By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
A big part of the role of West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force members is to serve as community liaisons to circulate information to and from fellow community members. When the CTF met online today, one member explained all she’s hearing from everyone with whom she talks is “When? When? When?” regarding a bridge-reopening date.
No date yet. But today’s meeting had a definite “light at the end of the tunnel” – well, bridge – mood.
BRIDGE UPDATES: SDOT’s Heather Marx recapped what’s happening now with repairs, including the first two deliveries of specialized structural concrete Saturday and Wednesday.
The nesting pair of peregrine falcons on the bridge have required coordination with the state and creation of a “falcon management plan,” just approved today, less than a week after the nesting birds were found.
They’re above Pier 15, on the west side of the bridge, she said. (In Q&A, she said the chicks are expected to hatch in June.) Because of the birds, crews have to make “some changes” in how they’re working but will, Marx added, be able to continue working. Here’s the overall status report:
Now – here’s what’s affecting the schedule as they approach reopening, and what else will be done before it happens:
More concrete is expected next week, but Marx repeated what she’s said before – they can’t reassess the schedule until “the last pour” – next week will be the third, of six that are needed. They expect to set the reopening date a month in advance – maybe a bit less, she said. But she cautioned strongly against trying to guess or estimate the date before there’s an announcement.
Asked for more details on pours, she said they’ve divided the bridge into six sections and estimate they need one pour per section – first pour, for example, was about 35 cubic yards. The timing is uncertain because concrete plants aren’t back up to full capacity. If they could get concrete faster, is waiting required between pours? she was asked. In short, no. But they have to ensure all the concrete will have at least 28 days to cure.
Later, responding to a question, Marx said the bridge project not only is on budget, but is likely to come in under budget. The budget was a “conservative” estimate. So what happens to any unspent money? asked West Seattle/South Park City Councilmember Lisa Herbold. Marx replied she expects “good-faith conversations with the council” will ensue – “there are plenty of other bridges in this town that could use whatever’s left over.”
Besides the to-do list for reopening, there’s also the to-undo list. That was mentioned briefly at a previous meeting and Marx went into details at this one:
Most of what’s been done, though, is permanent – radar speed signs, speed humps, etc. Now for the big picture on that:
RECONNECT WEST SEATTLE: SDOT’s Sara Zora recapped what was done in the first quarter; some work’s still ahead, like the Dumar/Orchard rapid-flashing beacon, which is now delayed until at least mid-June because they couldn’t get all needed utility partners to coordinate.
Data indicates the Home Zone projects have helped the side streets where they’ve been installed, Zora said:
They’re surveying neighbors in detour neighborhoods about whether to keep Stay Healthy Streets permanent, she said. Here’s what’s yet to come – note that some will start after the bridge reopens, such as the permanent signal at Highland Park Way/Holden:
DETOUR & LOW BRIDGE TRAFFIC: Data analyst Sam Marshall presented the numbers. Citywide, traffic is 30% below 2019 levels as of March – even more traffic is back on Saturday. In West Seattle, here’s how the detour routes are stacking up:
Here’s how the conditional use of the low bridge is going:
The low bridge remains “under thresholds” that would have required rolling back some access. But they’re not adding any new categories either.
SPEAKING OF THE LOW BRIDGE: Its maintenance/repair work is still set to start soon. Work platforms are being built off-site right now and are scheduled to be hoisted in May.
SDOT is working with the US Coast Guard to get “deviations” approved for the low bridge – maritime, not surface – while the hoisting happens. Epoxy injection and carbon-fiber wrapping will be done to the low bridge, as with the high bridge.
Earlier in the meeting:
TASK FORCE REFLECTIONS: CTF co-chair Paulina López facilitated this section toward the start of the meeting. CTF member Deb Barker said all she hears from community members is “When? When? When?” CTF member Anne Higuera of Ventana Construction (WSB sponsor) said a friend who works in SODO is reporting “excruciatingly long” commutes, while a client who takes the bus says theirs has been quicker than ever – the bus isn’t full and neither are the roads. WTF member Chris Mackay of the West Seattle Junction Association reminded everyone that
MOMENT OF SILENCE: The meeting started with a moment of silence for two people killed in traffic incidents in recent months – including what was described as a 64-year-old woman “killed while walking in Highland Park.” Our archives from that date don’t include a deadly incident; checking the 911 logs, we saw an evening medical callout at 2nd SW/Highland Park Way near the 1st Avenue South Bridge. We’re following up to try to find out more.
ONE MORE MEETING? CTF co-chair Greg Nickels expressed hopes are that the next meeting in early June (likely June 9th but could be a day earlier) will be the last one – assuming the bridge-reopening date is set by then – and would be celebratory more than anything else. The CTF, an advisory group, has met more than two dozen times since June 2020; here’s our coverage of the first meeting, at which the road ahead was seen as “a long journey,” as indeed it’s been.