By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
At 7 pm tonight, it’ll be exactly two years since the city’s emergency shutdown of the crack-plagued West Seattle Bridge, announced just hours before the closure took effect.
There’s still no date for its reopening, and the unavailability of concrete because of a months-long labor dispute has left the long-estimated “mid-2022” in question.
But there’s new hope today that concrete could be flowing soon, in the wake of Teamsters Local 174‘s recent announcement that some striking drivers were willing to return to work to get public projects moving again. SDOT spokesperson Ethan Bergerson tells WSB, “Our construction contractor is currently in the process of developing a contract with Cadman, and communicating with them about their ability to produce the specialized concrete required for the repair and ensure that it meets the necessary quality specifications.”
Concrete is needed for several aspects of the work but most critically, the added “post-tensioning” – strengthening via steel cables. SDOT says the work to prepare for this is being done now: “This includes drilling holes through the inner walls of the bridge for the post-tensioning strands to pass through, building and positioning forms for the various concrete components that will support and anchor the post-tensioning strands, and installing rebar for these components.” Once concrete is available, the post-tensioning cables themselves will be installed.
We asked what else is currently being done while awaiting concrete: “Right now, crews are focusing on epoxy crack injection and carbon-fiber wrap work at various points of both the bridge’s interior and exterior. This process involves cleaning concrete surfaces that contain cracks and using pumps to inject epoxy into the cracks. Once the epoxy cures, crews smooth the surface and apply carbon-fiber sheets injected with a similar compound.”
As explained when the project manager from the repair contractor, Kraemer North America, briefed the Community Task Force extensively in December (WSB coverage here), maintenance work is under way too. Bergerson says one key component of that involves the bridge’s expansion joints: “Over the past few weeks, we removed and cleaned older joints and are now installing new joints. Once concrete becomes available, we will finish the installation of the new joints that are currently ready for pouring.”
SDOT’s bridge-project director Heather Marx has said they can’t estimate a date for reopening until the concrete pours are happening, but as of her last public briefing, she was still hopeful “mid-2022” was in reach. On the occasion of the closure’s two-year anniversary, Marx tells WSB, “We haven’t missed a day of work on the West Seattle Bridge in the two years since it closed. This project is – and has been – Seattle’s number one transportation emergency and priority. I’m so thankful and appreciative of my West Seattle family, friends, and neighbors who weathered this closure with our team and me. And I’m grateful to folks in Highland Park, South Park, Delridge, and Georgetown who’ve been sharing their neighborhoods with detour traffic for so long. In the bingo game of challenging circumstances we’ve all been living through these past two years, I didn’t have ‘concrete strike’ on my board. We’re managing that with our contractor, and I’m looking forward to getting concrete soon. Right now, our primary focus is to keep moving forward on every inch of bridge repairs that we can. Only one type of repair system is waiting on concrete.”
All of our bridge-closure-related coverage since March 23, 2020 – 271 stories and counting – is archived here, newest to oldest.