WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE: One month away from two years of closure

(SDOT camera image, during Tuesday morning’s snow)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

One month from today – on March 23rd – the West Seattle Bridge closure will mark its second anniversary. Yesterday, as noted in our morning traffic watch, marked 700 days since the shutdown.

Also, it’s been exactly two weeks since Mayor Bruce Harrell said the ongoing concrete-drivers strike would delay the reopening if it weren’t resolved by February 20th. We’re now three days past that date. Not only is there no sign of a resolution, there’s not even a hint of progress; the most recent development involved the employers taking the strikers to court to try to limit picketing, while the strikers sent a letter “demanding to return to negotiations immediately.”

So where does all this leave the schedule for reopening the bridge? Even before this, no exact date had ever been announced. The contract between the city and repair contractor Kraemer North America set a “substantial completion” deadline of June 30th, so the city has long said it expected reopening in “mid-year 2022.” SDOT won’t say whether each day without concrete is an added day past midyear; when we checked in with them at the end of last week, a department spokesperson said they “are still monitoring the situation and continuing to advance other work to keep the overall project moving forward.” Last week, for example, some of the tangential maintenance work – like removing the Jersey barriers for replacement – was under way. This week, according to the most-recent weekly update, crews planned to “continue assembling scaffolding on the east work platforms so we can begin exterior epoxy crack injection and carbon-fiber wrapping on that side of the bridge.”

SDOT reports to the mayor, so we asked if he’s doing anything further to try to avoid further delays. Here’s the response we received last night from spokesperson Jamie Housen:

Mayor Harrell recognizes how crucial restoration of the West Seattle Bridge is for the neighborhood’s — and entire City’s — transportation needs and quality of life.

The mayor has continued to advocate to both sides to come back to the bargaining table so they can reach a fair agreement and end the work stoppage. That includes offering City Hall as a place to meet (during his State of the City address).

We are looking at alternatives and further workarounds. The biggest issue is logistical in that specialized reinforced concrete blocks and structures must be poured on-site to hold new steel cables, which are essential to strengthen the bridge. Concrete drivers from other counties are honoring the local strike and are unavailable. Concrete is meant to be mixed locally because of the nature of the product. It can only be in the truck for about 90 minutes before it starts to lose strength. Concrete isn’t available within a few hours’ travel time from the bridge construction site.

Meantime, public briefings about the bridge status are happening less frequently since the Community Task Force is only meeting every other month. The bridge contract requires weekly and monthly updates for SDOT from the contractor; even before the concrete-strike delay, we requested copies of those reports, and SDOT told us we had to go through the public-disclosure-request process (which takes weeks if not months). We may get some new information at tomorrow night’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting – the WSTC is scheduled to talk with Councilmember Alex Pedersen, who chairs the City Council’s Transportation Committee.

58 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE: One month away from two years of closure"

  • Flicka February 23, 2022 (4:45 pm)

    Could have been done before the strike even started but SDOT had NO desire or ability to do it EPIC failure 

  • Bugsy February 23, 2022 (5:03 pm)

    Thanks for posting on this, WSB. What an absolute disaster that the residents of WS are being held hostage in this labor dispute.  I am all for giving the workers what they want.  If the companies are being paid with public funds (which clearly they are) there are supposed to be strong wage protections in place.  Mayor Harrell needs to get MUCH more involved.  “Offering city hall as a place to meet” is way too small of a gesture.  He needs to hear from WS residents & get personally involved in resolving this strike. WS is the largest neighborhood of Seattle.  We are close to two years & counting. Further delays? It’s totally unacceptable.  Contact the mayor’s office if this makes you mad.  https://www.seattle.gov/mayor/contact 

  • Derrick February 23, 2022 (5:06 pm)

    Is a two year time line excessive for a repair of a major arterial? Are there examples of similarly scaled projects that we can look to as a reference for whether this project has been managed appropriately or not?

    • Bus February 23, 2022 (7:54 pm)

      Well, converting the 120 to the RapidRide H line is a much SMALLER project and that has taken, what, six years so far?  Maybe seven by the time it’s done? The Lander Street bridge took almost 3 years. Mercer is a major arterial and that work took almost 20 years. Honestly, the WSB repair seems downright fast when you start comparing it to other projects.

    • Ashley February 25, 2022 (12:13 pm)

      Minneapolis had a major highway bridge collapse in the university district. Collapse was during rush hours on 8/1/2007, construction co. was announced 9/19/2007, bridge re-opened 9/18/2008 (3 months ahead of schedule). I was there for all of this. It can definitely be accomplished. It was about the same size as I-5 collapsing by the U-District.

  • Buttercup February 23, 2022 (5:18 pm)

    I wonder how many of these striking people have complained about bridge closure, traffic times and unable to use lower bridge. I’m fortunate it had not affected me much , I feel sad for those people who have had to live with this, little sympathy for these drivers and their union.

    • rocket February 24, 2022 (4:11 am)

      So you sympathize with the bosses refusing to pay a fair wage and benefits?  Weird.

      • Buttercups February 24, 2022 (1:14 pm)

        No, expressing frustration on getting this bridge fixed, is the union using the bridge as a bargaining tool? I’m sure blame on both sides

        • Zark00 February 24, 2022 (3:10 pm)

          You couldn’t be more wrong. The employers have already lost FAR more money that the contract would have cost them. The sued to stop workers from picketing, and lost, badly. Theybrefused to negotiate and instead let it escalate to federal mediation in an attempt to bleed the workers until they give up. This is about crushing the American worker; nothing more. 

  • Name that shan't be spoken February 23, 2022 (5:40 pm)

    OK, so 6 local concrete companies are currently at a standstill, but there are plenty of concrete companies outside of the city, why can’t the needed concrete be sourced elsewhere??

    • West is best February 23, 2022 (9:01 pm)

      They mention this in the article – workers in neighboring counties are honoring the strike and won’t provide concrete + concrete needs to be mixed onsite and starts to harden after about 90 minutes, so it isn’t an option to source it from far away. 

    • Adam February 23, 2022 (9:02 pm)

      That’s addressed in the article. It must be prepared within a reasonable distance because it must be used within 90 minutes. There are no providers within range that aren’t part of or supporting this strike. 

  • Reed February 23, 2022 (5:40 pm)

    I will celebrate the anniversary by riding my bike to work over the low bridge, living my life without being chained to a car.

    • Zipda February 23, 2022 (8:03 pm)

      Some of like being chained to a car.

    • Adam February 23, 2022 (9:03 pm)

      I think of my truck as less of a chain and more of a heated raincoat. Enjoy the commute

    • Synodica February 23, 2022 (9:49 pm)

      All while revealing your sensitivity to others who have not or could not make the same choices as you.  Such classic Seattle superciliousness.

      • Kevin on Delridge February 24, 2022 (9:03 am)

        On the contrary, more people using bikes will make it easier for those who cannot. Ensuring multiple modes are available and safe makes it better for everyone.

  • Lucy February 23, 2022 (5:46 pm)

    The West Seattle Bridge should have been demolished on March 21, 2020. Hire the Army Corps of Engineers.  They can build bridges in foreign countries, why not our own?

    • Rick February 24, 2022 (9:23 am)

      The Romans built bridges still in use today. I know…but,but,but.

      • Zipda February 24, 2022 (3:48 pm)

        We really should have hired the Romans I’m thinking.

  • NW February 23, 2022 (6:06 pm)

    Are you familiar with the the bus routes in and out of West Seattle? You can take a bus from West Seattle all the way to the county line north on one bus. You can also take the bus from West Seattle to 1st hill Beacon Hill Capitol Hill Bellevue and not have to transfer busses. Transit doesn’t work for all but I believe a lot of you need to get more familiar and comfortable riding transit. We in West Seattle should be taking this opportunity with the bridge not functioning almost two years now and the pandemic becoming less severe to start carpooling. Remember how bad traffic was before the pandemic? I take the bus and the bridge being shut down has affected me however not as severe as some who I see in traffic along West Marginal Way as I cross the lower bridge into and out of WS.

    • The King February 23, 2022 (9:04 pm)

      It sounds like you ride the bus frequently. One word of advice, stay away from those pieces of foil you see all over the floor. Metro drivers have been complaining about this problem to deaf ears. 

      • rocket February 24, 2022 (4:13 am)

        Do you not wear shoes on the bus?  

        • shotinthefoot February 24, 2022 (8:33 am)

          The King means that people have been smoking meth and fentanyl on the busses. They’re blowing it in the driver’s face, and the faces of passengers. The little pieces of foil can have fentanyl residue, which even a small amount can kill you. I personally wouldn’t step foot on a metro bus right now until they get the open drug use under control. 

          • Rick February 24, 2022 (9:52 am)

            Ironic how you can smoke meth/fentanyl/crack/etc. but lite up a smoke and you’re in trouble. This city is upside down.

          • Rocket February 24, 2022 (6:17 pm)

            Thanks for the completely unnecessary explanation.  Me and my kids love riding the bus.  Hopefully we survive all the terrible things happening there.  It is awful to be stuck in the same place as the poors for a small amount of time but somehow we make it through. 

          • Roms February 24, 2022 (8:36 pm)

            Poor is not equal to drug addict, you know that, right? Addiction leads to poverty for sure. Anyway, that’s not what The King is saying. This week is too cold for me to ride by bicycle (I don’t do it below freezing temperatures), and today for example on the 21 towards Westwood Village there *actually was* a dude doing drugs in the bus. I’ve taken the bus 6 times this week, so that’s 17% of occurrence based on a very limited data set…

          • Beetlecat February 25, 2022 (8:06 pm)

            The dangers of small/residual amounts of fentanyl seems to be an alarmist urban legend. Yes, finding trash like this on the bus sucks, and our society is sick and full of lost, addicted people, but scare mongering doesn’t help either:https://www.statnews.com/2017/08/09/fentanyl-falling-ill/

    • carole February 23, 2022 (10:19 pm)

      How do you get north to the county line or over to Bellevue without transferring? The 50 will go to Beacon Hill and some points east of downtown and there’s the C that goes to South Lake Union, but the other West Seattle lines –  55, 56, 57 etc. all end downtown, the 128 goes in the direction of Burien, and you need to transfer to go anywhere else.  You even need to transfer to get up to Pill Hill to either Polyclinic Broadway or Madison. 

      • Rb February 24, 2022 (12:42 am)

        Correction, the 128 goes all the way to Southcenter Mall and the 60 from WV goes to pill hill. Also, the 560 goes to Bellevue 

        • Roms February 24, 2022 (6:35 am)

          And the 560, on its way to Bellevue, stops by the airport. So convenient!

          • carole February 24, 2022 (8:39 am)

            The closest the 560 comes to West Seattle is Westwood Village,  hence a transfer via the buses that run from  elsewhere in WS to WV is required. The original post on this posited NO TRANSFERS. Simply doesn’t work if you’re starting from the main WS point, which is the Alaska Junction. Also, the 560 is not part of KCMetro and its schedule is not found there. Easier to get downtown via many bus routes and grab light rail to the airport.

          • Roms February 24, 2022 (8:31 pm)

            At some point, people gotta make a little effort: Transferring from one bus to another is not that difficult… Which then leaves plenty of options to catch the 560 in WV. Also, there’s something which is called Google where, if someone types “560 West Seattle” in it, they will find directly the page to Sound Transit… Oh, wait, there’s even several apps helping with that, like Transit. Oh, and even Google Maps. Mind blown! But, in the end, yes, it’s difficult to commute by bus for those who seek criteria that are unrealistic and tailored specifically to self-justify themselves (is that what’s called “entitlement?”).

    • NW February 24, 2022 (5:35 pm)

      Ok so maybe you do have to walk a bit to catch some of the buses I mentioned or transfer ride bike. Doesn’t anyone out there know about the route that runs from west seattle and beyond north to 145th and into shoreline?

      I am aware of the west seattle transportation group but I
      believe we would benefit from a west seattle transit group. We could meet at the layover for the 50 have a monthly meeting there over coffee and tea. Field trips too!

  • ColumbiaChris February 23, 2022 (6:06 pm)

    Trying and failing to hire scabs is exactly the gutless response I would have predicted from the Harrell administration.

    • My twi cents February 23, 2022 (8:10 pm)

      ColumbiaChris – what is YOUR solution? I read the statement from Harrell as attempting to cover the available options – even if they were non-starters such as bringing concrete from beyond the immediate area. 

      • Brian February 23, 2022 (8:41 pm)

        The solution is to honor the labor contract and pay people what they’re worth. It’s not hard. 

        • Roms February 24, 2022 (6:38 am)

          How much are they worth? It looks like employers seem they are worth more than in the currently expired contract, but not as much as the strikers ask for. How do you define that value?

        • Roms February 24, 2022 (6:41 am)

          Define “fair wage.” Why is the proposal by the unions not “fair?”

    • Adam February 23, 2022 (9:14 pm)

      Well I say we pay the scabs prime rates plus emergency pay for getting us out of this mess. I also say we offer them competitive wages and benefits to retain their services since in my opinion we should hire and retain based on merit and passion for the job rather than being hijacked by terrorists. It’s hilarious that I’m painted as lacking empathy, yet their strike is extending the time we don’t have the bridge. This means gridlocked traffic affecting the environment, this means families incurring added travel costs to and from work in an already difficult time to pay bills and buy groceries, it means our local businesses suffer from continuing to not have the patronage of many outside of WSea since it takes a half hour to get here from most places within city limits (like many of the sponsors of this blog). But ok, point fingers and talk about selfishness and lacking empathy. I’d bet the total cost in dollars lost plus the environmental damage by stalling this work far outweighs the difference between what the employer will pay and the union wants.I’m not against things some unions may fight for, but I am against the idea that a group should be able to just force change they want by holding us hostage. We’re pawns in this fight simply because we need what they control. Sweet.

      • rocket February 24, 2022 (4:15 am)

        why would they pay scabs a bunch of money, why not just pay the people already able to do the job asking for a fair wage if you think they have money to hand out?

        • Adam February 24, 2022 (7:05 am)

          Well that is easy. Because scabs aren’t holding us hostage with demands. Scabs will come in today and pay what is currently being offered. I’m not against asking for more. I’m not against fighting for better living. I’m against them HOLDING US HOSTAGE. Geez, it’s as if you have to entirely align with an argument or there’s zero common ground with the way ppl debate these days. My stance has, more than anything, to do with this terrible approach where they expect all of us to have empathy for their situation, as if we aren’t all affected. I look at it as the residents of west Seattle as a whole have a greater total hardship than the drivers here, in this situation. But of course the way they’ll get there way is to hold us hostage and force the city to accept their demands, with us as their pawns. The residents are caught in the middle, they’re not the ones the drivers believe are shorting them pay. But what does that matter. It’s just the whole of west Seattle vs some drivers who DO GET PAID just not what they want.

          • k February 24, 2022 (7:47 am)

            Just for the record, the company is refusing to negotiate.  That is why the workers went on strike.  If the company would even show up to the table to talk, this wouldn’t even be happening.

          • Ivan Weiss February 24, 2022 (9:45 am)

            To me, it appears that some people around here have willfully blinded themselves to these companies who, through their out front and in the open collusion, are holding West Seattle hostage through their refusal to bargain. But of course it’s blame the unions first. Blame working people first, because business is sacrosanct, and never to be held responsible, much less blamed. Gary Merlino, who lives in a palatial mansion compound on Brace Point, is above criticism, and his motives are only pure. It’s those truck-driving rabble, who should be replaced by scabs, who are at fault. Right?

          • Zark00 February 24, 2022 (3:20 pm)

            Adam you need to read more about the strike, you have to completely backwards. The employers, the concrete companies, have already lost more money than the contract would have cost them. They are using the bridge delays and people like you to try to break the union. You should be enraged at the companies, yet you blame the workers. None of these workers wants amything more than the already agreed upon raise and for the companies to honor the past 2 years worth of negotiated contract changes they also already agreed to. The companies are trying to use the pandemic, the bridge, and the ignorance of people like you to bust a union. Are you pro America or pro concrete company?

          • Rocket February 24, 2022 (6:20 pm)

            Fortunately there aren’t any scabs to be found.  It seems you have really thought this through even though you don’t seem to know anything About the mechanics of the situation.  

          • Jort February 27, 2022 (10:20 pm)

            You have to drive an extra 10 or 15 minutes in your car. You are not being “held hostage.” 

  • wetone February 23, 2022 (7:56 pm)

    One more big failure from Seattle government and SDOT on the way this whole project was and is being handled. Should have had provisions to handle issues as this in contract and to the point if needed, putting their own portable batch plant up or going to one of the other plants still in operation. There is concrete still available within on hour of work site. I have little faith of SDOT improving these days with the constant director and management changes. Hopefully when repairs are done on HR they last longer than the pot hole patch jobs or Spokane st viaduct job that needs redone……….

  • DR February 24, 2022 (7:21 am)

    While not surprising this is disappointing all around.Thanks WSB for a well written post.

  • shotinthefoot February 24, 2022 (8:35 am)

    absolutely gross to see so many selfish people advocating for use of scabs and union busting just because you can’t drive over the bridge. 

  • T Rex February 24, 2022 (8:43 am)

    This is not the fault of the concrete workers. The bridge was not properly maintained, which is why it failed. then, the powers at be took their sweet a** time making a decision if it should be repaired or replaced. I supposed it is easier to blame the blue collar union workers for this fiasco than the white collar incompetent so called leaders that we have “running” this city. Seattle has become the laughing stock of the West Coast, congrats to us. We are more screwed up than San Francisco. And yet nothing will change. If you keep electing idiots, you get idiot results. 

    • johnny February 24, 2022 (12:45 pm)

      T-rex – couldn’t agree with you more.  I think you hit the nail on the head.

    • Rocket February 24, 2022 (6:22 pm)

      The only people who think Seattle is a laughing stock watch too much cable news and never actually go anywhere and learn anything about anything including here.  

  • Flo B February 24, 2022 (11:19 am)

    Adam must be a boss that only pay’s minimum wages and minimum benefits (if any).

  • Stephen February 24, 2022 (6:05 pm)

    The union would not miss a golden opportunity to use a project as big and as visible as this one as leverage.  Good for them?–maybe, but we all suffer as a consequence.  Imagine the public support the union might gain from letting this one project get completed.

    • Auntie February 24, 2022 (7:19 pm)

      And then another and another and then the greedy employer wins. These employers are making record profits and won’t even come to the table.

  • Stephen February 24, 2022 (10:23 pm)

    No, just Spokane Street.  It’s too important to too many people.

  • KT February 25, 2022 (3:21 pm)

    Does Harrell know where West Seattle is?  Could he actually find his way to the Junction all by himself?

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