West Seattle, Washington
Exactly 10 months ago – on March 23, 2020 – the city announced the West Seattle Bridge was unsafe and would close within hours. At the time, there was concern it might be unstable enough to fall apart. Stabilization work ensued. SDOT refers to that as “Phase 1 rehabilitation” in a just-published closer look at the work it’s completed, including an explanation of what’s visible from beneath the bridge:
That graphic, credited to SDOT’s consultant WSP, shows, among other things, the bolts for the brackets holding the “post-tensioning” steel cables strengthening the bridge. In a summary of the stabilization work last month, SDOT said 10 miles of those cables had been installed. One of the final tasks, completed this month, was to coat those brackets, according to SDOT’s new update. So what’s next? The update has the same timeline reported in our coverage of this month’s Community Task Force meeting – they’re designing “Phase II” now, expecting to hire a contractor in the spring, starting the work in fall. The timeline shown at the CTF meeting suggested completion in midyear 2022.
As announced earlier this week, the West Seattle low bridge (Spokane Street Swing Bridge) will close 8 am-1 pm this Saturday (January 23rd) to all but emergency traffic. SDOT says the shutdown is necessary for an inspection. Commenters wondered about plans for rerouting buses during the closure; we inquired with Metro, and tonight the official reroute plans – all of which use the 1st Avenue South Bridge – are available:
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force‘s first meeting of 2021 was far more of a briefing than a discussion, two hours stuffed with information tidbits on almost every bridge-related topic.
When the volunteer advisory group’s members agreed to keep meeting even after Mayor Jenny Durkan announced her decision to have the closed high bridge repaired rather than replaced, that was one major role they agreed to keep – community information conduits. So as co-chair Greg Nickels described it, what happened at Wednesday’s meeting was the start of their “second phase of work”; co-chair Paulina López also urged CTF members to let them know how they’d like to “devote (their) energy … to next steps.”
The meeting video is above, and the full slide deck is here; below, highlights of what the group heard:
BRIDGE UPDATES: The high bridge has now been closed for almost 10 months. Project leader Heather Marx said stabilization work – a necessary first step no matter whether repairs or replacement had been chosen – is done and now they’re monitoring the bridge’s stability. She showed a schedule for both high- and low-bridge work ahead:
Three West Seattle Bridge notes tonight:
LOW BRIDGE CAMERA TICKETING: Two days into the city’s use of automated cameras to enforce low-bridge restrictions, no data yet – we asked SDOT how soon information would be available about citation numbers and traffic value, and the bottom line was, not soon, according to spokesperson Ethan Bergerson. “It will take us a little while to know how many citations have been issued because the photos need to be reviewed by SPD before a citation is issued. We will give updates about Low Bridge traffic and enforcement during future Community Task Force meetings, although it will be too soon to provide any data at tomorrow’s meeting.”
MEETING TOMORROW: The West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force meets online at noon Wednesday. A preview of the presentation shows an even busier agenda than you’d guess by looking at the lineup – timelines for work on both the high bridge and the low bridge, updates on traffic-mitigation projects under Reconnect West Seattle – including what’s being considered for West Marginal Way SW – and more. You cam watch via YouTube livestream here; you can comment via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BRIDGE MONEY: As mentioned by two city councilmembers during their Monday morning briefing, the Puget Sound Regional Council is considering routing $15 million in federal money to the city to help with the high-bridge repairs. That’s about a third of the very rough early estimate of the work’s cost. This is a topic on Thursday morning’s meeting of the PSRC’s Transportation Policy Board, 9:30 am online. The agenda includes information on how to watch and how to comment.
In case you need one more reminder, tomorrow (Monday, January 11th) is the first day that the city is scheduled to start using automated cameras to enforce restrictions on the West Seattle low bridge between 5 am and 9 pm, seven days a week. Vehicles cqught on camera violating the rules will get a $75 ticket sent to the registered owner’s address. Here’s a refresher on the current rules (from SDOT‘s announcement two weeks ago):
Who Can Use the Low Bridge
-Transit vehicles (King County Metro buses and school buses)
-People walking, rolling, using a scooter, or biking
-All Personal vehicles at night (from 9 pm to 5 am daily)
Who Cannot Use the Low Bridge
Taxis and ride-hail app vehicles like Uber and Lyft (from 5 am to 9 pm daily)
Personal vehicles, including motorcycles, during the day (from 5 am to 9 pm daily)
Regarding the “pre-authorized vehicles,” SDOT says:
Pre-authorized use is currently limited to select maritime/industrial vehicles proximate to Harbor Island, International Longshore and Warehouse Union vehicles, and West Seattle business vehicles. If you believe you are eligible for pre-authorized use based on the description above, please email us email@example.com or call 206-400-7511.
SDOT had been working with West Seattle’s two major business organizations, the Junction Association and Chamber of Commerce, to determine who had access. Before the cameras, they had a limited number of placards they loaned out to members who had to make business trips across the river.
SDOT has said that the traffic patterns following the activation of camera enforcement will be studied to see if changes in low-bridge access policy are merited. The policy is one of the topics on the agenda for this Wednesday’s meeting of the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force (noon January 13th – watch here).
Two bridge-related notes today:
COMMUNITY TASK FORCE MEETING NEXT WEEK: During last night’s District 1 Community Network meeting, West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force member Deb Barker broke the news that the WSBCTF will meet next Wednesday (January 13th). SDOT confirms to WSB that the meeting is set for noon Wednesday; no link or agenda yet. Though the WSBCTF, which is an all-volunteer group, decided to keep meeting, the other advisory group assembled and convened last spring – the Technical Advisory Panel – ended its work last month (as reported here last week).
FRIDAY UPDATE: The meeting viewing link has been added to this page along with a note that agenda items will include low-bridge access policy and Reconnect West Seattle.
LOW BRIDGE CAMERA-TICKETING REMINDER: We reconfirmed with SDOT today that the low-bridge enforcement cameras remain on schedule for activation next Monday (January 11th). Between 5 am and 9 pm, 7 days a week, the cameras will photograph plates (but not drivers) of vehicles crossing the bridge, and the owners of vehicles that aren’t authorized to be using the bridge at the time will get $75 citations. Need a refresher on the current rules? Go here.
Though the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force plans to continue meeting, the other advisory group convened by the city after the bridge’s closure has disbanded. SDOT has announced that the Technical Advisory Panel met for the last time in mid-December. Its post also listed the full roster of TAP members:
Stephen Dickenson, PhD, PE, DPE, New Albion Geotechnical, Inc.
Gregg A. Freeby, PE, American Segmental Bridge Institute (ASBI)
Reggie Holt, PE, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Office of Bridges and Structures FHWA Headquarters, Washington DC
Debbie D. Lehmann, PE, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Washington Division Office
Barbara Moffat, PE, SE, Stantec
Scott Phelan, PhD, PE, SE, David Evans and Associates, Inc
Professor John F. Stanton, University of Washington
Adolph Furtado, PE, Lin & Associates, Inc.
Furtado is the only member who wasn’t on the roster announced in May. The TAP’s meetings, unlike the Community Task Force’s meetings, were not open to the public. One other difference: The TAP members were paid, while the CTF members are not. Among other key findings along the way, the TAP issued a memo in July affirming SDOT’s June take that the bridge seemed fixable. What was determined in the ensuing months, before Mayor Jenny Durkan‘s November announcement that repairs would be pursued, was that they were feasible as well as possible.
3:01 PM: The date is set for the city to start using the new enforcement cameras on the West Seattle low bridge: Monday, January 11th – just under two weeks away.
Starting that day, SDOT says, unauthorized low-bridge use will put you at risk of a $75 ticket. No grace period needed because this isn’t a new enforcement activity, it’s supplementary to traffic police having staked out the low bridge off and on in the nine months since the high bridge’s closure led to low-bridge restrictions.
The cameras were installed earlier this month. The city’s ability to use them for this traces back to a state-law change passed last Legislative session and then City Council authorization in September.
The low-bridge rules are recapped in SDOT’s announcement of the camera-activation date:
The rules for which vehicles may use the Low Bridge are not changing:
• The only vehicles authorized to use the Low Bridge from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. are emergency vehicles, buses, employer shuttles, vanpools, freight, and certain pre-authorized vehicles. See the Low Bridge webpage for a complete list.
• People riding a bike, scooter, bus, or walking may continue using the Low Bridge any time.
• All other vehicles (including personal cars, motorcycles, taxis, and ride-hailing app vehicles like Uber and Lyft) may not use the Low Bridge from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. and will be sent a $75 citation.
• Everyone may drive on the Low Bridge overnight from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. No citations will be issued during these times.
The list of authorized “West Seattle business vehicles” has been made in collaboration with the West Seattle Junction Association and Chamber of Commerce. SDOT’s announcement also notes that low-bridge rules might keep evolving: “SDOT will be monitoring Low Bridge traffic volumes in early 2021 after the new enforcement system is turned on. If traffic data shows us that there is room to expand access, we will work with the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force to recommend a balanced approach for Low Bridge access.”
ADDED 5:44 PM: The SDOT Blog post about today’s announcement introduces a slogan for all this: “Don’t Go Low.”
Despite the rain and the wind, crews did manage to get one of the two hanging platforms down from the West Seattle Bridge this morning. Our photo shows the one that remains; SDOT says that one is scheduled to be brought down in the second window they have planned for this work, 7 am-11 am tomorrow. This marks the end of what SDOT calls the “emergency stabilization” work, described as follows in an update today:
Post-tensioning cables: Installed nearly 10 miles of taught steel cables inside of hollow areas of the bridge structure to strengthen and reinforce the bridge’s post-tensioning system, reducing the risk of further cracking.
Carbon-fiber wrapping: Surrounded sections of the bridge with carbon fiber-reinforced polymers to further support and strengthen the bridge. Crews performed multiple rounds of carbon-fiber wrapping and completed the final installation last week.
Pier 18 bearing release and replacement: Replaced neoprene lateral bearings which were compressed and bulging, locking together two critical parts of the bridge that typically are independent of each other. The bearings were creating additional pressure and preventing the bridge from moving as it should. Over the last few weeks, crews finished pouring and curing the concrete that will hold the new lateral bearings in place.
Next comes designing of, and hiring a contractor for, the repair plan, which SDOT says “will likely include additional post-tensioning and carbon-fiber wrapping on the center bridge span, as well as the two ‘tail spans’ on either side of the center span.”
We reported back on Monday that the two work platforms that have been hanging from the West Seattle Bridge for months are about to come down. Today SDOT confirmed the platforms will be lowered onto barges next Monday and Tuesday:
This will take place between 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. on both days. During this time, there will be a waterway channel closure, which means that maritime traffic/boats will not be able to pass under the West Seattle Bridge. We have issued a notice to mariners and the Port of Seattle, and we do not expect any disruptions to Low Bridge operations for people walking, biking, or for those who have access to drive across.
When this is complete, height restrictions for passing under the bridge – which have been in place since the work began – will be lifted. After the work platforms are lowered, work will be substantially complete. In early January, we will be offsite disassembling the platforms. We’ll also be finishing one last round of painting/coating the post-tensioning brackets. Coating the post-tensioning ends will protect the new system.
Next phase of work will be the actual repairs – but first, SDOT says, they have to finish design (which is being done by consulting firm WSP) and hire a contractor.
The two movable work platforms attached to the West Seattle Bridge could be brought down before Christmas. That’s part of today’s weekly SDOT update on ongoing bridge-related work. Lowering the platforms back down onto a barge will mark the end of what SDOT refers to as “Phase 1 Stabilization” – primarily involving carbon-fiber wrapping and strengthening with steel cables (“post-tensioning”). Contractor Kraemer North America is also wrapping up work on replacing the damaged bearings at Pier 18 (in this case, “pier” refers to a bridge support). The stabilization work had to be done first regardless of whether a repair or replace pathway was pursued; next comes repair design and contractor selection.
On the low bridge, installment of the new enforcement cameras is complete; SDOT tells us, “We are planning on testing the new system through December, and expect to begin issuing notices for unauthorized bridge usage in early 2021.”
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Though the big West Seattle Bridge decision has been made, there’s still a lot going on, and so the Community Task Force will continue.
That’s one of the headlines from the CTF’s online meeting this afternoon. Here’s the video:
Also discussed: Stabilization, repair timeline, West Marginal Way, the low bridge, and more.
Since tomorrow is December 1st – once the targeted date to have enforcement cameras operating on the West Seattle low bridge, with a month of warnings followed by official ticketing – we checked with SDOT about the status.The cameras are not installed yet; installation is now expected “the week of December 7th,” according to SDOT communications director Michael Harold. (Back when automated enforcement was first mentioned publicly in June, they were hoping for August, but the timeline has slid at a couple spots along the way.) Activation is now expected in “late December/early January,” so at this point it looks like the “real” camera ticketing, with $75 fines, is unlikely to start before February. Harold says they’ll have a “more in-depth Low Bridge automated enforcement update” later this week, including a briefing when the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force meets at noon Wednesday (December 2nd); here’s the link for viewing that meeting.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The West Seattle Transportation Coalition moved up its regular fourth-Thursday meeting slot by a week this month because of Thanksgiving – and so, unplanned, that put it at the end of a long day of meetings about the West Seattle Bridge.
The bridge was the WSTC’s first of two main topics (the other was Terminal 5).
SDOT UPDATE: Bridge project leader Heather Marx recapped the day’s big news, Mayor Jenny Durkan‘s announcement that the bridge will be repaired rather than replaced. Marx stressed that they are being very cautious about estimating cost and timelines at this early stage. They won’t have a “full design package” until spring, and then they’ll advertise for a contractor.
Today marks exactly eight months since the West Seattle Bridge was closed to traffic. As reported last Thursday, the mayor has decided that it will be repaired rather than staying closed until it can be replaced. But first, stabilization work has to be completed. Here’s what SDOT says is happening with that right now:
Earlier this month, we released the damaged bearings at Pier 18, located on the east side of the Duwamish. Pier 18’s neoprene lateral bearings were compressed and bulging, locking together two critical parts of the bridge that typically are independent of each other. This was creating additional pressure and preventing the bridge from moving as it should.
This past week, we finished breaking down the concrete that held the damaged bearings in place and removed the concrete from the site. We also finished drilling to set new rebar [photo above], which will secure the concrete joints once they are poured to hold the new bearings in place.
We recently started on a new (and the last) round of carbon fiber wrapping. We’re on track to complete the wrapping by mid-December. Carbon fiber wrapping helps support the now stable and strengthened bridge. This is the last step in Phase I of stabilization, and once it’s done, we will lower work platforms. …
We’re on track to complete Phase I of stabilization work by the end of this year. By the end of December, all work platforms will be lowered onto barges and temporary work structures will be removed. We’ll continue monitoring and inspection activities after stabilization work is complete.
After Thanksgiving, we’ll pour concrete to hold Pier 18’s new bearings in place, setting the stage for Phase II of the two-part repair process.
No public meetings related to the bridge are planned this week. The next one announced so far is the Community Task Force‘s meeting on Wednesday, December 2nd.
Continuing our coverage of today’s big news – the West Seattle Bridge repair decision – we have reaction from the community coalition that formed in response to the bridge’s sudden shutdown eight months ago: West Seattle Bridge NOW. The group has been advocating for choosing the repair pathway, and now it’s happened. Here’s their reaction, sent by WSBN’s Kevin Broveleit:
The West Seattle Bridge NOW team is very happy with today’s announcement by Mayor Durkan to repair the West Seattle Bridge.
This is a decision that we celebrate with everyone affected by the Bridge’s closure. As a community, we rallied together to raise our voices up to be a part of this process and to not just sit by while others decided our fate. To the thousands of people who added to our call to repair the bridge, we say THANK YOU!
We also want to thank Mayor Jenny Durkan and City Councilmember Lisa Herbold for their leadership in getting us moving again. They listened to the experts and to the community. Now we should have our bridge back sooner, rather than much later.
The process of getting the Bridge reopened can now truly begin. We intend to watch this process carefully and will continue to advocate for our communities’ best interests as the repairs are completed.
The past few months have shown what’s possible when we come together to support one another. Congratulations, West Seattle, you did it!
WSBN sent the mayor a letter and online petition in August, two months after an SDOT manager first said the bridge seemed fixable.
Continuing our coverage of today’s announcement that the West Seattle Bridge will be repaired (WSB coverage here), the advisory Community Task Force is meeting with Mayor Durkan to hear/talk more about her decision. She had promised the CTF would get word first, and they indeed had a quick briefing just before this morning’s public announcement. Video is above; we’ll add notes as this goes.
3:45 PM: “We needed to have a reasonable level of certainty,” the mayor said, in recapping her decision (see our earlier story for more on the reasons). After her statement, it’s on to SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe, who reiterates that the stabilization work done so far – which had to be done regardless of which path was chosen – is “performing well.” Though the repairs will not be “complex,” as discussed at this morning’s event, they are still “challenging,” he said, and need to be designed and planned carefully – “we can’t skip steps.” But “we’ll do everything we can to accelerate (the estimated) timelines,” which as reported earlier suggest the repair work will be completed in “mid-2022.”
He also says the $50 million listed in the briefings as funding “traffic mitigation” will cover the cost of “transit investments” too.
3:55 PM: Now, task-force members get a chance at Q&A. Marci Carpenter asks about the conflict between “repaired bridge could last 40 years” and “maybe build a multimodal bridge incorporating Sound Transit,” which would be launched sooner. She also asked about federal-funding likelihood, absent a “falling-down” bridge. The mayor said she still plans to seek federal funding to.help with repairs but unlike rapid-span replacement, that won’t delay the work.She says she has confidence in “our federal delegation’s ability to get funding.” (West Seattle-residing US Rep. Pramila Jayapal sent a news release, in fact, reiterating two possibilities.)
Deb Barker asked where the maintenance/operations money will come from, and what kind of permits are needed for repairs. For the former, Durkan said they need to look “holistically” – not just at the $20 vehicle-license fee that councilmembers proposed. For the latter, Zimbabwe said they’re not sure yet but it’s “not expected to hold us up in the process we’re going through.” Diane Sosne worried about unanticipated delays and using “good money now” to do something that might not last. The mayor stressed that restoring mobility is vital to protect jobs including those that will be at Terminal 5 when its modernized berth starts operating next year. Regarding timeline unknowns, Zimbabwe said that during the stabilization they’ve hit the milestones in the predicted timelines, so they’re reasonably confident that will hold.
4:15 PM: West Seattle Bridge NOW‘s Jen Temple thanks the mayor for the decision and for not waiting any longer. Then the mayor offered a few closing remarks, reiterating that neither the repair nor “rapid span replacement” options would have allowed for incorporating light rail, but in the need for an eventual new bridge, “let’s see if we can imagine a better bridge,” maybe light rail AND transit.
What’s next for the Task Force? The mayor said ongoing involvement would be great, ‘some level of interest and accountability,” if the members are willing.
The group will take up that topic at its next meeting December 2nd. This meeting wrapped at 4:28 pm. One more meeting tonight will include a discussion of the decision – the West Seattle Transportation Coalition, 6:30 pm, attendance info here.
(Above: Video of hourlong announcement event)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The suspense is over.
Mayor Jenny Durkan announced this morning that the city will repair the West Seattle Bridge, eight months after she announced its shockingly sudden closure.
The alternative – replacing its damaged midsection with a shiny new steel span – was appealing, she and SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe acknowledged in a pre-announcement media briefing, but covering its cost and achieving a “rapid replacement” timeline seemed out of reach. So, to get West Seattle moving again as soon as possible, she decided that repairing the bridge is the way to go.
Before we get to details, quick answers to 6 big questions:
WHEN WILL IT REOPEN?
Some traffic might return to the bridge in “the first part of 2022” but the projected completion is “mid-2022.”
WILL ALL LANES REOPEN?
That’s what SDOT expects, though an early-2022 reopening might have to be “phased in.”
WHEN WILL REPAIR WORK START?
WHO WILL DO THE WORK?
Consultant WSP is designing the repairs, and then a contractor will be sought to build/install them.
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?
The Cost-Benefit Analysis made a rough estimate of almost $50 million but that won’t be refined until the repairs are designed.
HOW LONG WILL REPAIRS LAST?
Projected – 15 to 40 years.
So here’s the rest of the story:
12:59 PM WEDNESDAY: Mayor Jenny Durkan‘s long-awaited West Seattle Bridge decision will be made public tomorrow (Thursday). That’s what mayoral spokesperson Chelsea Kellogg just told WSB. We contacted the mayor’s office late yesterday after hearing that the mayor said in a KING 5 interview that she would likely announce her decision this week, though in Monday’s “Town Hall” (WSB coverage here) she said only “in the coming weeks”; we just got the reply. Mayor Durkan was already scheduled to meet with the Community Task Force at 3:30 tomorrow afternoon. Next Monday will mark eight months since the bridge was abruptly closed because of fast-growing cracks; SDOT’s contractor is almost done with stabilization work that the city says had to be done first regardless of whether the next course of action is repair now/replace later or replace now.
7:45 AM THURSDAY: The decision will be announced at 9 am. You should be able to watch here.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
When will the mayor decide on repairing or replacing the eight-months-closed West Seattle Bridge?
Tonight’s “Town Hall” about the bridge didn’t answer that, nor did it include any other significant new information. It provided a recap of what’s been done in recent months, repeated insistence that the decision delay isn’t harming progress, and 45 minutes of Q&A on well-trod ground. If you missed it, here’s the video:
The online event was moderated by Department of Neighborhoods director Andrés Mantilla, a West Seattle resident. Here’s how it unfolded:
Reminder – as announced back on Thursday, Mayor Jenny Durkan is hosting another “Town Hall” about the West Seattle Bridge tomorrow night, before making her repair-vs.-replace decision (most-recent timeline for that: “soon”). The mayor’s office summarizes the event this way: “The West Seattle Bridge Town Hall will give residents a chance to hear from the Mayor and key department staff about recently completed work to stabilize the bridge and reduce the traffic impacts of the closure as well as give an opportunity to provide feedback and ask questions.” It’s planned for 5-6:30 pm Monday (November 16th), online – you can RSVP here and send an advance question; the link for attending is here.
Photographed atop the West Seattle Bridge this past Monday, that’s – clockwise from center – Mayor Jenny Durkan, West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force co-chair Greg Nickels, SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe, WSBCTF co-chair Paulina López, and SDOT’s Kit Loo. The mayor was there for a firsthand look at the stabilization work, including inside the bridge:
And as she gets ready to decide repair vs. replace, she also has announced another community Town Hall meeting to hear feedback, 5-6:30 pm next Monday (November 16th). From the announcement:
Before reaching a critical decision point about repair or replacement of the West Seattle Bridge, I will be hosting a West Seattle Bridge Town Hall to hear directly from community members – both those who are dealing with the loss of the connection to the West Seattle peninsula and those in the Duwamish Valley acutely feeling the traffic impacts.
This West Seattle Bridge Town Hall will give you a chance to hear from me and key department staff about recently completed work to stabilize the bridge and reduce the traffic impacts of the closure, updated information for both repair or replacement pathways, and ongoing opportunities for communities to provide feedback. And we will save some time for you to ask questions directly.
You can RSVP and send a question via this form; the direct meeting link is here. This is the mayor’s third West Seattle “town hall” in six months (the others were in May and in July), though the previous two addressed other topics as well as the bridge.
Three days after Monday’s town hall, Mayor Durkan will be back before the Community Task Force – a conflict in her schedule has led to a day/time change for that meeting: It’s now set for 3:30 pm next Thursday (November 19th), one day later than originally planned. CTF members were told the mayor plans to “present updates” to them. No viewing link for that meeting yet.
At Monday’s City Council briefing on the West Seattle Bridge (WSB coverage here), SDOT mentioned more details of the stabilization work – one-ton brackets, 300-foot-long steel ropes. Today, the department released a video tour of the work inside the bridge, with a firsthand look at those components and more – see it above (or here).