VIDEO: West Seattle Bridge briefing as ‘final repairs’ begin

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.

62 Replies to "VIDEO: West Seattle Bridge briefing as 'final repairs' begin"

  • Mellow Kitty November 29, 2021 (11:08 am)

    I have significant doubts about the June 2022 opening date. I’m going to guess it will be more like December 2022 or early 2023.

    • Westwood November 29, 2021 (1:24 pm)

      Based on what exactly…your feelings?

      • Mellow Kitty November 29, 2021 (2:26 pm)

        No. Based on the history of road projects in Washington consistently missing projected finish dates and being significantly over budget. 

      • Adam November 29, 2021 (2:52 pm)

        My guess is it’s based on history, regardless of YOUR feelings. Weird reaction to someone questioning something that happens time and again. I personally think they’re too up front and giddy about it to be unsure, I think it’ll happen. But I do get why others wouldn’t and unsure why you can’t. 

      • Brian November 29, 2021 (3:13 pm)

        It’s probably based on the observed reality in which we all live and exist. Only an absolute rube would take estimated dates from the city at face value. It’s 2021 and this is old hat by now. 

      • momosmom November 29, 2021 (7:40 pm)

        It’s sort of like the contractor saying your kitchen remodel will be finished in 3 weeks when it really gets done in 6 weeks!

  • Dave November 29, 2021 (11:26 am)

    Astounding press conference – kudos all around, but no sense of shame that it’s taken them 22 months to START to fix this EMERGENCY.The only relevant question is who Mayor Harrell will name to lead SDOT – hopefully bringing competency, urgency, and a sense of purpose to the agency.

    • Derek November 29, 2021 (11:55 am)

      Harrell won’t do anything different as he’s a Durkan protege and status quo of the past decade or so on council. Also does shoring and patching cracks and adding post tensioning not count as work to you?

    • Dierdre November 29, 2021 (12:13 pm)

      Is it pretty much a given that Harrell will replace Zimbabwe?

    • Jort November 29, 2021 (5:18 pm)

      Wrong. Having to sit longer in car traffic for those who choose to drive does not constitute an “emergency,” no matter how much it hurts people’s feelings. Also, the city is not going to send out people to screw around doing “work” on the bridge before they even know what work needed to be done. It’s called planning and design. Would you like somebody to show up to build your house from scratch with no plans, no engineering, no nothing? “Just start working so it makes me feel better!” 

      • Hammer in Hand November 29, 2021 (9:41 pm)

        It takes as long to get a building permit as it has to a get this bridge project started. I worrier about the additional 91 tons of added material weight I am waiting for the other foot to drop when they say they have to reduce a lane of traffic because of  the add weigh. This announcement will come much latter

      • Wseattleite November 29, 2021 (10:58 pm)

        Jort, the City declared it an emergency some time ago, even if it did not live up to your standards as such. All they are doing is putting in tensioning wires that were always designed to be in there, plus some standard concrete repair. This is not complex-for some of us. 

  • I. Ponder November 29, 2021 (11:41 am)

    I’m wondering if the post-tensioning cables are custom made for this project or if they’re an available stock material. Does SDOT have them now or are they as yet to be delivered? Affected by supply chain issues?

    • WSB November 29, 2021 (12:17 pm)

      Good question, will ask.

    • Rick November 30, 2021 (9:13 am)

      I get mine at McLendon’s.

  • CMB November 29, 2021 (11:48 am)

    Breaking news: SDOT puts road cones out on bridge. 

  • Jethro Marx November 29, 2021 (11:53 am)

    At the risk of fixating on a detail almost no one cares about, I feel it is important to note that “carbon-fiber polymer” is not a thing.  They might as well just call it special crystals in plastic.  It would be accurate to just call it a composite material, but that wouldn’t sound as cool I guess.  

    • CFRP November 29, 2021 (12:24 pm)

      carbon-fiber reinforced polymer is a thing – calling something “composite” is much more vague 

    • cjboffoli November 29, 2021 (12:40 pm)

      Well carbon fiber IS a polymer. And a quick Google search turns up numerous other sites on the internet (including in scholarly articles) using the term carbon fiber polymer. So it may just indeed be a thing. But they could call is Schmucker’s jelly for all I care so long as it will get the bridge reopened in seven months. 

      • Chris K November 29, 2021 (3:56 pm)

        I guess we’d have to expect traffic jams in that case ;)

        • Jethro Marx November 29, 2021 (9:36 pm)

          Excellent.  I will accept marmalade as a composite material.

    • WS Guy November 29, 2021 (12:41 pm)

      Carbon fibers embedded in a polymer matrix is most certainly a thing.  It is a composite material, but that term is too generic.  I mean, my jacket is made of a composite material but I wouldn’t use it to fix a bridge.

      • Jethro Marx November 29, 2021 (1:13 pm)

        I’d love to hear a more precise term for the composite they are talking about, and they probably mean some kind of carbon fiber combined with some kind of polymer.  But we can be sure it is not “carbon-fiber polymer” because polymer is polymeric and carbon ain’t, whether fiber or other form. And cjboffoli, while Google may concur, you are incorrect.  Scholars using the term have not studied long enough, I suppose, or have made the mistake of thinking the internet is a big textbook they can do “re-search” with.

        • zark00 November 29, 2021 (3:37 pm)

          It’s just Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymer – CFRP – used to repair and strengthen reinforced concrete structures.  The ‘Reinforced’ is dropped because it’s redundant to anyone familiar with the materials. It’s just plastic with carbon fiber in it.Carbon Fibre Reinforced Polymer – an overview | ScienceDirect TopicsIt’s also called simply ‘Carbon Fiber’ in many applications but it’s the same basic idea; carbon fiber for strength in some kind of plastic, polymer, resin, epoxy, whatever so it’s useable as a building material. 

  • Mel November 29, 2021 (12:07 pm)

    I feel like we were teased with good news. If I’m understanding correctly, the good news is that they’re on track to complete it by mid 2022 as promised? 

    • WSB November 29, 2021 (12:16 pm)

      The “good news” is that the work has actually started.

  • Come on November 29, 2021 (12:14 pm)

    You’re absolutely right.  Disgraceful.  I don’t think the same crew who allowed this to happen to the bridge should have been part of the repair.  Can’t wait for a new sdot. 

  • CarDriver November 29, 2021 (12:36 pm)

    Worldly people educate me and others. If this type of failure had happened anywhere else in the U S would it have taken as long to start, let alone finish?  Can SDOT hold their heads up that they’ve done a good job and moved as fast as humanly possible??

    • WS Guy November 29, 2021 (9:44 pm)

      I’d bet a box of donuts that the timing had more to do with the funding process than the timeline for the work.  Seattle does not have the money to replace (or repair) this bridge.  A broken bridge is a useful asset to shop around at the state and federal level for money, but not if you fix it right away.

      • WS Guy November 29, 2021 (10:00 pm)

        So for example the broken bridge might’ve been held up on purpose so that it could be funded under a Biden administration, rather than during a comparatively difficult (for Seattle) Trump administration.  The fact that it was broken and not fully funded as of early 2021 allowed Jayapal to put it into the $1.2 Trillion infrastructure bill last July.  If SDOT had plunged headlong into a repair they’d have had to foot the bill themselves somehow.  Slow rolling it via lengthy consulting and planning processes was very frustrating but the gamble paid off (to the tune of 19 million in Federal dollars).

        • bolo November 30, 2021 (1:05 am)

          Very Interresting. I remember that environment. 45 was outright calling our WA state governor a snake. No federal money for our part of the country if he could help it. Very vindictive times.

  • CarDriver November 29, 2021 (12:45 pm)

    WSB. Can you ask this question. Will SDOT commit to giving us an update-say late January with an updated completion date.  Or, will they only quote June 30th until opening date.

  • A-Red November 29, 2021 (12:58 pm)

    It’s sad that the educated commentarians on here a) think workers should have been rolling out the cement trucks and running steel cables in April 2020 without any analysis or planning, and b) don’t consider analysis or planning to be “work,” because (obviously!) it shouldn’t take much time for something simple like a failing bridge.Yeah, I’m glad they finally started working on the bridge too. 

  • Jeepney November 29, 2021 (1:09 pm)

    I would be willing bet it opens earlier than forecast , before 5/31/22.   It is easy to complain about the scheduling of repairs, but I think we are all fortunate it is reopening at all.

    • Friend O'Dinghus November 30, 2021 (1:07 am)

      Thank you Jeepney! It has been a grueling experience, we can all agree, but all things considered we as a community will be pretty lucky if this projection is the ultimate outcome.

  • Dave November 29, 2021 (1:32 pm)

    When the I-40 bridge across the Mississippi at Memphis developed a major crack in a steel girder last spring, the agency had a contractor on board, steel fabricated, and the bridge open to traffic in 10 WEEKS.  Working with steel is different for sure, but my point is that they moved  extremely quickly, rather than getting bogged down in permitting, agency reviews, task forces, surveys, etc.  It took SDOT 8 months just to stabilize the bridge so it didn’t end up in the river. Kudos, if any, should go to the Arkansas DOT –  go figure.

    • AlsoDave November 29, 2021 (6:18 pm)

      Translates to “I have no idea what I’m talking about, comparing a steel bridge on a federal highway to a concrete city bridge, so I will just yell about it.”

  • Roms November 29, 2021 (1:43 pm)

    In SDOT’s latest email titled “Mayor Durkan celebrates that final phase of West Seattle Bridge repairs is underway, keeping City on track to reopen the bridge in mid-2022”, there’s the following at the bottom: “SDOT and its construction contractor Kraemer North America agreed on a construction schedule that will complete repairs by mid-2022, pending any unforeseen issues due to extreme weather events, supply chain problems, worker shortages, or other unexpected conditions.” That’s a lot of “pending!”

    • WSB November 29, 2021 (2:05 pm)

      That’s the official news release, didn’t have time to link it here before leaving for photo op – Contracts are always full of caveats like that. Will be requesting the doc if it’s not already linked somewhere.

    • Trickycoolj November 29, 2021 (4:09 pm)

      Kudos to their Project Managers on both sides of the house for not hiding the major risks that could slide the date.  Project Management 101 inform your stakeholders (Mayor, citizens of West Seattle) of the potential risks to completion.  Frankly someone behind the scenes has been working their tail off making sure they could do things in parallel (design engineering of the fix while the stabilization project was in work) to try and improve the finish date.  

  • Blbl November 29, 2021 (1:46 pm)

    Worldly person, here. No. SDOT is incompetent and the handling of the bridge is an absolute disaster, from failing to maintain it in the first place to every day that has passed since its unbelievable closure.  It would be shocking if we haven’t been trained to accept such poor performance. 

    • Avid Bridge User November 29, 2021 (2:49 pm)

      SDOT’s insistence that no investigation needs to be done into 7 years of cracking with no warning until they close the bridge is a huge red flag. Coupled with cycling through 5 transportation directors in the same amount of time. I wanted to file FOIA requests for any documents related to the closing but they told me that wasn’t an option. There’s definitely a story.  

      • Roms November 29, 2021 (5:35 pm)

        “They told me that wasn’t an option.” ==> Who told you it wasn’t an option? Just submit your request (be very specific in it) and push hard. I did such a request to have the list of all the users authorized to use the low bridge several months ago and got it, even though SDOT initially told me they only had the plate numbers. When I placed the request is right before SDOT started communicating that no officials had access to the low bridge, so I guess it had some effect. (There was no known official on the list at that time. I saw many businesses, insurance agents who since then retired –hopefully their access is revoked–, etc.)

    • zark00 November 29, 2021 (3:45 pm)

      100% correct across the board. This is a complete and utter failure by SDOT and city leadership.

      • Sasquatch November 29, 2021 (6:01 pm)

        100% agree. SDOT is trying to cover up a major mistake on their part.

  • Mj November 29, 2021 (3:09 pm)

    A-Red – I presume you meant Concrete Trucks, cement is the binding agent that combines the aggregate, sand and water to make concrete!  

    • Gatewood Resident November 29, 2021 (7:50 pm)

      Did you learn this at concrete school

      • Jethro Marx November 29, 2021 (9:43 pm)

        Also a composite! 

    • A-Red November 30, 2021 (8:26 am)

      Are you telling me the Beverly Hillbillies had a concrete pond?

  • Lisa November 29, 2021 (3:22 pm)

    This is such good news and I am so grateful to all the unseen and unknown workers toiling away so I can drive on that amazing bridge again. Thank you!

  • wscommuter November 29, 2021 (3:40 pm)

    It’s interesting to read all the “experts” here pontificating with certitude.  I’m no expert, so I don’t know.  I allow for the possibility that SDOT has mismananged the bridge failure – that could certainly be true.  I also allow for the possibility that this was an extremely difficult and tenuous engineering problem that was not easily diagnosed and analyzed, and took the time it has taken for those reasons.  Again, I’m no expert.  I guess I should be grateful for all of the experts who generously post here with their criticisms and definitive opinions and who clearly know so much more than I do.  

    • onion November 29, 2021 (5:03 pm)

      Thank you, WSCommuter. As difficult as this situation has been, I prefer that the problem was thoroughly analyzed, that all options were explored, and that time was spent engineering the solution before the critical hands-on work began. And just to remind people, it appears that much or most of the actual work will take place inside the bridge. So I expect to hear or read complaints about no visible progress up to the day the bridge reopens.

  • Peter November 29, 2021 (5:13 pm)

    I just love the fact that almost all the commenters here know more about engineering and more about repairing bridges than SDOT. Who needs engineers? SDOT should just let WSB commenters make all decisions. 

    • Junction Wolverine November 29, 2021 (7:30 pm)

      Alas,The consequence of human nature and social media.  Best to all.  

    • Hammer in Hand November 30, 2021 (6:26 am)

      Oh if we had only been allow to. The bridge would have been by now and the traffic would be Flowing by know 

  • Mike November 29, 2021 (6:35 pm)

    The real question is, will they use vibranium or adamantium to strengthen it?

    • Kathleen November 29, 2021 (10:05 pm)

      You amused me. 

    • AvalonTom November 30, 2021 (7:41 am)

      I hear that unobtanium is the only option now due to the supply chain issues.

  • Kyle November 29, 2021 (9:29 pm)

    What about the maintenance and monitoring plan after the fix?! We don’t want another “sudden” closure due to inaction and lapse monitoring.

  • JJ November 29, 2021 (10:07 pm)

    I really appreciate the comments acknowledging all of the unseen toil and analysis that must have gone into/be going into this project. Crazy stuff happens sometimes. The fact of the matter is that SDOT was paying attention to this bridge and, when monitored cracks became concerning, SDOT made the extremely unpopular choice to shut it down. However, no one was injured or maimed. This is an incredibly complex situation for engineering and funding. Less than three years to fix? That doesn’t seem so unreasonable.While I hate that the bridge is closed, I am forever grateful that we didn’t have a catastrophic failure and loss of lives. 

  • AF12 November 30, 2021 (7:56 pm)

    Hope the new SDOT director designated by the new mayor is actually a “Transportation Engineer” and not an unban planner like the existing SDOT director; as he may not understand how transportation systems work.  He has installed enough costly “Bike Lanes” to satisfy 4% of small group of avid bikers that may commute to work!  Unprotected bike lanes are often what urban planners believe is the answer to everything related to an efficient multi-modal transportation system!

    • Jort December 1, 2021 (10:25 pm)

      How much do you think the city spends on paint for bike lanes vs the maintenance of hundreds of miles of roadways for cars? Seriously. Answer this. 

Sorry, comment time is over.