WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE: See what’s happening as repairs near completion

(Photos on the bridge deck by WSB’s Patrick Sand)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

When the West Seattle Bridge reopens, you’ll notice some changes.

That’s part of what we talked about with project leaders from SDOT, repair contractor Kraemer North America, and repair designers/consultants WSP during a visit to the the bridge today.

As we reported earlier today, SDOT expects to announce the reopening date this Thursday. In the meantime, the bridge is full of activity and materials that are part of the final stages of work. As we concluded our visit this afternoon and traveled back to the west entrance, we recorded this video to show you part of what we saw:

Along with the final phase of strengthening – applying more carbon-fiber wrap now that the post-tensioning steel cables are in and tightened – work includes getting the bridge back to a service-suitable state after almost two and a half years of closure. That includes signage, like what’s shown above, and what’s coming to new overhead structures like this:

On the bridge’s deck, new concrete panels have been poured in dozens of spots to improve the bridge surface. On the so-called Nucor curve near the west end, a micro-silica overlay is being installed, with grooves atop it, to prevent the slipping and sliding so common in that spot in the past. A subcontractor crew was working toward the west end today to seal some of the bridge joints, and to set up a rail for a machine that’ll be used as the paving continues. All along the bridge, equipment, materials, and access points were in evidence.

In a few weeks, demobilization work will include bringing down the two platforms that have been used for work on the underside of the bridge – tentatively scheduled for removal the weekends of August 20th and August 27th, according to Kraemer’s project manager Adam Dour (who delivered this detailed briefing last December).

Scaffolding atop the bridge marks those platforms’ sites, and notches in the bridge deck that have been part of the platform operation remain to be filled in.

Along with the signs, another difference you’ll notice when the bridge reopens – the inside westbound shoulder is widening to 12 feet, so the westbound lanes will shift toward the outside. No changes in number of, or uses of, the bridge lanes – just that shoulder widening. Toward the edge of the westbound lanes today, meantime, crew members were replacing cables in the bridge’s streetlights, frequently plagued by outages pre-closure:

Another material also on view today – stacks of yellow fiberglass girders:

These will be used to build inspection platforms inside the bridge. And the final run-up to reopening will include a lot of inspection and observation, particularly during the load testing, when trucks – like a double-trailer dump truck, filled with gravel – will be driven and parked on the bridge at strategic spots to ensure it responds as expected.

Here’s what it looked like inside the bridge today (thanks to Tim Durkan for the interior photos) – including some of the 45 miles of steel cables now in place to strengthen the bridge:

Crews are working inside and out, two shifts a day, six days a week. Other notes from our visit:

Last month, we reported that SDOT was planning a community celebration to say thanks. Today, Marx told us that idea has been scrapped – in recent outreach, she said, SDOT reps heard over and over that all community members wanted was for the bridge to be reopened. They do plan a news-media briefing “a couple days before the bridge reopens” -that event will not be on the bridge, but on a port site with the bridge as a backdrop. First, we expect to hear the reopening date Thursday – and when that day arrives, SDOT has said, they expect to open the bridge fully, not incrementally. And as we’ve reported multiple times before, the low-bridge restrictions will end once the high bridge is open – that was reiterated today too.

38 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE: See what's happening as repairs near completion"

  • James August 10, 2022 (6:02 am)

    Can we ask SDOT to add some sort of contraption that will smash/catapult cars using the Bus Only lane?    

    • David August 10, 2022 (10:48 pm)

      Here! Hear! 

  • Jeepney August 10, 2022 (6:13 am)

    This is fascinating behind the scenes look at what has been involved making this bridge operational again.  This type of reporting deserves accolades.

  • WSPK August 10, 2022 (7:42 am)

    (No) Thanks grumpy community members for nixing the possibility of having the bridge open for a one day bike/pedestrian celebration day.  :  (

    • LivesInWS August 10, 2022 (3:44 pm)

      Wasn’t that a SDOT decision to open the bridge as soon as feasible and not take a day for just bike/pedestrian access rather than the community members’ decision?

      • WSB August 10, 2022 (3:54 pm)

        Here’s the progression, all of which has been reported here:
        -Community coalition started planning a celebration, including potentially a run/walk; SDOT at first didn’t rule out having an event on the bridge, but said that event could not in any way delay the actual opening
        -SDOT then said “nothing on the bridge”
        -SDOT then said they themselves were working on some sort of community appreciation event (but not ON the bridge)
        -SDOT now says “no party, folks told us they just want to see the bridge open”

        The community coalition’s main focus, led by business groups (Chamber and Junction Association), had been “welcoming people back to West Seattle.” If they are still working on anything like that, there’s been no public announcement yet.

        • WS forever! August 10, 2022 (7:15 pm)

          Excellent! Open the bridge ASAP, no ridiculous parties on top of it. West Seattleites deserve easy access to the city, and the city deserves easy access to us, as quickly as possible. No shilly-shallying around. There was too much of that already, directly leading up to this fiasco.

        • Elton August 10, 2022 (11:37 pm)

          I think a mini-festival at the Junction could be really fun to help bring in more non-islanders to Junction businesses. I know such things aren’t trivial to plan and West fest is behind us, but maybe something smaller scale that coincides with the farmer’s market with live music or something.

  • DC August 10, 2022 (8:46 am)

    Will the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce and West Seattle Junction Association still be putting on a celebration? Glad SDOT isn’t hosting any kind of celebration as they are to blame for this mess. But it would be good to have a community sponsored celebration recognizing our grit and determination in getting through this disaster. 

    • Jeepney August 10, 2022 (9:17 am)

      Agreed DC, a community celebration that benefits WS businesses would be a great idea.  All of us have been greatly impacted by the bridge closure, not to mention that additional smog pumped into the environment due to cars idling in traffic.  Something in the junction or Hiawatha or Lincoln Parks would be my idea.

      • WSB August 10, 2022 (9:37 am)

        As we originally reported months ago, a community coalition had been working on that. Last we heard, when SDOT said no events on the bridge, that ended that.

  • cjboffoli August 10, 2022 (9:09 am)

    Great coverage!

  • Mj August 10, 2022 (9:44 am)

    Thank you for the update. 

    Schools open in September and opening the bridge ASAP, I for one do not want to celebrate the re-opening that should have happened many many many moons ago, needs to be priority #1!

  • DogMom August 10, 2022 (10:08 am)

    Thank you, WSB, for your continued amazing reporting on the never-ending nightmare (but hopefully ending soon) of the bridge closure!

  • sw August 10, 2022 (10:23 am)

    All I know is that the letter spacing  on the EXIT ONLY sign is going to drive me nuts every time I drive past it.

    • KM August 10, 2022 (12:14 pm)

      SAME. At least I won’t really be able to see it on my bus rides!

  • Carole August 10, 2022 (10:30 am)

    Curb your enthusiasm.

  • JJ August 10, 2022 (10:42 am)

    The bridge closure a disaster that requires grit and determination?  Let’s put this issue in perspective. The 2007 Minneapolis bridge collapse was a distaster and true failure of DOT. People died. I’ve experienced the inconvenience and impact of the WS bridge closure from start to present, and I look forward to a concrete open date. No bells and whistles needed, just safe passage across the bridge.

  • sna August 10, 2022 (12:15 pm)

    The SeattleTimes article mentions: “ The red bus lane toward downtown will reopen, saving time for transit riders, but it won’t be extended farther onto the northbound Highway 99 cloverleaf ramp as conceived in early 2020.”  I’m not sure what this means.  Does it mean there won’t be a bus only lane on NB99 (glad if not since it creates a ton of congestion).

    • WSB August 10, 2022 (1:45 pm)

      No, I believe (I was there when he asked that question) that means the ramp itself won’t have a bus lane. SDOT has said before, and we have reported before, that the lane on 99 will remain.

      • WS forever! August 10, 2022 (7:21 pm)

        That ridiculous lane literally creates the congestion that bus use is intended to alleviate. If buses can’t quickly reach 99 through the traffic leading up to the bridge, and on it, what is the stinking point of that ridiculous less than one-mile lane?? SDOT analysis is seriously deficient if they think that northbound bus lane is a good idea. No one understands how to merge correctly out of that lane, hence we have massive delays to bus times.  “Hopes and dreams” don’t equal reality on the ground. SDOT better start understanding that.

  • Hutch August 10, 2022 (12:50 pm)

    Will  buses and Semi trucks continue to use the lower bridge?

    • WSB August 10, 2022 (1:31 pm)

      Not unless they choose to.

  • AlkiBean August 10, 2022 (4:15 pm)

    Seems that there are still quite a few tasks left to finish.  :-(

  • Watertowerjim August 10, 2022 (4:47 pm)

    If buses  still go down Avalon why wouldn’t they want to continue using the lower bridge then ramp back up to NB 99?  Seems faster.

    • Mark P August 11, 2022 (11:05 am)

      Because the high bridge isn’t subject to waterway bridge openings. I’ve sat through many bridge openings during rush hour on a bus and I don’t wish to endure that any more.        

  • CeeJay August 10, 2022 (5:03 pm)

    What was that Sept 12 date I read previously? Just an estimate?       

  • Mj August 10, 2022 (5:18 pm)

    Watertowerjim – three traffic control signals, RR tracks and the risk the bridge is closed for marine traffic!

  • Mary August 10, 2022 (5:39 pm)

    I was looking forward to having a run on the bridge before it opens, similar to what they did on SR520 bridge and the 99 tunnel.  Guess I’ll just have to do it myself.  So, watch out for pedestrians the morning of.

    • WS forever! August 10, 2022 (7:22 pm)

      Hopefully your comment gets forwarded to the SPD so they can be waiting to arrest you when you arrive.

  • Mj August 10, 2022 (6:11 pm)

    Watertowerjim – three traffic control signals, RR tracks (busses are required to stop) and the risk that the lower level bridge is closed for marine traffic.  The High Level Bridge is a faster more reliable route.

    • Taylor August 10, 2022 (6:56 pm)

      Thank you!!! Going to remember this for any time someone gripes about buses having their own lane… I moved to WS after the bridge was long shuddered but I recall very vividly the contempt I heard from acquaintances around the red bus only lane when that happened 😩As a frequent driver and transit rider I will always advocate for faster bus access. 

  • Tom Lane August 10, 2022 (7:01 pm)

    It’ll be good to have the bridge back in service – whoopee – but a couple of things have really curbed my enthusiasm:As I understand it, the bridge (dedicated in 1984) was expected to last for 70+ years. It FAILED after 36 years – about half of its projected lifetime. Is there any accountability for such a colossal failure?When the bridge failed, the 100,000 daily trips it used to carry were dumped onto West Seattle’s three north-south arterials, snarling local traffic and frequently creating miles-long backups. I’ve seen no evidence of signals being adjusted to accommodate the sudden flood of traffic. A road project on SW Roxbury (primary access to 1st Ave S bridge) at 15th Ave SW regularly closed one of two lanes of eastbound during rush hour, bringing traffic to a standstill extending past the Roxbury Safeway store. (I understand that projects are scheduled years in advance, but the timing on this one could hardly have been worse.) It’s not unusual to spend 30-40 minutes getting from Gatewood Hill to the bottom of Olson Place.Those of us who are able to utilize public transportation have turned to it as a way to avoid wasting time and money sitting in stalled traffic. While most of us who live in West Seattle will be glad to regain use of the bridge, please excuse our scattered applause for SDOT’s work.

  • David August 10, 2022 (10:28 pm)

    OMG!  That video, it looks like Bridget!!!  I waited for you beautiful girl

  • UF August 11, 2022 (5:40 pm)

    I am wondering if the eastbound surface of Spokane will be fixed, actually should be replaced, before the bridge opens and that viaduct will be full with traffic again. Now would beer the best time to do this.

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