t believe for a second that “small” cracks can go from safe for cars to use the bridge to “it will fall down any second” overnight.  If anybody thinks SDOT wasn’t asleep at the wheel i’ve got a bridge i’ll sell you.

    • S.A. October 17, 2021 (1:22 pm)

      You really should have stopped at “I’m not an engineer.”

  • Lee K October 17, 2021 (9:04 am)

    What confuses me is that the city has chosen a contractor before final design but the timeline includes contractor negotiations… It seems to me that the contractor will have the upper hand in any negotiations at this point. What am I missing?

    • Michael October 17, 2021 (11:39 am)

      It’s not unusual for a construction project to have contactor bidding and selection before design is completely finished. 

  • Al King October 17, 2021 (1:52 pm)

    S.A. Why’s that?? Guess you believe SDOT’s engineers have been on top of things and have done a perfect job here?? Educate us as to why.

    • Stupid in Seattle October 17, 2021 (8:46 pm)

      Every report out by SDOT screams of malfeasance and negligence.  The new Mayor should fire every manager in SDOT – both for incompetence to maintaining city infrastructure and for indifference to repairing it in a timely manner.

    • S.A. October 18, 2021 (6:52 pm)

      You should have stopped at “I’m not an engineer” because… you’re not an engineer. You have no knowledge basis on which to evaluate whether it’s feasible or not for cracks to develop in the way the ones in the WSB supposedly have.  You are angry and indulging in flights of fancy and armchair quarterbacking, as are most of the other comments here announcing what the timeline for repairs “should” be or whether it “should” be able to go faster. Something can be frustrating without it being negligent, implausible, or evidence of a coverup.  The technical knowledge it takes to have an informed perspective on this situation is vast and deep, and it’s honestly kind of embarrassing to see so many people insist they know better how this thing should be run.  

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