WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE: ‘Major milestone’ just reached in repairs

(Added: SDOT photo)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

2:05 PM: The West Seattle Bridge is still on track to reopen in mid-September, and toward that, SDOT has just announced a “major milestone” in bridge repairs – the “post-tensioning” steel cables to strengthen the bridge have been tightened to 100 percent, and the bridge has reacted the way engineers’ calculations have predicted it should. We first learned this in a conversation just concluded with bridge project director Heather Marx, after requesting an interview for an update on the repair work. She says the milestone was reached over the weekend. It’s not the last significant part of the repair work – epoxy injection and carbon-fiber wrapping continues – but it’s a big one. The project remains on schedule for the bridge to reopen “the week of September 12th,” and Marx reiterates that when they have 30 days to go, they’ll announce a more specific date. More info – including other updates from our conversation – coming up.

ADDED 2:29 PM: A bit more technical explanation on the milestone – monitoring installed on the bridge include “instruments that tell us the shape of the bridge,” Marx explains, and engineers calculated what that shape should be when the post-tension is at 100 percent – so it was a big sigh of relief when they got to 100 percent and that shape is exactly what resulted. The tensioning is done with jacks that “pull (the steel cables) from both sides,” Marx explains. Email updates at the end of last week mentioned that they had reached 20 percent, and Marx says that was an important point along the way, to be sure it was going to work – “a quality-control moment.”

So what remains to be done to reopen the 28-months-closed bridge? After the aforementioned final epoxy injections and carbon-fiber wrapping – Phase 4, if you’re keeping track – the CFR has to cure, the work platforms will be removed, and load testing will happen – “running a truck at specific weight, specific speed, back and forth” on the bridge, along with other inspections. After all that, deck restoration – all those notches in the concrete for the work platforms, for example – and demobilization, getting the work crews and equipment off the bridge, will follow. (They’re already doing some concrete repairs now – 60 panels in the bridge deck are planned for replacement, and as of a week ago, Marx says, about 25 are completed.)

The fact they’ve passed the major milestone of full post-tensioning doesn’t mean it’s all coasting from here, Marx cautions – “at the end of the project, the (possibility) of something to go wrong unexpectedly stays at the same rate, so it’s an anxious time.” But aside from the concrete delay, they haven’t experienced any other major holdups lately, she said – there is a cement shortage right now but they’ve been able to work around it with suppliers.

We’d heard recently that SDOT was not giving permission for a run/walk/ride on the bridge, one of the ideas that a community coalition had been pursuing, so we asked about that. Marx said they just didn’t want to run the risk that an event would be planned and the bridge would be ready to open sooner but they’d have to hold the closure for an event – SDOT had long said that once it’s ready to open, they would not let anything delay it for a moment. So, we asked, is there a chance that you might announce at the 30-day point “the bridge will open September X’ and then discover as September X approaches that it’s ready to go a day (or more) earlier? Marx said that’s a possibility, but they expect the 30-days-notice date to be as precise as possible. But “the general vibe is (to open) as soon as the bridge is available.”

All this is not to say there won’t be some kind of event related to the reopening; Marx says SDOT is planning one to thank the community for what it’s endured. Free food that the city will buy from local restaurants, and she’ll be there helping serve it. It’s not a celebration of SDOT, she stresses, as they realize “the bridge is ours and it’s broken.”

We talked with Marx about the low-bridge work; more on that separately later.

53 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE: 'Major milestone' just reached in repairs"

  • Jeepney July 25, 2022 (2:34 pm)

    Thank you for the informative update, looking forward to our bridge reopening.

  • Blbl July 25, 2022 (2:42 pm)

    They don’t want to hold an event because what if the bridge is done sooner? Hahaha!! Hilarious! 

    • uo July 25, 2022 (4:49 pm)

      I choked on my beverage when I read that myself. Amazing.

  • ktrapp July 25, 2022 (2:50 pm)

    That reason not to allow a run/walk seems a bit suspect (not the reporting, but the SDOT explanation).  I get and appreciate the desire to open the bridge ASAP, but I think they could get away with an event, say the morning of Saturday, September 10th.  If they end up being able to open for the Friday, September 9th commute (or earlier), great, do it.  And then divert traffic to the low bridge the morning of the 10th for the festivities.  They’re acting like they’ve never closed down streets in Seattle for a road race before.  We’ve survived 2.5 years without the bridge.  They can afford to shut it down for 6 hours on a Saturday morning for us to celebrate on it.

    • KM July 25, 2022 (3:07 pm)

      Well said. Will likely be the only time we’ll get this opportunity in the next couple decades. Both the viaduct and 520 bridge events were memorable and the only time people could have that experience. 

    • Jay July 25, 2022 (3:07 pm)

      Yeah, it feels appropriate to have some sort of celebration and open it up for public access. This has been such a devastating event for the community and it would be good to have a celebration.

      • StupidinSeattle July 26, 2022 (12:18 pm)

        You know what?  Do the run and “party” across the low bridge.  Not willing to excuse any further delays in re-opening and using the high bridge.  Sorry.

    • Gatewood Gus July 25, 2022 (3:18 pm)

      Nice idea, but you can’t just “shut down the bridge for 6 hours” without additional work.  They would need to put barriers at every entrance and exit to prevent errant traffic from entering the roadway, and hire police officers to monitor.  As the elevated roadway is not designed for pedestrian use, there are no railings or safety mechanisms to prevent a catastrophe – likely requiring renting fencing for temporary install.  To account for this liability, a large insurance policy would be needed and signed waivers would be required for anyone on the bridge (similar to how you had to sign a waiver to participate in the Seafair run on the old viaduct).  Surely there are better ways to celebrate the bridge reopening that don’t require all the hassle and let it open sooner.

      • ktrapp July 25, 2022 (4:03 pm)

        Of course there’s additional work.  I’ve run on the viaduct, the 99 tunnel, heck pretty much all of 99 from Woodland Park to the stadiums, I-90, the I-5 express lanes, and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.  None of which were designed for pedestrian use, all required traffic diversions, and yes, as any participant in a run/walk can attest to, a liability waiver.  These are neither a major hassle or exceptional.Honestly, this is the only major road construction project that I can recall that DOESN’T have an event where pedestrians aren’t allowed on it first (or last).  This is very much the exception to what is the norm when a major road project is completed.

        • nwpolitico July 25, 2022 (5:25 pm)

          Major road projects are also typically planned well in advance. To my knowledge, there isn’t really a precedent locally for a fun run after an emergency closure. As this may be a precedent-setting case should (god forbid) other emergency closures happen to other Seattle bridges in the future, I think SDOT has the the appropriate response to opening the bridge as quickly as possible when safe to do so.

    • Chemist July 25, 2022 (3:18 pm)

      I’m happy that SDOT is going to hold the line on keeping the bridge closed to the general public until it’s open for all…. no special fun runs.  There are plenty of other major roads that runners can organize their routes for.  I suggest they close down the tunnel and run north along aurora into Ballard.  Maybe WSDOT will charge a bargain rate that makes up for lost toll revenue during the run.

      • KM July 25, 2022 (3:34 pm)

        Appreciate the irony of the “open for all” comment when 1/4 of this state’s residents do not even have drivers licenses!

        • nwpolitico July 25, 2022 (5:27 pm)

          All are able to ride the bus (which will no longer be subject to Low Bridge openings/closings!) and travel as a vehicle passenger. In that sense, the bridge is open to all, and a driver’s license is not needed to appreciate the benefits of opening it ASAP.

      • StuckInWestSeattle July 25, 2022 (3:48 pm)

        I agree. No delays for silly pr events. Open it up asap.

      • Reed July 25, 2022 (7:33 pm)

        Agree with you Chemist, no need for a celebration. I will celebrate by continuing to efficiently/quickly ride my bike or run to work each day, while others resume the good old days of sitting in terrible traffic on the bridge.

    • Jack July 26, 2022 (8:46 am)

      No celebration!!!!! Just open it!!

  • OpenUp July 25, 2022 (3:40 pm)

    Amazing that there is small group of people that want to walk or run on the bridge. Everybody else just wants to drive on it! Ready for it to be open. 

  • Abyk July 25, 2022 (3:44 pm)

    I agree we shouldn’t open it then close it for a day. BUT I think West Seattleites absolutely deserve a chance to celebrate and walk on it for a half day. at the 30 day mark if sept 10 opening is chosen, then set a tentative sept 9 date. If it ends up opening sooner or later just change the date even if it’s last minute. Just set peoples expectation that it may change. We are a community used to quickly changing enviros!!

  • Pam July 25, 2022 (4:02 pm)

    I hope it’s West Seattle restaurants they are planning to buy food from!

    • WSB July 25, 2022 (9:10 pm)

      Yes, that’s what Heather Marx said, and why I wrote “local” … when we refer to “local” here, it means peninsula-local.

  • RJ July 25, 2022 (4:24 pm)

    Maybe they could have a fun run down W Marginal Way and across the 1st Ave S bridge. Should be pretty quiet down there. 

    • SoCloseItHurts July 25, 2022 (7:57 pm)

      Ya, because the truck drivers haven’t suffered enough.  There are plenty of other road-closure inducing runs throughout the region.  I think we can leave the west seattle bridges and west marginal way alone.

      • 1994 July 25, 2022 (9:36 pm)

        There are plenty of other road-closure inducing runs throughout the region.” Ya mean like the safe streets that are ‘closed’ to non local traffic?

  • Bug July 25, 2022 (4:28 pm)

    I have another thought – why not celebrate the reopening with a day of service like One Seattle? I propose getting the weeding and pruning done that was needed long before the closure. 

  • JP July 25, 2022 (4:45 pm)

    If they are going to finish it on a Friday or Saturday, I can see them letting there be a celebration on it during a weekend day.  If they are finishing any other day, opening it up for a work day seems like the best option.

  • Still waiting July 25, 2022 (5:08 pm)

    The bridge would have been open by now if it weren’t for the concrete drivers strike.

    • shotinthefoot July 26, 2022 (8:15 am)

      The bridge would be open by now if certain companies (ahem, Gary Merlino, west seattle’s own) would have bargained in good faith with the unions. FTFY. 

    • Jack July 26, 2022 (8:47 am)

      The concrete companies paying low wages* you mean. 

  • Morgan July 25, 2022 (5:14 pm)

    Anybody else see duct tape in the image?

    • Cindi B July 25, 2022 (6:28 pm)

      Yes!  I was just going to ask about that!  OMG

    • Alkiholic July 25, 2022 (6:36 pm)

    • The King July 25, 2022 (6:51 pm)

      Lol. Once the supply chain gets us more the bridge will be ready 

    • finnhilton July 26, 2022 (4:24 am)

      Yes, I see it. Don’t underestimate the power of duck tape

      • Al July 27, 2022 (3:15 pm)

        Tape is indeed very literally holding the bridge together. In addition to the new steel cables and epoxy injections (epoxy is basically glue), they are doing carbon fiber wrapping —that means slapping fancy tape on the bridge. So our 3 part plan is new tension cables, plus glue and tape. And duct tape, apparently. 

  • Jethro Marx July 25, 2022 (5:26 pm)

    This is one of the more significant bridge updates we’ve had and we are arguing over fun runs- this is why West Seattle is great. Modeling the effect of the new cables and verifying that post-post-tensioning is really impressive engineering. Great photo too!

  • Chad July 25, 2022 (5:43 pm)

    By not having an event you aren’t missing much. When the bridge first closed, you could walk up there at will, before it was fenced off on Delridge.  Have walked the whole thing a few times, and it’s actually just depressing-nothing but industrial destruction in all directions.  You’re better off walking over any other bridge for city and Rainier views without the sadness and pollution that is in your face on the WS bridge.  Seriously, it made me sad to see it all from up there.  

  • Set my buses free! July 25, 2022 (5:46 pm)

    Personally I’m sick of my buses being stuck in low bridge traffic, as are my friends who bus into West Seattle. Closing the bridge again or delaying reopening for a run/walk in not justifiable, and the city is right to dismiss that silly idea. There are much more pleasant places to walk than a huge expanse of concrete in the summer sun. 

  • under the stars July 25, 2022 (7:14 pm)

    How about having it open for pedestrians the night before the opening for traffic, whenever that date is? Like 8-12am, or 10-2am? That way it doesn’t delay the opening for daytime car commuters, and those who really want to could get a chance to enjoy it and celebrate. Might be a nice view at night. People could walk, run, bike, or cop-a-squat on blanket under the stars.

  • My two cents July 25, 2022 (7:33 pm)

    Waiting for SkyLink rebuttal.

    • KM July 25, 2022 (8:51 pm)

      Literal lol.

    • Admiral Resident July 26, 2022 (3:57 pm)

      Congratulations on the one good comment ever posted on a WSB post about anything transit-related.

  • SoCloseItHurts July 25, 2022 (7:38 pm)

    Delay the opening of the bridge?  For ANYTHING?I’ve never heard such a ridiculous idea in my entire life. I bet you’re the type of person who cuts in line in traffic on Admiral/Delridge/West Marginal/Highland Park/1st Ave Bridge aren’t you? At the very least you obviously don’t commute off the island during the weekdays. Amateurs.  I’m not mad, just disappointed.  Very. . .very. . .very. . .disappointed.

  • TM7302 July 25, 2022 (7:48 pm)

    The only event I want to celebrate is driving over the bridge.  

  • H20K9 July 25, 2022 (8:54 pm)

    Any idea why this repair took longer than comparable structural  challenges in other cities ? It’s never been made  clear to me.

      • ACG July 25, 2022 (10:56 pm)

        It has its own Wikipedia page!?!  This made me cringe and chuckle simultaneously. 

    • bill July 26, 2022 (9:29 am)

      Other famous bridge failures have included spontaneous gravitational demolition of the deficient structure, averting the investigation of whether repair was feasible.

  • Jon Wright July 25, 2022 (10:44 pm)

    What do you consider examples of “comparable structural challenges in other cities”?

    • MyThruppence July 26, 2022 (7:52 am)

      Yes! This was my first thought as well. Let’s see the list of comparable cities you mention H20K9, so we can determine if any correlation is present. Thanks!

  • UncleTorvald July 26, 2022 (7:28 am)

    I just love the fact that the repairs involve the use of duct tape.  Where would we be without it?

  • T Rex July 26, 2022 (10:39 am)

    What in God’s name would we be celebrating? The fact that our city DID NOT maintain this bridge like it was suppose too ? Why? The celebration would be nothing but a photo op for every politician, the DOT heads and whomever else thinks they need to be seen; Lisa, Dow and all our others non-doers that operate this city .Seems like some of us have forgotten how angry we were when this happened. If I was a conspiracy theory person, I could look at this whole situation and find it really interesting that this happened right when the whole world stopped and no one could go to work. Perfect time to close a bridge? Hell if I know, but boy that would have been great timing if it were true.

    Open the damn bridge and let’s all pray that they did it right the first time.

  • Sara July 26, 2022 (2:34 pm)

    Has anyone else noticed the duct tape in the photo…Makes me slightly nervous!!! LOL!

  • BobBarker July 26, 2022 (2:36 pm)

    The bridge would be open 9 months ago if the City hadn’t put the project on pause.  Full stop. So glad to see that the shape of the bridge was what the engineers predicted after post tensioning.  The engineers weren’t that concerned about it, though, they’ve been watching the bridge “move and respond” through the repair just as they’ve predicted during this entire fiasco. They never needed to watch the bridge shrink and expand over the winter months.  That was all SDOT bullshit needed to stall the project to give time to push their ludicrous idea for a new bridge and to justify the expenditures for all their pet projects  put forward to respond to their self-made “emergency” bridge outage.  They have turned a problem that should/could have been proactively addressed with temporary closures 9 years ago into this nightmare.  Also, you fools who don’t understand how carbon fiber strengthening works should all just stop joking about duct tape. And all of you who have ever been swayed by SDOT’s spokesperson quoted above to believe there’s a real concern about the viability of repair, she’s like SDOT’s Tucker Carlson.  You’ve been misled.  Enjoy the bridge again in September and for the rest of your dying days.  You can pat the engineers and the contractors on the back for that.  SDOT has been good for nothing.

Sorry, comment time is over.