11:05 AM: Just under way, livestreaming above, the mayor and SDOT are announcing the start of “final repairs” on the West Seattle Bridge, 20 months after it was abruptly closed for safety concerns. We’ll be reporting today’s updates in two parts – first, this online briefing; second, what we see and learn when media crews are escorted onto the bridge in a few hours (some of the work is already visible via this city webcam). We’ll add notes from this briefing every few minutes.
11:11 PM: Mayor Jenny Durkan thanked the “residents and businesses of West Seattle” and the Duwamish Valley for enduring the bridgelessness. She said it’s “exciting” that “we are closer than ever to reopening the bridge.” She described the project as “on time and on budget.” $19 million in federal funds and $9 million in port funding are assisting in covering the cost. “We know how much impact this has,” she reiterates. She describes the work as “extensive,” adding 91 tons and 46 miles of steel cable, two football fields of carbon-fiber polymer, among other things, to the bridge, which she says will be restored “to as close to new as possible.”
SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe got into the details. He says steel cables (post-tensioning strands) will be installed throughout the bridge, which will be wrapped in carbon-fiber polymer, with cracks being injected with epoxy. And “while we have contractors on the bridge” they’ll do “major maintenance” including replacing expansion joints, repaving, and replacing signs. He also noted the low bridge is getting carbon-fiber wrap and epoxy injections too.
11:22 AM: They’re in Q&A now. We asked about the projected completion date in the now-finalized agreement. End of June 2022, said Zimbabwe. Are there incentives for finishing sooner? No, he said, partly because of federal rules.
Mike Lindblom of The Seattle Times asks why they didn’t just keep Kraemer North America, which also was the contractor for stabilization, on to continue with repairs, Zimbabwe says he doesn’t think that would have saved time – he says the process of designing the repairs and assembling the funding was done in parallel and would have still required time post-stabilization. He insists, “I don’t think we’ve lost any time in this.”
11:35 AM: We also asked whether the bridge is going to reopen a lane or two at a time in mid-2022 as had been suggested before. No, said Zimbabwe, they expect that when it reopens, they’ll reopen it fully – after a period of up to two weeks for “load testing” among other things, Zimbabwe was also asked about whether reopening the bridge partly, early, could have been possible. He said no – it needs this next round of repairs to be able to safely carry traffic. He also said the repairs are expected to restore the bridge to where it should have been at this point – 40 more years of life.
11:44 AM: The briefing is over but you should be able to view the video on instant playback above. Look for our separate report later on what’s actually happening on the bridge now (among the work, Zimbabwe said, is hydroblasting to prepare for the new work platforms to be hoisted).
2:41 PM: Back from the bridge, separate story later. The city’s post about today’s announcement, includes quotes from elected officials and others who were on the call but didn’t speak, is here.