3:26 PM: The day after that “gaping hole” opened in the ramp from the eastbound West Seattle Bridge to northbound State Highway 99, the Washington State Department of Transportation, which owns the ramp, says it’s likely to stay closed at least 10 days. We first reported on the hole starting at 6:41 pm Tuesday evening, when police suddenly found themselves dealing with multiple drivers pulled over on 99 because the hole had punctured their tires. The ramp was closed a short time later, and WSDOT crews responded. Today they are working both on and beneath the ramp; we checked out the scene at ground level. One task there is to set up a debris-containment area:
That’s both for debris that already has fallen from the hole, measured at 5 feet by 4 feet, and anything more generated by assessment and repair work. It’s a hard-hat zone, emphasizes WSDOT spokesperson James Poling, who tells WSB that crews on the ramp have been checking other areas around this one today to ensure they’re stable, and so far haven’t found anything notable. We talked with Poling at the scene below the ramp at noontime (as well as twice by phone). He says the state built this ramp in 1959 (same year as completion of the now-demolished Alaskan Way Viaduct to which it connected). We’re awaiting answers from WSDOT to questions such as when it was last inspected and what the regular inspection schedule is, as well as whether they’d had reports about this hole before, as WSB commenters say they’ve seen it for weeks.
This hole is not in the same spot on the ramp as the one for which the ramp was closed for repairs last year, says Poling – it’s about 100 feet from that one. (Added: This February 2022 WSB story includes a slide with three images of that hole.) That brings up another clarification this ramp was NOT closed during the West Seattle Bridge’s 2 1/2-year-long repair closure – except for the repair work a year ago, it remained open to traffic, accessible via eastbound Spokane Street. Poling says that while they are still working on a timeline estimate, they are certain this is not going to be a West Seattle Bridge-magnitude length closure. He’s expecting to have another update and some answers for us later today, and we’ll update this story.
DETOURS: If you need to get to northbound 99, use the northbound 1st Avenue South Bridge, or the 1st Avenue South exit from the eastbound West Seattle Bridge/Spokane Street Viaduct, then head north and connect to NB 99 in SODO.
IF YOUR VEHICLE WAS DAMAGED: WSDOT provided this link for filing a claim.
4:30 PM UPDATE: Just talked again with WSDOT’s Poling. He says 10 days is now the official expected duration of the closure – no longer “at least” 10 days, just “10 days.” He says crews right now are preparing for the repairs by chipping away at “unsuitable” – failed – concrete around the hole, and from there “it’s a standard bridge-deck repair.” He says the ramp was last inspected in August of last year, and while he doesn’t know its regular inspection schedule, he says it’s at least every two years. Poling also says that WSDOT maintenance crews were not previously aware of this hole – he said an emergency closure would have resulted if they had been.