‘We’re still hoping to open in mid-2022,’ bridge-work director tells West Seattle Transportation Coalition

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Don’t lose hope yet about the West Seattle Bridge reopening schedule.

Though the city has issued dire warnings of delays resulting from the ongoing concrete-drivers strike, SDOT’s program director Heather Marx offered a little optimism at tonight’s monthly meeting of the West Seattle Transportation Coalition.

She and City Council Transportation and Public Utilities Committee chair Alex Pedersen were the spotlight guests at the WSTC’s online meeting:

WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE UPDATES: Marx did not have specifics on the status of the strike. (The two sides met with a mediator today; here’s the union’s just-posted recap; added Friday, here’s the companies’ recap.) But she started by recapping the strike’s effects on the bridge project (as originally reported here), and what the city is doing to try to work around concrete’s unavailability as much as it can.

“We’re continuing to prioritize other (parts) of the work (but) there is a point where we can’t go any further without the concrete,” she stressed. They’re changed the way they’re staging the forms that are awaiting concrete so that once it’s ready, they’ll be ready. She reiterated that the project needs 245 yards of a specialized concrete mix, “more flowable and self-compacting.”

But though last Sunday was the date by which the city said concrete had to be available for the work to stay on schedule, “We’re still hoping to open in mid-2022,” Marx said. “We will know more about that date with precision after we have our last concrete pour.”

To continue working while awaiting concrete, the contractor is ready to move up some of the low-bridge work, too.

“Our initial intention had been to focus all our attention and time on the high bridge,” said Marx. Meantime, they’re also still looking ahead to post-repairs – planning to evaluate the Reconnect West Seattle projects (traffic-calming, commuting alternatives, etc.), for example.

Marx also recapped how low-bridge access is going, noting that some of the ILWU members cleared to use it are now using shuttles that launched with the opening of Terminal 5. So far truck usage is not leading to any need to change low-bridge access policies.

At the west end of the low bridge, she added, SDOT is evaluating the 5-way intersection for changes.

Lots of train-building has meant traffic trouble, so they’re “exploring ways to change access to that north leg so it doesn’t mess up the rest of everything.” The promised Quiet Zone to reduce train noise, meantime, is waiting until after the high bridge reopens; the 5-way work will be sort of a preface to that, but they’re “exploring options and talking to the folks it’s going to impact.”

In Q&A: Again, questions about how much the lack of concrete is pushing back the schedule, and again the answer: “We won’t know the true impact (on the schedule) until we’ve had that last pour.” The bridge does NOT have supply priority once the strike ends and concrete becomes available but “we’re working on that.” Marx insisted they are “working on many avenues to solve this problem,” in response to a question about why the city couldn’t make a temporary contract with some other supplier. But she said the city has a “longstanding policy to not use independent suppliers when there is a strike situation.”

WSTC’s Deb Barker asked about malfunctioning radar speed signs; WSTC’s Jon Wright suggested Find It Fix It and Marx seconded that.

CITY COUNCIL TRANSPORTATION CHAIR: Councilmember Alex Pedersen (whose district is in Northeast Seattle) made his first WSTC appearance. He didn’t have a presentation or speech – it was conducted as conversation/Q&A. Toward the start, he did volunteer his opinion that “SDOT has done an amazing job in responding to this (bridge) crisis.” Pedersen also reiterated that he’d like to see some of the new federal infrastructure funding go toward the city’s maintenance/repair needs. What about third-party funding for Sound Transit light rail (which some routing/station options, if tunneled, might require)? asked WSTC chair Michael Taylor-Judd. Pedersen said his position right now is that “we don’t need third-party funding” – he thinks ST should figure out how to fund what’s optimal for the area. But if third-party funding is eventually needed, “it could come from the private sector,” for one, he said, citing the example of station improvements that “large employers” might want for their workers. Overall, he says it’s still “to be determined” whether third-party funding is needed and where it might come from.

Another question was about coordination between the city and ST when it comes to the latter’s need for a new bridge to get light rail across the Duwamish River. The timelines for an eventual new West Seattle Bridge and for the ST bridge just don’t happen to be aligned, Pedersen noted. Why was the idea of a tunnel replacement for the bridge tossed out? Pedersen said he’s a fan of tunnels, especially when starting from scratch, but in this case, a tunnel replacement’s need for different connections might have made it too complicated.

WSTC’s Kate Wells asked about other priorities Pedersen has as transportation chair, beyond bridges. “We need to encourage people to get back on public transit,” he said, and added that watching transportation-related revenue is important – commercial parking tax revenue is down, for example. Fulfilling promises made under the Move Seattle levy is important before voters are asked to renew it in 2024, he said. The high approval percentage for the Transportation Benefit District was heartening, he said, and there might be an attempt to regionalize it and send it back to voters in 2024, earlier than planned. Pedestrian safety is another issue, with an “upset(ting) amount” of pedestrian deaths. And yes, light rail input, “to be sure they pick good routes” and design stations that are “smoothly integrated into the built environment” as well as accessible and usable.

What about speed limits – some people are trying to stick to the lower limits while others “fly around them”? Pedersen said he supports lower speed limits because that means people, if hit by a driver, are more likely to survive. Unfortunately “there’s more ability and room to speed” because of pandemic-reduced traffic. He also supports enforcement – not necessarily police, he said, but cameras can help.

In conclusion, he urged the group to keep advocating for bridge safety even after the West Seattle Bridge is reopened, and urged support for the proposal he and others (including West Seattle/South Park Councilmember Lisa Herbold) brought forward last year to sell bonds to raise money for some of the citywide work that’s needed.

NEXT MONTH: WSTC might change the date of its March meeting, which is planned as a workshop on how to review and comment on the light-rail Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which is open for commenting until April 28th. It might be hybrid in-person and online.

33 Replies to "'We're still hoping to open in mid-2022,' bridge-work director tells West Seattle Transportation Coalition"

  • Foop February 24, 2022 (10:01 pm)

    Thanks for your apathy, Mr Merlino! (And the other companies) Enjoy your lavish estate, built with lots of rocks dropped in the 90’s. Were they with permits? Maybe, maybe not.

    Oh, and according to communications from Lisa Herbold, the Teamsters are striking because you are not compliant with federal wage law? Is it too much to ask for you to comply with federal law?

    I’m sure if someone was doing the same to you, it would be no big deal? Thanks, Gary. You are a peach. So gross.

  • Jort February 24, 2022 (10:12 pm)

    Teamsters offered a one-year extension but the owners – of course – wouldn’t even entertain the thought of it. These greedy owners are hoping people in places like West Seattle get so angry about their car commutes that they pressure the city into crossing the picket line. Sadly, given the mental state of most car drivers about the stupid, stupid bridge, that is likely to be a winning strategy. How many “liberals” with “In this house we believe” signs will literally cross a picket line because they don’t like driving an extra 20 minutes for their trips to Costco? If they’re car drivers, I’m willing to be 100 percent of them. Driving/Car Brain is the only thing that universally bonds people across all political, racial, economic and regional backgrounds in this country. I am serious. There is 100 percent alignment across 99 percent of the population of this country on the unquestionable, absolute supremacy of the vehicle at any cost. People believe in their cars more than their own stated political beliefs.

    • Walker February 27, 2022 (7:53 am)

      We get it, you don’t like cars or the people who drive them. Such a wonderful neighbor to have.

  • Roms February 25, 2022 (6:48 am)

    City of Seattle, it’s time to change the “longstanding policy to not use independent suppliers when there is a strike situation.” It’s likely not a policy which is written down anywhere, so nothing prevents you to ignore it.

    • Reed February 25, 2022 (9:45 am)

      Being a decent human being forces you not to ignore it.

  • Eddie February 25, 2022 (7:59 am)

    I find it hard to imagine that the concrete supplier can’t come up with 30 truck loads of qualified management drivers (i.e. non-represented) for a civic project this critical.

  • Rocket February 25, 2022 (8:15 am)

    To all the pro scab pro make money off other people’s work crowd out there besmirching the teamsters for wanting to earn a fair living I hope you follow these negotiations and learn who the real problem is: the bosses.  The union offered two very reasonable proposals including dropping their main ask and getting back in the trucks ASAP while a long term contract is negotiated and they were flatly rejected.  If you side with the bosses you side with feckless greed.

    • Luke February 25, 2022 (8:58 am)

      I’m with you. Solidarity FOREVER. 

    • Roms February 25, 2022 (9:12 am)

      Define “fair living” and “reasonable proposals” please. These terms are highly contextual to who uses them, as can currently be seen. One side finds it reasonable, the other one not, so?

    • shotinthefoot February 25, 2022 (9:52 am)

      preach it, Rocket! 

    • My two cents February 25, 2022 (12:50 pm)

      Rocket – if you wish to promote a position, maybe lighten up on the vitriol …    “feckless greed”. If you would like to reply with more facts of the negotiation process I will gladly hear you out – otherwise this just comes across as another posting of someone’s opinion.

      • Ferns February 26, 2022 (3:23 pm)

        Uh, of course this is a posting of an “opinion”. These are opinion comments! And, I’m not sure where you were educated but “feckless greed” is a characterization that few would describe as vitriol. Critical but not nearly vitriolic. So Tone down your own opinion comments before you criticize others. 

  • East Coast Cynic February 25, 2022 (9:04 am)

    Maybe the Mayor and the City Council  (maybe even the Governor since this impacts necessary governmental projects) ought to sit down with the bosses.  Because this sounds like a strike that is going to go on indefinitely (and a WS high bridge that will not be completed for a very long time-next year) in the absence of the political class taking some proactive action to settle the strike.

  • flimflam February 25, 2022 (9:12 am)

    Cynical me thinks this concrete situation is a massive “win” for DOT – it was doubtful they’d get the bridge finished when originally stated anyway (just an opinion based on past performance) and now they have a convenient excuse!

  • Mj February 25, 2022 (9:23 am)

    Eddie – AGREED 

  • Boop February 25, 2022 (10:04 am)

    It’s time to put pressure on the management groups at these Companies to work with the Teamsters.  For those who are upset with the delays, don’t put all the blame on the workers who are just trying to be treated fairly.  Remember, these Companies don’t even want to negotiate!

    • wscommuter February 25, 2022 (11:28 am)

      Great idea!  Please explain now … how does one put “pressure on the management groups”?  I’m all ears.  

  • Dave February 25, 2022 (10:22 am)

    “Hope” is not an acceptable plan for project delivery — it’s certainly not a very professional response.  (Also, recall that SDOT hired a GC/CM contractor at a premium who was supposed to save time & money and improve the constructability — I think SDOT got rolled on that one.)

  • Denden February 25, 2022 (10:38 am)

    I’m with you. Solidarity FOREVER. 

  • Brian February 25, 2022 (12:07 pm)

    Solidarity with the workers. Forever and always. 

  • JVP February 25, 2022 (12:58 pm)

    I don’t know the facts to have an opinion about the strike one way or the other. But a brilliant PR move on the part of the striking drivers would be for them to agree to deliver the 9 loads for this project, and then get back to striking. They’d have all of W Seattle firmly behind them.

    • CAM February 25, 2022 (4:59 pm)

      See above. They’ve offered to continue working with some concessions while negotiating but management won’t discuss any concessions on their end. 

  • Nuclear Marc February 25, 2022 (1:27 pm)

    ‘Encourage’ mass transit use…?
    Read: continue the war on cars, add as many choke points as possible, turn roads into pedestrian parks, ‘calm’ traffic (as if transit moves faster) and believe that this is forward progress, somehow.
    Any chance we could improve mass transit so without dis-incentives, it could be more attractive to more citizens?

    • CAM February 25, 2022 (5:01 pm)

      Transit does move faster. Even prepandemic. Unless I was traveling at a very off peak time the bus would absolutely get me where I was going faster than sitting in my car in traffic would. And I could read a book and listen to music calmly and stress free with zero road rage while doing so. 

      • JS February 25, 2022 (7:57 pm)

        I highly doubt that. I commute from The Junction to near The Landing in Renton. It is a 2 hour commute, and that’s IF they don’t cancel a trip without notice. Metro Bus is completely unreliable and one of the worst transit systems I’ve ever had the misfortune of using; and I’m originally from NYC.  

        • CAM February 26, 2022 (7:45 am)

          So because your commute (to the suburbs) doesn’t match the statement means it’s untrue? There isn’t a reasonable person out there that doesn’t recognize that Metro needs more widespread service and to improve their network to cover a wider range of locations and be truly comprehensive. The point that is consistently made and ignored by anecdotal comments like yours is that there are many people for whom transit is the faster option, for whom it would be reliable, for whom it would take them where they need to get to, and who could easily use it during peak periods than actually do. Those are the people this is directed at. It is not a global remark that everyone’s commute is currently achievable by bus. 

  • 1994 February 25, 2022 (9:57 pm)

    “Fulfilling promises made under the Move Seattle levy is important before voters are asked to renew it in 2024, he said.” Renew the Move Seattle Levy? No! The SDoT have not MOVED Seattle and in fact have created many more ‘choke’ points to constrict traffic from flowing. No levy renewal.

    • CAM February 26, 2022 (7:48 am)

      It is called Move Seattle, not Move Cars. It is improving things for all people moving, using all modes of transportation, including those that are not motorized. It has not made things worse, it has made slight adjustments to attempt to level the playing field. 

      • FollowTheMoney February 26, 2022 (12:16 pm)

        Just registered my first car out of state (at my vacation home) and will transfer my other cars to there at a fraction of the cost I am paying here with much smoother roads and transportation options. The potholes in this city are horrendous and with the thousands of dollars we pay a year, we should have the smoothest roads in the world. There should be some serious questions asked of our politicians and transit boards as to where all this money is going and what we are actually getting. 

        • Brian February 26, 2022 (2:38 pm)

          It’s probably a good thing that the city isn’t legislating laws that convenience the caste of people who own vacation homes. 

        • Jethro Marx February 26, 2022 (2:44 pm)

          I’m trying to follow the money; do you mean we should wave goodbye to your tax money as you simultaneously skirt the law and call for investigating those who do so? Wild!

  • Hammer in Hand February 26, 2022 (12:01 am)

    How can Ms Marx say she has no specifics on the strike. In here roll as Project Director I would think she would be briefed daily. Policies are amended all the time for many different reasons. I would think that a critical component as it as been stated the highly sensitive mix of mama’s mix of concrete would rise to the level to amend the policy. The problem is lack of leadership, no one in SDOT has the balls to be a leader. Lead, follow, or get out of the way

    • WSB February 26, 2022 (6:20 pm)

      At the time of the meeting, 6:30 pm Thursday, I don’t know that the mediation session was even over, let alone that there’d been a chance for her or anyone at SDOT to be briefed on it. The Teamsters’ recap was posted just before I published this story at 9:48 pm (I’d been checking frequently); the companies’ recap wasn’t posted until the nect day.

Sorry, comment time is over.