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.