WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE REOPENING: With two days to go, officials gather for acknowledgement event

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Acknowledgments, applause, even a poem were part of an hourlong event this afternoon on Harbor Island commemorating the impending West Seattle Bridge reopening and acknowledging those involved in the repair project.

It seemed that almost everyone who had some role in what’s transpired since the sudden shutdown March 23, 2020, was there, including former Mayor Jenny Durkan and former SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe. They didn’t speak, though; newly confirmed SDOT director Greg Spotts took the podium first, for a land acknowledgment that mentioned the Muckleshoot and Suquamish tribes and their “Duwamish ancestors,” followed by a Native prayer, and then speeches. Here’s the video:

(WSB video)
Here’s the group shot of everyone who spoke:

Mayor Bruce Harrell said the most important thing he could offer was to “thank the people whose lives were impacted,” thanking everyone for their patience and acknowledging the “inconvenience” of the last two and a half years.

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell followed, noting that on Sunday, “the nightmare of this congestion [for detouring] is going to end.” She observed that freight was affected too, and talked about the federal funding that covered more than half the cost of repairs (as noted here last night).

U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, describing herself as a “proud resident of West Seattle,” said she also is proud of the “patience, grit, and determination” people have shown during the 2 1/2 bridgeless years.

Seattle’s Civic Poet Jourdan Imani Keith read a poem composed for the occasion, musing what the bridge might say if it could speak, and reminding all that it has a name (the Jeanette Williams Memorial Bridge, after the city councilmember who secured funding for it 40-plus years ago).

City Councilmember Lisa Herbold spoke of the “stark effects” of the closure and the dramatic change in traffic patterns. She recalled former mayor Durkan’s “big decision” to proceed with repairs rather than replacement.

Port of Seattle Commissioner Hamdi Mohamed – mentioning her West Seattle roots as a Chief Sealth International High School graduate and South Seattle College (WSB sponsor) Running Start student, recapped the port’s partnership on low-bridge access.

Two labor leaders, Monty Anderson of Seattle Building Trades and Katie Garrow of MLK Labor, spoke about their members’ contributions to the repair work. Garrow also served on the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force, whose co-chairs followed her at the microphone: Paulina López of the Duwamish River Community Coalition spoke of relief that the Duwamish Valley (South Park and Georgetown) would soon be free of the extra air pollution brought by detour traffic, and hope that people will come back to the area for other reasons, like dining and shopping; Greg Nickels, former Seattle mayor, reminded everyone that Sunday will be the 910th day since the bridge closed, saying two of his grandchildren have been born in that time. He also spoke of a family member having to use the low bridge to get to cancer treatments, something made possible because the WSBCTF pushed for people undergoing “life-saving treatments” to be added to the list of those who could get permission to use the low bridge during restricted times.

In post-speeches Q&A, we asked if anyone at the city would apologize for the bridge shutdown having to happen at all. Mayor Harrell fielded that one, saying he would “apologize on behalf of the city,” asking for “grace” because “leaders … are human; they make mistakes.”

Along those lines, the citizens coalition West Seattle Bridge NOW sent this statement about the event:

We’re relieved that everyone who’s been impacted by the bridge closure can finally get moving again. But a cause for celebration? Not so much. When the bridge closed without warning two and a half years ago Mayor Jenny Durkan declared an emergency. Then what happened? Bureaucracy as usual. While we sat stuck in traffic, with travel times to get almost anywhere outside of West Seattle doubled, tripled or worse, the city took its sweet time exploring replacement options and finally settled on repairs after community pushback. There was nothing about this process that suggested any increased urgency or accelerated timeline.

We think instead of celebrating, our elected leaders should take stock of why we had to wait two and a half years for a critical transportation link to be restored. West Seattle has already paid the price for the City and SDOT choosing to respond to a transportation emergency with the usual process. In a city rife with bridges with maintenance backlogs we only hope that no other community has to endure what we have for the past 30 months.

The West Seattle Bridge closure should serve as a cautionary tale. We’d love to see a press conference where elected leaders share lessons learned from the closure and what’s being done to avoid a similar debacle. That way we can all feel like our two and a half year traffic jam at least helped prevent the next one.

Other statements issued after today’s event include:
SDOT’s news release
City Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Alex Pedersen (who chairs the Transportation and Public Utilities Committee)
Sen. Cantwell

As for the bridge itself – the backdrop for this afternoon’s event at Terminal 18 Park – SDOT still isn’t saying exactly when on Sunday it will reopen. Some fencing/signage removal is under way – but SDOT stresses that the bridge is not open yet.

SIDE NOTE: Some people on their way to the event were delayed because, almost predictably, the Duwamish bridges had to open for ship traffic. We waited at the 1st Ave. So. Bridge and by the time we got to the event site, the same vessel was going through the low bridge, a bulk carrier:

60 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE REOPENING: With two days to go, officials gather for acknowledgement event"

  • skeeter September 16, 2022 (5:13 pm)

    Lots of important people in attendance!  The astute among you will notice this event was held on land, not on the bridge.  Read into that what you will…

    • WSB September 16, 2022 (5:37 pm)

      It was weeks ago that SDOT’s Heather Marx first said there would be some kind of politician-speech event a few days before the reopening, and that it would not be on the bridge. That was said in conjunction with the fact that they weren’t allowing a community celebration on the bridge. The conclusion I drew is that it would be a “bad look,” as they say, to have the politician-speech event on the bridge while not granting permission for a community event. OTOH, there are also logistical issues – just getting a much smaller group of visitors up on the bridge for the couple of “media tours” we’ve been on has been a bit of a challenge. – TR

  • Pete September 16, 2022 (5:21 pm)

    So the folks who were responsible for the fiasco are the same ones who gathered to congratulate themselves for completing this project after 30 months? Where were the representatives of the small business community who were impacted? Where were the representatives of the neighborhoods that were impacted over these 30 months. 30 months to fix a critical piece of infrastructure? If this was the corporate world these folks would be looking for new jobs. Wonder how much money SDOT will now spend to debrief this situation?

    • Tom September 17, 2022 (7:42 am)

      Thank you WSB NOW for expressing everyone’s who lives in West Seattle opinion. SDOT and our city leaders failed us. This gathering with these people patting themselves on the back is offensive. Them heralding their West Seattle roots  and how they understood what we went through is a joke. How about acting quickly and opening the lower bridge to everyone e not just the port of Seattle employees and freight trucks.  An example of how not to handle a situation. 

  • Bravo WSB September 16, 2022 (5:29 pm)

    I am so appreciative that you asked that question. Thank you, 

  • flimflam September 16, 2022 (5:34 pm)

    Lol are the officials going to acknowledge the lack of maintenance that led to the closure?

    • WestSeattleBadTakes September 16, 2022 (7:40 pm)

      Are you going to acknowledge the unsustainable reality of private automobiles?

      • Johnny Stulic September 16, 2022 (10:59 pm)

        Are you going to acknowledge the consistent failure of the Amsterdam-like massive bicycle use pipe dream, part of which is a continued repurposing and reducing the number of available vehicle lanes that (surprise!!!) contributes to the “unsustainability”?

        • Chels P September 17, 2022 (6:36 am)


        • WestSeattleBadTakes September 17, 2022 (9:11 am)

          The evidence is on my side. Keep being dishonest though, you obviously prefer to lie and stay ignorant.

          Sad we have some many people who choose to be stupid.

        • WestSeattleBadTakes September 17, 2022 (9:21 am)

          Here is a good video you could use to educate yourself. There is more out there, maybe you can become an honest person.


    • Brad September 16, 2022 (7:53 pm)

      Unbelievable how many bitchy and WRONG things I see on these posts. Lack of maintenance did NOT cause this problem. You people are so entitled it’s unreal. You act like they closed the bridge just to punish you. An unfortunate event happened and the right decisions were made. And no you don’t perform repairs like this in just a month or two. So many keyboard experts that know NOTHING about construction or engineering. 

      • Alki resident September 16, 2022 (9:24 pm)

        Brad so you were completely ok with 30 months before getting the bridge back? Because the rest of us found that to be completely unacceptable, also Yes it was a maintenance issue. That was proven months ago

        • WestSeattleBadTakes September 16, 2022 (10:13 pm)

          I agree it was lack of maintenance, but it is not malicious as many here seem to believe.

          Neither the public officials or those here calling for the heads (figuratively) of those officials understand the the problem. We’re on the wrong path, we’ve got it wrong. The costs associated with building and maintaining infrastructure is not sustainable. The tax base that would be required to do this would be far too high for individuals. Although we should tax the rich and big businesses being subsidized by our taxes and public institutions.

          I’d hesitate to listen to people who don’t actually understand what is happening complaining about people who don’t actually understand what is happening.

          • Peter S. September 17, 2022 (1:16 pm)

            >>  I agree it was lack of maintenance, but it is not malicious as many here seem to believe. <<

            I don’t think many here seriously believe it was deliberately “malicious”.   Incompetence?  Perhaps.  Most likely too willing to listen to the consultant (s??)  who advised “continue to monitor” as the problem only worsened.  And as Jon Wright noted, too eager to kick the can down the road for expense/budget/political reasons. 

            I’d like to know who  the so-called expert was giving that wise advise.   In the medical world,  that would almost be akin to malpractice. 

            As a side note:  Some have suggested Jort should be the first to cross the reopened bridge,  Jort can’t be first.  Bicycles aren’t allowed.  

        • Rznbl September 16, 2022 (10:15 pm)

          Have to agree with Brad, and counter the WSBN peeps—We were one step away from a 10-year rebuild closure. I’ve worked in far more minor infrastructural debacles than this that took far longer to resolve, and without the public backlash. Please, stop griping, give thanks to the stars, the bridge is opening. We are all lucky. 

          • Mike September 17, 2022 (9:21 am)

            So you’re saying never question authority, just pay your taxes and shut up?  Mmmmmmm nope…

      • some bird September 17, 2022 (12:08 pm)

        This happened during a global pandemic too.

  • M September 16, 2022 (5:47 pm)

    WSB, thanks for your wonderful reporting as usual. This event, the statement from the citizens coalition, the attendees, the entire events of today are so bizarre and silly to me, and you covered it well. At any rate, looking forward to slightly less aggressive diving in the neighborhood. 

  • NotWoke September 16, 2022 (6:03 pm)

    2.5 years later and this group finally shows up. Oh wait, that’s just to take credit for their ‘accomplishment’ and pat each other on the back. Too bad they didn’t show up this quickly when we needed them. Former Mayor Durkan actually appeared? What could she possibly be taking credit for? Absolute clown show. As a group, we are just way too forgiving. Wake up West Seattle – we need much stronger leadership in this great community. 2.5 years!

    • Gay September 16, 2022 (7:10 pm)

      Since you seem so awake, where have you been?  

    • Rodney Guest USN September 16, 2022 (7:19 pm)

      Wait . The Bridge may be repaired and ready to drive on but the eastbound roadway on the viaduct between hwy 99 and I 5 should have been repaired as well. The resurfacing job on that section is crumbling to pieces. It is not ready to get all the traffic back on it. It has large sections crumbling and could damage vehicles and possibly killing someone. It should be completely resurfaced before they reopen the Bridge. 

  • Jim P. September 16, 2022 (6:12 pm)

    I am actually and sincerely amazed it ONLY took two and a half years. That’s Light Speed for a government, any government these days.

    How long is it taken just to redo some roads for the 120 to become a RapidRide when they could have just changed existing bus stops and then built up as they went?

  • Al King September 16, 2022 (6:27 pm)

    My favorite there was Heather Marx. During this whole fiasco whenever she was answering questions she was rude and condescending and   looked like she’d really like to give us the bird with both hands. The whole group should’ve just stayed in their bunker.

    • WSB September 16, 2022 (7:02 pm)

      She did not speak today. Just the people we mentioned in the story.

      • Al King September 16, 2022 (8:40 pm)

        Actually, she did get interviewed and spoke on the evening news. She actually hinted it could open sooner than Sunday. No commitment but said “as soon as they’re ready”   

        • WSB September 16, 2022 (9:04 pm)

          I said she didn’t *speak* at today’s event. As in, take the microphone at the podium. Talking to some TV reporter who pulls you aside is not the same thing. And no, I wouldn’t be surprised if it opened sooner but the latest official word as of my latest exchange with SDOT about an hour ago is, they’re just not saying, multiple crews are working in multiple places to get it ready – they’re not all going to be stationed at entry points waiting to pull away the barricades in one synchronized action. They will make the initial announcement on Twitter, I’m told. And they’re still saying they’re trying to get the webcams reconnected before it opens. – TR

    • Jon Wright September 16, 2022 (8:52 pm)

      If she had done that, I wouldn’t blame her one bit given that she had to deal with a cavalcade of maroons for 2 1/2 years. I think she exhibited superhuman patience dealing with the same stupid questions (FYI, there is such a thing as a stupid question), idiotic comments, and armchair bridge experts ad infinitum.

      • Reed September 17, 2022 (7:21 am)

        100%. She did an amazing job coddling the willfully ignorant and uninformed for 2.5 years. I can only imagine how these same people will react if/when we have a real emergency, like a high magnitude earthquake.

  • Buttercup September 16, 2022 (7:07 pm)

    Birch, bitch , bitch. So tired of it. They took a horrible situation and got it done a lot faster than people imagined 2.5 years ago. I didn’t enjoy it either, at least we can move on and enjoy and APPRECIATE the bridge again. 

  • West Seattle Mad Sci Guy September 16, 2022 (7:12 pm)

    Happy the bridge is reopening. My father worked in construction including on bridges and even from the little he brought home with him I know they aren’t nearly as easy to work on as all these angry people in the comments suggest. Thanks to the folks that worked hard to get this project done. 

  • Matt September 16, 2022 (7:27 pm)

    I’m glad the bridge is opening just so I can stop listening to all the whiny people complaining about the city like it’s their fault the bridge broke. This wasn’t a “maintenance” issue it was a design flaw, one that needed to be solved by engineers who didn’t design the original bridge (they’re probably all dead or retired), and who had to familiarize themselves with the bridge and solve complex engineering problems while navigating the shutdown (work and school from home) like everyone else.”we only hope that no other community has to endure what we have for the past 30 months”  — dramatic much? Flint, Michigan had a community crisis no other community should have to endure. You had to sit in a little more traffic for maybe an extra 6 months (not sure how fast, in your super-informed opinion, you expected the bridge to open).Just shelve your negativity and be happy the bridge is opening back up.

    • Matt September 16, 2022 (9:04 pm)

      Yes, this was a maintenance issue.The design flaws you speak of was known to SDOT as early as 2013 and could have been repaired without a two and a half year shut down. If SDOT began to plan a repair when the issue was discovered the administrative procedures that lead up to the repair could have been performed while the bridge was operational (i.e. EIS study, if necessary, coordination with the Coast Guard, actual repair means and methods, and the RFP). The shutdown could have been limited to the time it took for the repairs, which was about six months.


      Given that SDOT was providing an annual report to the city council on then condition of all bridges the city is responsible for maintaining that contained a footnote along the lines of “BTW there is something really wrong with the WS bridge”, the shutdown was a failure on the part of the city to maintain essential infrastructure.

      • Admyrl Byrd September 16, 2022 (10:05 pm)

        But Matt it feels better for people to yell at critics and say everyone is blameless.  God forbid we should hold SDOT accountable for maintenance or SPD/judicial system for criminal activity.  It’s just easier to yell:  “You just don’t understand!”

      • Jon Wright September 16, 2022 (10:17 pm)

        I’ve got news for you: the infrastructure maintenance can routinely gets kicked down the road at every level of government all over the U.S. Why? Because nobody is willing to pay for it. The failure is with a citizenry that has unrealistic expectations how much upkeep costs. Arguably government leaders and elected officials should be making the case why the money is needed now, but they know that is a loser so why would they even try? The city is doing exactly what their constituents are telling them to do.

        • Adam September 17, 2022 (9:05 am)

          Well Jon, I mean we can start by using the money we stupidly throw at other things, like pretending addiction and mental health problems are a housing issue and tossing millions at that. So maybe fingers can be pointed at whoever is charged with upkeep as well as us, virtuously spending like idiots on some things while ignoring others. Regardless, let the bitching commence b/c there’s several ways in which this didn’t have to happen as it did. If something happens and we could’ve done better, we should talk about it. Openly. And even though these ribbon-cutting ceremonies where they pat each other on the back is typical it’s insulting. Letting Lisa Herbold talk about any of this at all is also insulting. 

        • WestSeattleBadTakes September 17, 2022 (9:53 am)

          They don’t care. We share this rock with some of the most stubborn, selfish, and anti-intellectual people. Rationality and betterment for all isn’t even a consideration. They just need to know who to point the finger at and it can never be themselves.

          This city will continue to crumble until its citizens educate themselves. Starting with the wealthy, who are so detached from the reality of everyday residents.

          They’ll get whatever leadership they want eventually and it still won’t get better. Then they’ll blame someone else – and I think we know what happens when they’ve run out of obvious scapegoats. Get prepared, things are going to get a lot worse.

      • Matt September 17, 2022 (3:16 pm)

        LOL @ Matt #2 — you reply to insist it was a maintenance issue and then link to an article literally describing a design flaw…like I initially said.  Thank you for proving my point.@Admyrl Byrd — not implying everyone is blameless.  Just irks me that everyone’s response to everything that bothers them is “blame city council.”  I guess it just feels better to blame someone, makes people feel less helpless.

        • Matt #2 September 17, 2022 (5:42 pm)

          You clearly do not understand what maintenance means.While the design of the bridge is sound engineering the original engineers had no idea that the concrete would shrink in the manner it would. To maintain the original structural integrity and prevent the cracking of the concrete SDOT could have tightened the post tension cables and added addition post tensioning to account for the additional loads they were placing on the bridge (that the original engineering didn’t’t account for). 

    • Duffy September 16, 2022 (10:09 pm)

      You are totally wrong, Matt. Please read the other “Matt” comment above. This was a total failure by city leadership and the transportation stakeholders. They botched the entire thing, no question.

    • NADMRL September 16, 2022 (11:33 pm)

      No one’s talking about losing drinking water – it’s about a 30 month traffic jam that took people’s time and money and spewed a whole lot of pollution into neighborhoods that didn’t ask for it. This could have been solved much earlier. Period. Period. And Period again.

    • West Seattle Mad Sci Guy September 17, 2022 (1:19 am)

      Thanks Matt. Some sane words amongst the typical sea of angry folks that are more likely to post on the internet (and therefore think they exist in greater numbers than they do). Also just glad it is over.  

    • Tom September 17, 2022 (8:00 am)

      All you people who want to say this wasn’t a maintenance issue and tell the people who LIVE in West Seattle to stop complaining need to shut up! The cracks were seen in 2013, they should of acted quicker and work more than one shift 6 days a week.  The lower bridge should have been open to all. This was an embarrassment by or leaders and SDOT. Now let us vent and we can move on. 

      • Matt September 17, 2022 (3:22 pm)

        I DO live in West Seattle, Tom, and I HAVE been inconvenienced and annoyed by the extra traffic.  But I’m an adult and I take it stride and move on.  You know why they couldn’t and shouldn’t have kept the lower bridge open to all so don’t even start that trolling nonsense.

    • Frog September 17, 2022 (11:16 am)

      I agree with all the others piling on here.  The epitaph of our society will be “failed up.”  It never ceases to astonish, how people in Seattle with authority and responsibility have almost zero accountability, and think that’s natural, and have a small army of water-carriers and apologists who say so.

      • Matt September 17, 2022 (3:41 pm)

        You elect candidates who promise to do X, Y, & Z.  Then those people get into office and find out there are all sorts of other problematic issues like the West Seattle bridge. If they fix the bridge and then don’t have money left to fund your XYZ policies you’ll yell at them for ignoring the will of the voters.  If they fund your XYZ policies you yell at them for not funding bridge repairs.  We don’t live in a society with unlimited funds.  It never ceases to astonish how unwilling people are to accept that their own unrealistic expectations are what drives politicians to ignore the unsexy issues like infrastructure.

  • raincity September 16, 2022 (8:56 pm)

    Thank you west Seattle blog for asking that question. I am so glad you were there and able to ask what we are all thinking inside. I’m glad you still made it even though the first avenue bridge opened on you (most west Seattle thing ever).

  • tim September 16, 2022 (10:33 pm)

    I like Mayor Harrell, he’s like a breath of fresh air. Now if we could just do some housecleaningand replace the rest.  I’m sure tired of the others, city council and all.

    • Reed September 17, 2022 (7:26 am)

      Harrell has been in city leadership for 13 years; he is certainly a big part of whatever “problem” you are hinting at.

    • M September 17, 2022 (8:02 am)

      Bruce has been in city leadership for 12 or so years already. I would say he’s more like bathing the exhaust of an F-250 than fresh air.

    • Adam September 17, 2022 (9:12 am)

      I like today’s BH cuz he’s solving some problems we sorely needed to address, but I have reservations. First, he’s riding a wave possibly. A lot of these messes got so bad that the answer on how to make decisions the public mostly agrees with is pretty clear. Convict criminals. Remove dangerous encampments while working on better solutions for the homeless instead of doing nothing. Getting many of our parks and open spaces back. And then, let’s not forget he’s a politician from a time when we made lots of policies that have had negative effects on the city. The guy who held office years ago might be at odds with the guy you see today, politically speaking. But I’m also considering the fact that he may have actually just changed how he felt, and maybe he was sincere then and now. It’s just hard to trust any of em, even when it seems they’re working towards goals I agree with. I’ll judge him ultimately on his results but cannot say yet whether I think he’s genuine or just keeping his job safe. 

    • WestSeattleBadTakes September 17, 2022 (9:39 am)

      How democratic of you.

  • Alan September 16, 2022 (11:42 pm)

    I appreciate that Jourdan reminded (and WSB reported) that it is the Jeanette Williams Bridge. It exists largely because of her. Years after her retirement she still reached out to help save the Soundway greenbelt next to the Riverview Playfield. 

  • C September 17, 2022 (12:39 am)

    On Twitter… a stupid website? HA! So Official!

  • my two cents September 17, 2022 (3:43 am)

    Herbold for the win – if that means getting in your photo op next to someone from Congress.

  • James September 17, 2022 (5:45 am)

    In a city rife with bridges with maintenance backlogs we only hope that no other community has to endure what we have for the past 30 months.

    Magnolia enters the chat

  • WS resident September 17, 2022 (1:51 pm)

    I know homie is new but he HAS to get the Native Tribes names right!! 

    • Scarlett September 17, 2022 (8:15 pm)

      Huh?  He did fine.  This shibboleth thing is so seattle.  Like Pike’s Market.  Watch bp go up after that.  Chill out. 

  • WSB September 17, 2022 (2:30 pm)

    I’ll be writing about this separately in a bit but in case anyone has nothing better to do than watch for reopening activity, SDOT pointed out to us that they’ve turned the 35th/Fauntleroy camera to focus on the bridge entrance there. Still image updated here every few minutes:
    You can watch the live video feed via the Travelers’ Map
    as of this writing, the high-bridge cameras are not yet reconnected.

Sorry, comment time is over.