FOLLOWUP: Washington State Department of Transportation expects 99 ramp with ‘gaping hole’ to stay closed for 10 days

(WSB photos)

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.

73 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Washington State Department of Transportation expects 99 ramp with 'gaping hole' to stay closed for 10 days"

  • Pinto May 3, 2023 (3:50 pm)

    Doesn’t matter who actually owns the road, there is no excuse. Multiple agencies had multiple opportunities to make all of these repairs during the 2+ years the bridge was closed. 

  • Jethro Marx May 3, 2023 (4:26 pm)

    I will be stunned if they fix this in ten days. Exposed rebar is not great left in place, corrosion-wise, yet cutting it out complicates the problem. But just to put this in perspective, as many shortcomings as our various transportation departments have, they put safety first, even when people whinge about how important it is that their commute is not disrupted. They will do what it takes to fix it right. And many people will chime in with nonsensical engineering suggestions or accusations about how this is part of a war on cars. I love the blog!

    • WSB May 3, 2023 (4:35 pm)

      That is now the official estimate – 10 days. No longer “at least 10 days.”

    • bolo May 3, 2023 (4:58 pm)

      Here’s my nonsensical engineering suggestion:

      Maybe, given all the heavy use the bridge gets (and its peripherals), the regular inspection schedule should be tightened up to more than “at least every two years.”

      Might even save money in the long run.

      • Mark Hurburt May 3, 2023 (7:41 pm)

        I inspect that ramp everyday and every day new potholes appear and the existing ones get bigger.  The ramp has been a mess for years.

      • Dooh May 3, 2023 (9:49 pm)

        How do you know they don’t do this already. Seems strange that they wouldn’t have these on the schedule. Just because you dungy see them,  doesn’t mean it isn’t being done. 

        • WW Resident May 4, 2023 (9:13 am)

          Well the fact that there is a 3 foot hole tells me they’re doing a bang up job inspecting

  • burb May 3, 2023 (4:42 pm)

    Based on the photos, that’s some 1959 style rebar on a heavily traveled suspended ramp in 2023.

  • bolo May 3, 2023 (5:26 pm)

    Road salt is highly corrosive to concrete road surfaces, concrete/steel structures, drainage pipes, etc.

    I wonder if there’s any correlation between the much increased use of road salt during the ~20 winters (especially on bridges and elevated roadways) and increased failures of our bridges and other elevated roadways. And concrete roadways in general.

    Does my common sense curiosity have any grounding in actual cause/effect conditions in this case?

    (I understand the road salt is used to increase driver safety in icy conditions and don’t know any functional alternatives except maybe sand?)

    • Ferns May 3, 2023 (9:56 pm)

      Not sure about safer for the concrete options but I know North Bend won’t use salt for environmental reasons. They must keep the plows running though and not get as much pure ice. Still, I think it’s a good question to ask. What is best for longevity of costly infrastructure? 

    • my two cents May 4, 2023 (5:22 am)

      bolo – Seattle area doesn’t get enough snow and ice consistently like the midwest. The snow and ice stay longer requiring more applications for longer periods of time. Salt and related corrosion pay a factor in it, but to directly correlate to salt applications in this scenario is questionable.

  • Shadowtripper May 3, 2023 (5:27 pm)

    How about if we limit automobile only to eliminate further structural damage while the State comes up with a plan and bidding to replace the structure.  If we continue to allow buses and trucks the weight will have an expedited time frame for future closure.  Move the buses and trucks off the suspended Spokane Street roadway onto the lower low bridge access.

    • K May 3, 2023 (6:36 pm)

      Why not limit it to bicycles and scooters?  They’re way lighter than modern cars, and they can easily navigate around new holes as they appear.  If we continue to allow cars the weight will have an expedited time frame for future closure.  Move the cars off the suspended Spokane Street roadway onto the First Avenue Bridge.

      • Whiskey for my men May 3, 2023 (8:49 pm)

        Horses. They’re renewable and their exhaust is fertilizer. 

      • Canton May 3, 2023 (10:20 pm)

        Maybe you haven’t noticed how busses affect major roadways. Busses are heavy. The road segments on Barton that have disrupted street panels. 26th and parts of Roxbury. Even 2 potholes on the 99, west Seattle exit are scetch. One would think, these factors would be obvious to those who use and report the issues.

        • WS Res May 4, 2023 (10:46 am)

          Cool, now do the math on the weight of the cars that the bus full of people would have used if they drove individually. We’ll wait.

          • Burgerman May 4, 2023 (2:19 pm)

            You will be waiting forever, then.  One over-limit-axled bus full of people is many times more destructive than any number of cars.  Think about it. How many times have you been out and about in Seattle when one of these articulated monsters pounds by the business you’re in, shaking the floor and ground to the point it’s unmistakable a bus is going by? Cars and light trucks don’t do this at all.

        • gr3yh4t May 4, 2023 (12:19 pm)

          Oh man, those disrupted panels on Barton are absolutely ridiculous. They make me irrationally annoyed when I drive over them

      • Burgerman May 4, 2023 (2:14 pm)

        Please think about what you just said. Bicycles and scooters on a State limited access Highway?? If you’re looking for your tax dollars to pay out claims when somebody gets hit and they or their family sues the state for negligence in allowing people to use this ramp, ok. Also, explain how bicycles and scooters are supposed to access this ramp. Up from the lower bridge all the way to the top and 99? Recipe for disaster with all the big rigs making this climb.

    • SpencerGT May 3, 2023 (8:36 pm)

      Good idea, let’s make 30% (estimate) of people suffer because of a hole.

      • Watertowerjim May 4, 2023 (5:48 am)

        Isn’t 30% lower than 100%? Plus, they’d be re routed. So, 10 extra minutes via 1st?

  • Jort May 3, 2023 (5:35 pm)

    I don’t think the citizens of this country are fully prepared for the reality of how much it’s going to cost to simply maintain and, in many cases, rebuild our incredibly expensive road infrastructure, and how this problem is actually going to get worse and worse because the average vehicle weight is increasing dramatically, aided by the absurdly heavy range anxiety-soothing batteries in electric vehicles. Roads and bridges do not have infinite lifespans, and for 50+ years this country went on (and continues to engage in) a policy of road and freeway expansion at the expense of long-term maintenance. This is going to be incredibly disruptive for future generations, both in inconvenience and in cost. These are among the many, many negative long-term costs to society that our failed cars-first transportation policy will shamefully pass along to the future. As is the case in so many things, America is unique in this approach. No location on earth has ever successfully designed a sustainable transportation and development strategy centered primarily around cars. We can continue to dump cash into this insatiable, bottomless money pit, or we can start having conversations about a better-integrated, more sustainable transportation policy that is based in proven, real world successes, and not in the delusional fantasy that cars should be the primary solution to every imaginable transportation requirement. 

    • Jay May 3, 2023 (7:25 pm)

      Don’t forget that until the 80s, rich people paid taxes and at a higher rate than the middle class as well. The New Deal wouldn’t be possible today with all the tax breaks and loopholes we’ve implemented to give rich people a break and allow corporations to offshore profits or spend them tax-free on stock buybacks. Many trillions of dollars that could otherwise be spent on infrastructure. Washington even made progressive taxes unconstitutional, and the middle class and poor definitely can’t afford to keep infrastructure as well maintained as states like Virginia with an income tax and pristine roads and bridges.

      • Scarlett May 4, 2023 (12:20 pm)

        While the New Deal gave us many good things, it also entrenched the corporate monopolies, all of which had a seat at the table when legislation was being proposed.  They still do.   The country was headed into another severe downturn when WWII came along and supercharged the economy. 

    • Canton May 3, 2023 (10:26 pm)

      Again, I ask , What harm have cars done to you? What motive do you represent, and why?

      • Jort fan May 4, 2023 (5:37 am)

        1. Automobile infrastructure is ugly, inefficient, and expensive. It creates un walkable nothing places that no one loves or wants to be in. Looking at you tuckwila. 2. Drivers in cars kill thousands of people every year directly and the pollution from cars cause not only damage to our global climate, but also higher rates of respiratory issues in communities afflicted by high car volumes. The design and size of modern cars are only exacerbating these issues. 3. Over investment in car first infrastructure creates a system without viable alternatives for transportation. This forces folks to commit huge portions of their financial resources to have access to this public infrastructure and get around which has a disproportionate affect on people living in poverty but sucks in general. Driving costs far more than other forms of transportation. 4. It is well documented that automobile first environments cause higher levels of baseline anxiety and stress. While folks that live in walkable low traffic neighborhoods enjoy a higher quality of life. Please look into how the Netherlands designs their infrastructure   It is not “no cars” it is not “bike first” it just makes more sense and Seattle could be so much better if we made choices now to develop our system in a similar way. 

      • WestSeattleBadTakes May 4, 2023 (9:06 am)

        What motive do you represent, and why?

    • my two cents May 4, 2023 (5:30 am)

      Jorty – Do you EVER have anything positive or congratulatory to opine about? The didactic essays on the evil that exists with every West Seattleite that has a car paints a picture of bitterness and a refusal to take a pragmatic approach to transit and related issues. The world according to Jort: All or nothing, any progress (Rapid Ride H expansion for example) is meaningless unless all cars have been removed. 

      • WestSeattleBadTakes May 4, 2023 (9:03 am)

        “I can’t engage with your actual points, so instead I will complain about you not being more positive.”

      • wscommuter May 4, 2023 (9:21 am)

        One can’t reason with zealots.  Even more so when the zealots are impotent.  Engagement is wasted breath.  Exhibit A: A small/discrete albeit inconvenient problem with the SR99 interchange is but another trigger for the anti-car fringe to speak up.  Boring and uninformative.  But so be it.  

        • WestSeattleBadTakes May 4, 2023 (11:13 am)

          Meanwhile, how many are here whining about our infrastructure? You’ve been given an explanation that is well supported and yet, you can’t be bothered to examine it. We can’t build our way out of this problem while maintaining a healthy society.

          We know why this is happening, but please bury your head in the sand while hurling personal attacks.

      • Jort May 4, 2023 (9:45 am)

        I will again kindly note that the most common response to my writings tends to avoid engagement and debate on the concepts, and instead most frequently focuses on my personal characteristics or speculation into my personal psychological underpinnings. The term “ad hominem” gets tossed around a lot, usually carelessly, in comment sections, but perhaps a refresher of its definition may be helpful? “ … in a way that is directed against a person rather than the position they are maintaining.” I would encourage those who feel the compulsion to speculate as to my personal motivations to perhaps engage in some self-examination as to why they’re responding in such a way. 

        • RH May 4, 2023 (10:27 am)

          I appreciate your points Jort, and I agree completely. How many housing units, public parks, small businesses, restaurants, etc could we fit the square footage of a single parking lot? Requiring someone to have access to a car in order to work, go to school, or to get food targets low-income folks more than anyone else. The folks who stamp and roar in defense of cars are really showing their ignorance (or more likely, distain) for the working class.

        • anonyme May 4, 2023 (12:36 pm)

          Jort, I may not agree with all your opinions, but when it comes to cars I absolutely do.  I also appreciate your observation on how and why people comment.  You: “… in a way that is directed against a person rather than the position they are maintaining.”  I see this constantly.  So many would rather attack someone else’s opinion instead of simply offering one of their own. 

  • Admiral May 3, 2023 (5:37 pm)

    Jethro Marx – fortunately it is WSDOT doing the repairs not SDOT!

  • Greg May 3, 2023 (6:04 pm)

    The hole may have been “discovered” Tuesday, but that pothole was there over the weekend. I managed to miss it as I came around the ramp because I was going slow enough, but I wasn’t in a position to stop and snap a picture for the find it fix it app…

  • Janel Lardizabal May 3, 2023 (6:08 pm)

    Hmm, I reported this pothole using Find It, Fix It on Sunday afternoon. Even then it was an obvious hazard. 

    • WSB May 3, 2023 (6:22 pm)

      That’s the next part of the story that I need to pursue with SDOT – the city – because the question there is, if they got reports of this, how do they forward to the state?

      • Rob May 4, 2023 (5:59 am)

        I am curious, too. That specific pothole has been there since the bridge reopened and has been a recurring problem since way before the bridge was closed. I reported it as well using the find it fix it app about 2 months ago when I saw that hole getting bigger and bigger. 

    • Kim May 3, 2023 (11:52 pm)

      I saw it last week! Pretty sure it was 4/25!? 

  • Rick F. May 3, 2023 (6:09 pm)

    The ramp stayed open the entire time the West Seattle Bridge was being repaired for the past two years.  Just before the bridge reopened, that offramp was down for about two weeks repairing the pot holes.  I take the offramp every morning to go north on 99.   On Monday, that hole had exposed rebar, but you could not see through it as you can today.  

    • Molly May 3, 2023 (7:21 pm)

      Honestly it seems like we are lucky someone wasn’t in an accident below the bridge because of the falling concrete. That looks wildly dangerous for anything below. 

      • Mark Hurburt May 3, 2023 (7:36 pm)

        There was a really nasty car accident on that ramp yesterday, presumably due to the hole.

  • kjb May 3, 2023 (7:18 pm)

    I watched it get bigger and bigger all last week. Saw the rebar Friday morning.

    • Steve May 4, 2023 (6:07 pm)

      There’s exposed rebar everywhere on the I-5 N on-ramp from the bridge and other significant potholes on the east end of the bridge. I have no clue what the limit is when the DOT says it’s unsafe but it’s disconcerting in light of this big hole.

  • Joe May 3, 2023 (7:28 pm)

    It seems like would have already checked/tested all of this while the bridge was closed for two years. Or better yet just repaved the whole thing while they had the down time. 

  • Mark Hurburt May 3, 2023 (7:35 pm)

    The ramps to the WS bridge have always been a mess.  Tons of cracks and potholes all the time.  Once they patch up this one there will be more to follow.  When they need to shut the bridge down again they should repair all the potholes on the ramps.

  • Mark Hurburt May 3, 2023 (7:44 pm)

    The detour is to use the First Avenue South bridge.  That sounds familiar.

    • 1994 May 4, 2023 (12:02 am)

      Yah! Most drivers should be familiar with the south end detour using Highland Park or Roxbury.  And I agree with your comments that the ramp has been a mess for years! Frequent road deterioration on that 360 ramp to North 99 as I saw it from about 2005 to 2009 when I worked on lower Queen Anne.

  • DogMom May 3, 2023 (8:51 pm)

    Thank you, WSB for your exceptional reporting, as always!! 

  • Cogburn May 3, 2023 (9:01 pm)

    Pin down a large steel plate, like they do for utility digs, and be done in one day. Ten days is optimistic butchope they can 

    • bolo May 3, 2023 (10:05 pm)

      Everyone already complains about spinning out on the curves around here. Imagine what would happen when they hit that slippery steel plate on this tight curve! Too risky.

    • Joel May 4, 2023 (12:05 pm)

      Steel plate would be pretty dangerous for motorcycle riders on that turn.  Plates are good for straight and relatively flat scenarios, not midway through a long corner on an ascending ramp. 

  • Sammy May 3, 2023 (9:28 pm)

    They fixed one part of the bridge while the rest was deteriorating. I remember driving west Seattle bridge when it opened and was in shock they didn’t even freaking clean it. I remember thinking, “why didn’t they even patch a little some of these holes”? Shoulder in the left lane especially, going towards east and Seattle is in terrible condition. It’s a pothole on a pothole filled with trash and it turns into a river-pond when it rains.

  • Marie May 3, 2023 (9:47 pm)

    A while back, I wrote a blog post about The Bridges of West Seattle. It was fun to research and write. Bridge drama is pretty much a given in these parts. Some of it is hilarious. See for yourself 

  • Ferns May 3, 2023 (9:48 pm)

    Whaaaaaat? That’s a crazy image like if a shoe had a hole worn in its sole. Was this the “tire shredding” pothole mentioned yesterday? I’ll keep reading! Seriously, discouraging to see the severity of bridge and ramp repairs needed ongoing. Wish bridge had been replaced fully even though this area may be separate. Isn’t this putting lipstick on a pig at some point? 

  • Tracey May 3, 2023 (9:59 pm)

    Just fund the repairs by raising property taxes.  Let’s vote on a levy.  Everyone will vote yes.  That is the way everything else in this city/state/county gets fixed.  

    • my two cents May 4, 2023 (5:35 am)

      This is a WA DOT responsibility/ownership. Property taxes add little to none to the funding of state maintained roads. Per State of WA: We create 10-year outlook quarterly transportation revenue forecasts for the Transportation Revenue Forecast Council (TRFC):

      • Motor fuel tax revenue.
      • Motor vehicle licenses, permits, and fee revenue.
      • Other transportation related revenues.
      • Federal funds.
      • Economic variable forecasts including fuel prices.
      • Sorry not sorry May 4, 2023 (9:39 am)

        WSDOT may be the owner but WSDOT has little say in their own budget. Budget and funding allocation is determined by the Washington legislators. This year the house and senate chose to drastically cut preservation funding which is the funding bucket that cover maintenance and project designed to extend the life of our existing infrastructure. If you don’t like that the state roads are falling apart contact your local representative. WSDOT cannot really lobby for itself based on rules, but they do present the need for increased preservation money each year to the state  government.

  • Chrissy D May 3, 2023 (10:36 pm)

    Now noticing exposed rebar on the span leading up to the I5 onramp and on the ramp.

  • Another One May 3, 2023 (11:01 pm)

    You know where there’s more similar potholes, all along the flat part of the eastbound Spokane street viaduct, in the left lane next to the jersey barrier. I think some of them have been patched recently, but they were starting to show rebar as well. 

  • And another? May 3, 2023 (11:55 pm)

    Has anyone seen the deep pothole driving north bound on Fauntleroy close across from Trader Joe’s-ish? 

  • valvashon May 4, 2023 (5:20 am)

    If you want more exposed rebar try driving on I-90 through the Mercer Slough area.  It’s currently possible to shift to the left or right in the lane and avoid hitting the exposed rebar/holes but at some point it won’t be.Westbound I-90 also has two small bridges just before you get to Issaquah, also full of exposed rebar and a bad patch job.  Why is it so hard to keep bridges in proper repair in this state?  The roads here feel like a third world country.

  • Keenan May 4, 2023 (7:20 am)

    My, what a large hole.

  • wetone May 4, 2023 (9:03 am)

    This city, county and state have put maintenance of infrastructure at low priority and chosen to spend elsewhere. Where seeing the results from this more and more. Roadways being patched instead of repaired properly. Water supply system failing/breaking more often. In this area we have much more use of buses and heavy trucks today than past that are impacting street surfaces and structures. The larger heavier garbage, recycle and clean green trucks have replaced the single garbage truck from past. Buses are usually over (gvwr) weight rating if fully loaded. Much more heavy vehicles related to various types of construction and delivery services impacting area. A huge one is Port of Seattle heavy truck usage. Don’t forget with the electric vehicles coming on line that they are heavier than past fuel powered vehicles in most cases. Well, at least we will have a world class waterfront when done, along with being able to enjoy live music at airport……………..

  • Structural Engineer May 4, 2023 (9:12 am)

    Good grief. This is a nothingburger, US-aging- concrete-infrastructure wise.  It needs a concrete patch and it takes a few days for a patch of this size to properly cure.  Thank goodness WSDOT owns the bridge otherwise we’d be closing it for two years while we debate weather to patch the spall. 

  • Derek May 4, 2023 (9:32 am)

    “NO MORE TAXES” people say and here’s a direct result of that. We need to fix the structure. Income tax now. Sales tax ban. Copy Oregon. It works.

    • heyalki May 4, 2023 (10:10 am)

      I think people would be fine paying taxes if there were solid results from doing so. As it is now, it seems like too much is going towards enabling addicts and crime than making our city a better & safer place to live. 

      • Derek May 4, 2023 (2:25 pm)

        “enabling addicts” is such a myopic understanding of the issue, I am going to pretend you’re just trolling and choose to not engage in this disparagement on the mentally ill community. You’re flat wrong. 

  • Kathy May 4, 2023 (5:18 pm)

    I always take the time to stop and report dangerous potholes, but I wouldn’t report this one on the ramp because I’m not allowed to ride on it with my bike. You complaining car drivers, how would you feel if you were always banned from using this ramp? If you think it’s safe and convenient to get downtown from West Seattle on the surface streets, come along with me for a ride. You will get a better appreciation for the conveniences of motorized vehicle only infrastructure.

  • B May 22, 2023 (9:33 am)

    Are there any updates on this? Couldn’t find anything on the WSDOT Blog…..

    • WSB May 22, 2023 (9:40 am)

      Updates since the ramp reopened two weeks ago?

Sorry, comment time is over.