FOLLOWUP: Here’s what we saw atop the West Seattle Bridge after today’s briefing

A little over one hour after today’s “final repairs have begun” briefing about the West Seattle Bridge (WSB coverage here), SDOT allowed media crews onto the bridge to photograph the work. It was our third visit in three months. SDOT has been saying that the first work would include hydroblasting attachment points for the work platforms, and that’s what was happening this afternoon.

Before the actual blasting, workers were measuring and marking:

These workers are with Rampart Hydro Services, a Pennsylvania-based company that describes itself as “the world’s leading hydrodemolition firm.” Their work will be done before the platforms go up next month (we’ve asked SDOT for a more specific date). Much of the rest of the $45 million dollar repairs will subsequently be happening beneath and inside the bridge.

As we reported in our coverage of this morning’s briefing, the city and contractor Kraemer North America agreed to a “substantial completion” date of the end of June, and SDOT says completion of work would be followed by up to two weeks of testing before reopening the bridge to traffic.

P.S. Adding two notes – more explanation on the repair work is here; next public update will be during the Community Task Force meeting on December 9th.

26 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Here's what we saw atop the West Seattle Bridge after today's briefing"

  • Beto November 29, 2021 (10:35 pm)

    I truly hope that the repairs are long lasting as they have promised.  We need the bridge reopened with no further delays.

  • cantwait November 29, 2021 (10:43 pm)

    WSB – Can you ask SDOT for their latest contract with KNA?

    Also, never heard of testing a new bridge as a whole or even a bridge after repairs. Sure, the materials are tested and contractor’s work is verified (welding and torque inspections) but that occurs as the work is done and not all at the end. You wouldn’t want to get to the end and then discover a problem that could have been resolved at the beginning. The two-week testing period in this case is interesting.

    WSB – Can you ask SDOT what testing method(s) (ie ASTM) they plan to use after the repairs are substantially complete? Did SDOT develop their own testing protocol?

    • WSB November 29, 2021 (11:11 pm)

      Yes, we’re asking for the contract, as SDOT had previously acknowledged that once it was finalized “it’s a public document.”

    • hi west seattle November 30, 2021 (2:43 pm)

      two weeks of “testing” towards the end of construction may be commissioning: lighting, signals, monitors. Its possible to do load testing, I’d agree thats a little late to discover fatal flaws but maybe a performance measure since one option is to limit loading after reopening.

  • bolo November 30, 2021 (12:35 am)

    {These workers are with Rampart Hydro Services, a Pennsylvania-based company that describes itself as “the world’s leading hydrodemolition firm.” }

    Not impressed with their puffy self-description.

    They dropped a firehose-sized hose over the side of the bridge to drain or flush their system. Nearly whapped me in the head as I was riding below on the lower bridge, lucky to escape with just a little shower.

  • Jeepney November 30, 2021 (6:31 am)

    Would be great for that hydroblasting outfit to remove the red paint in one of the lanes so it can converted to a more efficient carpool lane.

    • Jort November 30, 2021 (9:15 am)

      Dream on. It’s going to be a transit lane and that will not be changing; deal with it. If you don’t like the traffic, stop driving and get on the bus.

      • D-burger November 30, 2021 (2:52 pm)

        Jort. All of your virtue signaling doesn’t change the fact that the bus is simply not an option for many bridge users, for a multitude of reasons you don’t need me to lay out for you. Add to that the fact that the bus lane merge on 99 creates such intense backups on the West Seattle bridge, that it negates the theoretical purpose of the 99 bus lane. The proof is in the pudding – when there was no bus lane on 99, traffic flowed freely across the bridge and onto 99. With a bus lane on 99, EVERYTHING slows down, including the buses, because of the pointless merge to the short bus lane. The short bus lane on 99 is useless; all it does is defeat Seattle’s progressive goals of pollution reduction and mass transit promotion with theoretically concurrent traffic reduction.  It actually INCREASES travel times and traffic backups. Stop living in the clouds of delusionment and start evaluating things rationally and compassionately, which is what progressives, such as you claim to be, should be doing.

        • mjc November 30, 2021 (9:47 pm)

          Back-ups happen regardless of bus activity. And, it seems they merge easily with traffic when headed north bound on 99 but many continue on east bound. The best approach to reducing back-ups are to share a ride, ride the bus, ride your bike (or electric one wheel) or leverage that work from home option. Buses reduce the load on the traffic far better than trying to add an HOV lane. The reality is there are far more single occupant vehicles crossing the bridge than two and three occupant cars. 

        • Jean Tracy December 4, 2021 (8:52 pm)

          Here here!

    • Matthew November 30, 2021 (9:16 am)

      Assuming this means removing the bus lane for a HOV lane, this would be LESS effective. Buses hold many more people than cars.I suggest we leave the few bit of bus lanes we have there. Two of Metros top 10 highest ridership routes (RapidRide C and 120 (converting to RapidRide H)) use the bridge. Let’s keep buses moving. 

    • AMD November 30, 2021 (10:53 am)

      You’re not wrong, an HOV lane would be helpful.  But it should replace a single-car lane, not the already-higher-capacity bus lane.  Honestly, 99 should be the same.  One HOV lane, one SOV lane, and a bus lane.

  • Sasquatch November 30, 2021 (7:03 am)

    If SDOT was aware of the cracks seven years ago – and the fact that this would eventually need to be fixed, why is it taking so long?

    • OneTimeCharley November 30, 2021 (8:32 am)

      Because the cracks discovered seven years ago were not a threat to the integrity of the bridge. Over time they grew until they were a threat to the integrity of the bridge. It is at that point that they closed the bridge. Closure before that point would have been an inefficient use of our infrastructure and would have most assuredly been met with anger that they closed the bridge unnecessarily. The complaints would say things like “if it was so bad then why did it take five years after the crack to actually close the bridge?” and “this is just a way for SDOT to expand their budget by prematurely closing bridges before the end of their useful life”. It never ends with the Monday morning quarterbacking around here.

      • Wseattleite November 30, 2021 (3:26 pm)

        The question is none of what you listed. The question is that if cracks were identified 7 years ago, why were they not dealt with under normal maintenance procedures negating the need for a closure? The question is not why did they not close the bridge earlier. It is amazing that people continue to excuse obvious ineptitude. 

        • OneTimeCharley November 30, 2021 (7:12 pm)

          Agreed. I should have been more specific. If, when the first cracks appeared seven years ago, we were to start the planning process for rebuild/repair, then everyone would ask why they were expending these resources since the bridge was operable, and well within all operating safety parameters. Also, it’s near impossible to determine repair versus replace when the problem is dynamic (versus static). That is why the bridge was stabilized, observed, then a decision was made based on what they found. Before the growing cracks made the bridge operationally problematic, it would have been impossible to determine how bad the cracks would eventually become, thusly impossible to plan a ‘best’ solution.

          • Mike December 1, 2021 (9:58 pm)

            So I guess we’re stuck with the “obvious reality” that this closure/assessment/repair process could not have reasonably been completed in less than 2+ years???  When entire hospitals, dams, and skyscrapers are completed faster? My vote is for chin-scratching to end and production to begin. 

    • Jeepney November 30, 2021 (10:14 am)

      My guess is that SDOT appropriated money for maintenance and upkeep elsewhere.  Our infrastructure is crumbling, particularly bridges.  This is only the beginning.

  • Pelicans November 30, 2021 (8:39 am)

    WSB – In all the meetings you’ve attended and all the communications you’ve had/reported on with the city and SDOT, has anyone said what, if anything, will be done differently once the bridge reopens?  Will they have weight restrictions on vehicles?  Will they keep the dedicated bus lane, which was mentioned early on as a possible contributing factor to the hastening of the bridge’s cracking? Will they take measures to try to mitigate other factors that led to the damage and the closure, to extend the lifespan of the span?  (Thank you for your wonderful coverage.)

    • WSB November 30, 2021 (11:06 am)

      They’re restoring it, not changing it. Some of the work that will be done now – the post-tensioning steel cable addition – *is* the mitigation of what they say caused the cracking – scroll to the “what went wrong?” slide in this story:

    • redfolder November 30, 2021 (10:52 pm)

      There were vehicle weight restrictions on the high bridge when it opened and at some point those restrictions were removed.  I can’t remember when the restrictions were removed but I know it was in the news (TV, newspaper).  It would be interesting to see if anyone knows where to find this info.  I have been trying to find but can’t.  I know it won’t change what happened, just feel the need to confirm my memory is not failing me.  SDOT keeps saying “Although designed to the standards of the time, the original design from the early 1980’s is the root of the problem”.  Did the original design include removing vehicle weight restrictions and adding an additional lane?

  • Rick November 30, 2021 (9:03 am)

    Because it’s Seattle.

  • AlkiBean November 30, 2021 (9:38 am)

    Does anyone wonder about all these holes they’re cutting into the road surface affecting its future integrity?  And the other night I hit a monster pothole on the upper Spokane St viaduct….hope they’re planning to fix all the cracks and holes by next June!!

    • CheeseWS777 November 30, 2021 (7:07 pm)

      Those exact potholes are going to seriously wreck sombody soon. Somthing needs to b done to fix b4 a driver dies

    • bill November 30, 2021 (8:23 pm)

      The viaduct is so new it is incredible that the pavement has deteriorated so much! This is the ideal time to rebuild it properly, using a contractor that understands drainage.

  • JohnW December 1, 2021 (2:57 pm)

    The real test will be after a few years of having 3 or 4 of those extended rebar carrying semis stuck daily in traffic on the bridge.  Add a hundred cars trying to go North on I-5 with them and you’ll have a normal weekday commute pre-covid.  

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