4:12 PM: Just announced by SDOT: The West Seattle Bridge is expected to reopen in September. From the written version of the announcement made during the Community Task Force meeting:
“We expect the West Seattle Bridge to be open to traffic during the week of September 12. Sharing that today is a relief since our focus has always been on safely getting everyone back on the bridge ASAP. It’s been hard having to wait for this update, but we did need to get through the concrete work to understand exactly where we were schedule-wise. Thank you for being so patient, Seattle,” SDOT Program Manager Heather Marx said.
The disruptions caused by the regional concrete strike have had an ongoing impact on the project schedule. SDOT’s construction contractor originally planned to begin pouring concrete at the beginning of the year, but ultimately had to wait until mid-April to start pouring the structural concrete, which is essential to strengthening the bridge. Today’s announced schedule shift is about equal in length to the extra time spent waiting for concrete to arrive.
During the concrete strike, SDOT adjusted the sequence of work activities to minimize delays and keep the project moving forward in other ways. Crews never stopped working to repair and strengthen the bridge, and continued working on epoxy injections and carbon fiber wrapping during the wait for concrete.
Specialized structural concrete is an essential part of the plan to strengthen the bridge. Crews finished pouring structural concrete on May 26, 2022 and it takes 28 days for the concrete to fully harden and become strong enough to hold the 20 million pounds of force associated with the new post-tensioning system. Crews are currently in the process of installing ducts and threading steel cables through the concrete blocks, but must wait for the concrete to finish hardening before they can tighten these cables to strengthen the bridge and prevent future cracking.
Since the final structural concrete pour was completed, SDOT has worked with the construction contractor to finalize the sequence of the remaining work. SDOT will continue to hold its construction contractor accountable to meet their updated timeframe. Remaining repairs for completion of the project require challenging and complex work. SDOT released a tentative schedule today in the interest of transparency, and stressed that a project of this scale may still encounter additional unforeseen challenges outside the City’s control. SDOT will continue to provide ongoing construction updates and notify the public if the schedule changes. …
Final repairs to the bridge include three key repair procedures: epoxy injections to fill cracks, carbon-fiber wrapping to add strength, and post-tensioning with steel cables to compress the concrete.
After the post-tensioning is complete, crews will complete a final round of epoxy crack injections and carbon-fiber wrapping. They will also complete other work to prepare the bridge for reopening to traffic. This work includes replacing expansion joints, restoring the road by closing crew access holes, replacing overhead signs, replacing concrete panels east of 35th Ave SW, installing a concrete overlay on the Fauntleroy Expressway, and removing detours and adjusting traffic signals in West Seattle.
If this timeline holds, the bridge will reopen after 2 1/2 years of closure, dating back to its shutdown – with only a few hours of advance notice to the public – on March 23, 2020. Three weeks later, SDOT warned the bridge wouldn’t reopen before 2022. Seven months after that, then-Mayor Jenny Durkan announced her decision to proceed with repairing rather than replacing the bridge. Stabilization work had already been done; one year after the mayor’s announcement, “final repairs” began.
Below, our continuing coverage of the Community Task Force meeting at which today’s announcement was made:
4:01 PM, MEETING BEGINS: Two years and two and a half months after the West Seattle Bridge‘s emergency closure began, its end may finally be in sight. We’re expecting news of a reopening date during the Community Task Force meeting that’s just under way – we’ll be chronicling the meeting live below this video window you can use to watch:
The meeting began with a mention of two traffic deaths in West Seattle and SODO last month. Task Force co-chair Greg Nickels then offered reflections, and thanks, noting it’s been two years since then-Mayor Jenny Durkan convened the advisory group. He talked about the group’s advocacy for ensuring people in need of life-saving medical treatment could use the low bridge – noting he and his wife Sharon Nickels needed that as she underwent months of cancer treatment.
SDOT interim director Kristen Simpson also offered gratitude to the CTF members.
4:11 PM: Bridge program director Heather Marx says the bridge
will is expected to reopen “the week of September 12th.” We’ve now added the written announcement above, but will continue chronicling the meeting here. She says “structural concrete curing,” epoxy injection, carbon-fiber wrapping, post-tensioning, and other work remains. “A precise date” is expected with one month’s notice, Marx says. She warns there are still risks to even that schedule.
4:17 PM: City Councilmember Lisa Herbold asks if there’s any way the bridge could open sooner – like, before school starts. Marx says the bridge crews “are already working 60 hours a week” so adding to that isn’t feasible, but they’re looking at other options. How’s the falcon nest doing? asks CTF member Deb Barker. Fine, says Marx.
Next, CTF member Dan Austin says he’s astonished (not in a good way) by the September date. Marx tries to explain that the delay, saying, “When I heard September, my heart sank.”
4:28 PM: CTF member Anne Higuera says this would still be in the third quarter, and she’s OK with that. Marx warns that “schedules are malleable” and “this might still be something of a roller-coaster in the next few months.” Then she goes into a recap of what’s been done so far and what’s yet to be done.
4:38 PM: Now on to the low bridge, which also has repair work planned. Some closures are anticipated, no dates yet. Marx also reiterated that low-bridge restrictions will be lifted once the high bridge reopens. She also discussed the sequencing of testing and finishing touches at the end of the process. “The bridge you’re getting back is going to be better,” she insisted. … What kind of monitoring is planned in the future? she was asked. “The bridge is (now) all wired up,” Marx noted, adding “it’s a little more expensive taking care of a repaired bridge than a new bridge” – more repainting will be needed, because some of the repair components are UV-sensitive, for example. That’ll require financial support for more bridge maintenance, it was noted.
4:51 PM: Co-chair Nickels notes that this remains the last scheduled meeting of the CTF, though the bridge won’t be reopening for (at least) three months – unless something major happens. He mentions there’ll be some kind of ribboncutting before it reopens (that would be separate from the celebration that a community coalition’s been planning). Co-chair Paulina López offers her reflections too, asking CTF members to share their thoughts on how their part of the process has gone.
5:06 PM: What ensued was more a round of thanks and acknowledgments, and now the meeting is over. Bottom line again: SDOT does not expect the bridge to reopen before “the week of September 12th.”
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