West Seattle, Washington
By Tracy Record and Patrick Sand
West Seattle Blog co-publishers
A year and a half after closing the West Seattle Bridge, SDOT is giving tours while getting ready for repairs. Among those who are being offered a firsthand look, according to an SDOT email shared with us by a source, are “members of the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force, Technical Advisory Panel, and our governmental partners and supporters.” Plus, this afternoon – the media.
We were up on the bridge five weeks ago, but that was part of a visit by dignitaries from D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell and Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg. Today’s tour was intended solely to give reporters and photographers (attendance was limited to one person per media organization, so it was one or the other) a firsthand look. That included another view inside the bridge, where most of the upcoming work will happen:
Among the SDOT reps leading the tour, roadway-structures director Matt Donahue, the man who broke the news to city leaders in March 2020 that he’d discovered cracking that necessitated the emergency closure.
Donahue and bridge program director Heather Marx recounted the explanation of “why the bridge broke” (as covered here in August). Once the bridge was stabilized last year, that took care of the cracking problem. Intensive monitoring continues, with a few visible signs on top of the bridge.
Today in fact, some SDOT staff was on the bridge for a monthly monitoring visit (which is in addition to electronic monitors in place that are watched remotely). We talked with Marx about the “early work” that’s been mentioned as starting soon:
We asked Marx for a list of what “early work” is likely to entail:
Ground Penetrating Radar
Carbon Fiber-reinforced Polymer
As was the case when we visited the bridge in August, some work is in evidence now:
SDOT still isn’t getting any more specific about the projected reopening than “mid-2022.” They’ve said that the contractor was providing schedule estimates as part of design milestones; we asked for that proposed schedule and were told earlier this week by an SDOT spokesperson that “it’s part of an active negotiation with our contractor, so we aren’t releasing it.”
At last week’s meeting of the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force (WSB coverage here), SDOT previewed a rewards program for West Seattleites who try alternative ways to get around. Today – exactly a year and a half after the bridge closure, and as traffic continues to increase with schools and workplaces reopening – SDOT announced the “Flip Your Trip” initiative has launched. From the announcement:
Starting today, people who live or work in West Seattle can visit FlipYourTrip.org to sign up for a comprehensive travel options program that includes a $25 sign-up bonus for free rides on transit and scooter/bike-share, or free vanpool fares. The program also offers trip planning assistance, special informational events, as well as an opportunity to earn more free rides. …
Flip Your Trip West Seattle encourages people to replace car trips with other travel options such as transit, vanpooling, biking, scooting, or staying local. Anyone who lives or works in the West Seattle area is eligible to take a pledge to take the #FlipYourTrip pledge and receive an initial sign-up bonus worth $25 to use on the free rides of their choice. This incentive works on King County Metro buses, water taxis, Sound Transit, Seattle Streetcar and all local scooter and bike share companies (Lime, LINK, Spin, and Wheels).
The campaign will also support vanpooling—covering new King County Metro vanpool riders’ first month of vanpool costs and providing monthly fare beyond the first month for eligible participants. All official King County Metro vanpools can apply for access to use the West Seattle low bridge at all times of day.
The Flip Your Trip campaign features a new partnership with King County Metro, as participants can receive their free rides on Metro’s Transit GO Ticket mobile app (android | ios). Participants can redeem their initial sign up bonus by clicking on the new “rewards” button in the app menu, which will appear as 2,500 rewards points. Additional reward points can be earned by making transit and scooter/bike share trips. …
People who do not have smartphones can choose to receive an ORCA card and program updates through community organizations, instead of using the Transit GO Ticket mobile app.
Information about Flip Your Trip West Seattle is available in nine languages (English, Spanish, Somali, Oromo, Vietnamese, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Korean, Khmer).
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The plan to extend 7-day-a-week West Seattle Water Taxi service through the fall and winter – reported separately here – was the biggest news from today’s West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force meeting, but not the only news. You can watch the entire meeting above, and/or read the toplines below:
BRIDGE UPDATES: Bridge program director Heather Marx said they’re reviewing the 90 percent repair design and also have received approval for “early work” that’ll start in October.
Here’s what the “early work” will involve:
The next major public updates on the West Seattle Bridge are expected tomorrow, when the Community Task Force meets online. We just obtained the agenda – see it here. SDOT has said previously that a repair-schedule update was expected this month as consultant WSP approached completion of the repair design and contractor Kraemer NA started gearing up for the work. Along with high-bridge updates, the agenda also includes a briefing on how low-bridge-access policy is expected to change when Terminal 5‘s first modernized berth opens early next year, and a discussion of West Seattle transit service. You can watch live (or archived afterward) at noon tomorrow (Wednesday, September 15th) at this YouTube link.
Another Labor Day note about jobs: SDOT announced last week that the federal Department of Transportation had approved the plan to use the Priority Hire program to fill bridge-related jobs. The city explains the program as “promot(ing) access to construction careers for women, people of color and others with social and economic disadvantages.” So how will this work? We asked a few followup questions; the replies below came via Melissa Mixon of the city Department of Finance and Administrative Services:
How many jobs are expected to be part of this?
The West Seattle Bridge should provide significant opportunity for construction workers in our communities, with a need for several hundred workers over the course of the project. Based on performance on other Priority Hire projects, the City estimates that workers from economically distressed ZIP codes could earn an additional $600,000 in wages on the West Seattle Corridor Bridges Rehabilitation and Strengthening project due to Priority Hire. Other apprentices, women and people of color who live outside the economically distressed ZIP codes will earn additional income.
Who will do the hiring?
Kraemer, their subcontractors, construction union partners and apprenticeship programs will work together to hire Priority Hire workers on the project. The project will have a Community Workforce Agreement (CWA), which sets basic terms and conditions of employment on the project it covers. Contractors on the project will hire apprentices and experienced journey workers through union hiring halls and associated apprenticeship programs.
When and where will those openings be posted?
If you or someone you know is interested in working in construction, learn more about getting in the industry (and potentially working on the West Seattle Bridge) by viewing the Apprenticeship Guidebook. These programs will work directly with contractors to place workers on the project. You can also connect with our community-based partners to learn more about construction opportunities:
ANEW: 206-381-1384 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Carpenter’s Pre-Apprenticeship Program: 206-437-4235
Ironworkers Pre-Apprenticeship Program: 206-244-2993 or email@example.com
Seattle Central Colleges PACT Program: 206-934-2943 or PACT.Central@seattlecolleges.edu
Last time the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force met (WSB coverage here), and in other meetings, there’s been recurring discussion about ways SDOT could communicate what’s been going on in the past year and a half since the bridge closed. One suggestion was a video recap. SDOT produced one and has just made it public.
There’s no new information in the 5-minute video, but that wasn’t the point – SDOT says the video is meant to help people:
*Learn more about the West Seattle Bridge closure
*See how SDOT is responding in partnership with community members
*Learn what you can do to help reduce congestion and impacts on your neighbors
It’s viewable with subtitles in English, Spanish, Somali, Traditional Chinese, Korean, Khmer, Oromo, and Vietnamese. Speaking of which, SDOT’s announcement about the video also notes:
SDOT has also recently implemented a new phone system that offers in-language messaging options so you can speak to someone in Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Somali, Khmer, or Oromo – in addition to English – about the West Seattle Bridge? Call 206-400-7511 to use the new phone service, and someone who speaks your language will then call you back to talk about the bridge.
Next week, SDOT plans a “deck scan” of the Spokane Street Viaduct – that’s the section of the West Seattle Bridge that’s still open, east of 99. The announcement explains, “A deck scan is one way we understand the condition and performance of our streets and bridges to keep them safe and durable. … Our contractor will be conducting the deck scan to identify any potential defects with the following tools: A sound scan that uses sophisticated audio equipment to listen to the road with an array of microphones. The scan notes changes in acoustic response as it drives over the roadway, which helps us identify spots on the concrete deck that may result into future potholes. … Ground penetrating radar (that) uses electromagnetic waves to locate potential concrete delamination – or a layer of unbonded concrete – on the deck. Finally, we’ll use an overhead 4K camera to complete infrared imaging to take an in-depth view of the surface of the roadway.” This work won’t close the SSV but will lead to slowdowns, 7 am-5 pm Monday (August 30th) through Friday (September 3rd) next week. SDOT says a deck scan also is planned for “closed portions of the West Seattle Bridge and streets and ramps leading to it.” The north half of the Spokane Street Viaduct is less than a decade old, completed in 2012.
By Tracy Record and Patrick Sand
West Seattle Blog co-publishers
For the first time since the West Seattle Bridge’s sudden, shocking shutdown almost a year and a half ago, we were back on the bridge, briefly, today. The reason: Reporters and photographers were invited to accompany a delegation from D.C., Deputy Secretary of Transportation Polly Trottenberg and U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell. The feds are contributing to the funding for repairs, so the tour was touted as a chance to see where the money’s going.
The bridge visit was part of a morning tour that started at Terminal 5 in West Seattle (a separate story is coming about that). The cars and vans carrying the dignitaries and media left from Terminal 46 on the downtown waterfront and crossed the high bridge to get to T-5, seeing this work on the way (slow going because it’s a 10 mph construction zone):
That crane, we learned later, was lowering fiber-optic cable into the bridge, part of relocating monitoring equipment in preparation for the repair work this fall. (We reported recently that this kind of advance work is happening now, while the repair design and schedule are being finalized.) The crew was done and the crane was gone by the time we returned and were able to get out onto the bridge, but here’s what else we saw:
SDOT recently reiterated that one reason it’s not safe to even partly reopen the bridge is that there are holes in the deck. The ones above line the outer edge of the south side of the center span – they were cut for those platforms suspended from the bridge during the stabilization work last year, as SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe explained in a quick briefing setting the scene for visitors:
We took note of other openings in the bridge deck – such as this hole used for ventilation:
That ensure safe breathing conditions for people inside the bridge, explained SDOT’s roadway-structures division director Matt Donahue – sometimes the air that comes in from openings on the underside can be overwhelmed otherwise with, for example, diesel fumes from trains passing below (he was wearing a monitoring device just in case). In the westbound lanes, there’s a covered hatch with the warning NO DRIVE written all around it:
But the main access for workers – and visitors – is surrounded by this repurposed shipping container:
Donahue accompanied Sen. Cantwell, Dep. Sec. Trottenberg, and interested media crews down into the heart of the centerspan. We chose not to make the climb down, but obtained photos from SDOT:
In that last photo are the steel cables added to stabilize the bridge (with more planned as part of the final repairs).
After everyone emerged, Cantwell and Trottenberg took questions for a few minutes, calling the bridge “incredibly important”:
By then, they were running behind on a packed schedule that sent them to I-90 this afternoon to visit the Sound Transit light-rail expansion project. We and the rest of the media crews were shuttled back to Terminal 46, after another look at a view that we used to take for granted:
We are on the West Seattle Bridge right now for the first time in a year and a half. Two federal government reps are touring it today – Deputy Secretary of Transportation Polly Trottenberg and US Senator Maria Cantwell – to see what federal dollars will help fund.
This followed a visit to Terminal 5. Full coverage later!
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Answers to recurring questions were among the highlights of this month’s West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force meeting, held online Thursday afternoon
The meeting was led by CTF co-chair Greg Nickels. Here’s the video, followed by our report on what happened:
MEMBERS’ OBSERVATIONS/QUESTIONS: The meeting usually begins with these, ever since one meeting that was stuffed full of presentations, with little time for CTF members to discuss anything. Liz Powell of West Seattle Bridge NOW brought up Seattle City Council Position 8 finalist Ken Wilson, a civil engineer, having been quoted by a Seattle Times columnist as contending that the bridge could/should be partly reopened immediately.
The photo is from Darin, one of several readers who noticed that “BRIDGE CLOSED” signage had appeared Tuesday at the entrances to the SW Andover pedestrian/bicycle bridge over the west end of the West Seattle Bridge [map]. The foot bridge has long been scheduled for an earthquake-safety project, but that’s not why it’s closed, SDOT just told us in response to our inquiry:
The Andover pedestrian bridge was closed to address trespassing onto the high bridge from the pedestrian bridge. We also added signs in the area and hired peace officers to monitor the pedestrian bridge on weekends to help reduce trespassing. This issue was raised to us by nearby residents and the Seattle Police Department. Trespassing onto the high bridge is a safety issue as there should not be any community members on the bridge until we know it is safe for travel.
We plan to reopen the pedestrian bridge after the seismic retrofit is complete, in late fall or early winter. However, we will continue monitor the area for trespassing.
Construction of the seismic retrofit is likely to start next month, according to SDOT; more info on the project is here. We asked SDOT for specifics on what kind of problems the trespassing has caused (perhaps the graffiti vandalism that’s been visible on the bridge’s sides?); the reply: “Noise activities were taking place on the ped-bridge after hours and especially on the weekends,” as well as a reiteration that it’s just not safe to be on The Bridge.
SIDE NOTE: Last time the foot bridge made news was related to one of the other signs in the top photo. Years ago, it was popular for hanging banners such as birthday wishes, to be seen by drivers passing beneath it. In 2007, a crackdown began (extensively discussed here).
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The next public updates on the 16-months-closed West Seattle Bridge and associated projects are expected this Thursday (August 12th) at the monthly Community Task Force meeting.
But you’re not likely to hear anything revelatory about the repair/reopening timeline. SDOT‘s bridge project director Heather Marx tells WSB a schedule update is more likely next month, as repair contractor Kraemer North America is using the “60-percent design” to work on that right now.
Some repair preparation is under way, too – an asbestos survey has been completed, and ordering of materials is getting under way, according to Marx, who was joined in our conversation by Sara Zora, who heads up the Reconnect West Seattle program.
Two followups from last night’s West Seattle Bridge community meeting (here’s our as-it-happened coverage, with video):
ALL THE QUESTIONS: As noted here, questions submitted in writing via Zoom were only visible to the meeting panelists. 28 questions were read/asked and answered, but anyone wondering what else was asked was left wondering. SDOT promised an “FAQ” list would eventually be published, but we asked today if we could just get the list of all the questions asked. Here’s the document sent to us as a result, with all 175 of the questions/comments submitted via Zoom Q&A.
WHERE THE MAYOR ACTUALLY WAS: During introductions, SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe said Mayor Jenny Durkan – who has spoken at past bridge-related meetings – “couldn’t be here because she has been in the other Washington, D.C., working hard” to secure federal funding. But as it turns out (thanks to the reader who caught this via a Seattle Times photo gallery), she was actually already back in Seattle at the time of the meeting – attending the Kraken NHL team expansion-draft event at Gas Works Park. Her Twitter account featured this, seven minutes before the bridge meeting began:
— Mayor Jenny Durkan (@MayorJenny) July 22, 2021
Certainly a mayoral appearance was not a must for the bridge meeting. But since a point was made of her absence, we inquired with SDOT and the mayor’s office. First, from an SDOT spokesperson, “What Director Zimbabwe meant to say was 1) the Mayor had been in or was shortly traveling back from DC and 2) wasn’t able to make the meeting in part because of that. Any inference that she was in DC at the time was a miscommunication and we regret the error.” A spokesperson from the mayor, meantime, replied, “Yes, the Mayor was in DC the first half of this week until she flew in yesterday, shortly ahead of the Kraken draft, which you are correct that she attended. While in DC she met on several transportation priorities, including with Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg to secure additional resources for the West Seattle Bridge repair. Over the past 16 months since the West Seattle Bridge closed, the Mayor has attended many West Seattle virtual town halls and Community Task Force Meetings. As Mayor, she often has to balance competing priorities but remains wholly committed to getting West Seattle connected again.”
5:30 PM: This Friday marks 16 months since the emergency closure of the West Seattle Bridge. Tonight, SDOT is presenting updates and answering questions at a community meeting. You can watch above, via YouTube, but if you want to ask questions, participate via Zoom – here’s the link. We’ll post notes every 10 minutes or so.
SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe welcomed attendees, reminding them that he too is a West Seattle resident. Since the bridge closure, “our priority has been first and foremost public safety,” he said, and reiterated the “mid-2022” reopening projection. He was to be followed by Deputy Mayor David Moseley, but technical challenges intervened; instead, Zimbabwe summarized Moseley’s prepared remarks, saying Mayor Jenny Durkan couldn’t be there because she’s “in the other Washington.” City Councilmember Lisa Herbold followed. She said she’s been hearing about traffic and safety issues since the bridge closed, and noted that SDOT had “built more than 200 projects so far” to address them. “We rely on the community to identify these emerging issues.” She also noted that the council has “committed to funding” both the bridge repair and the traffic/safety projects. “Now that businesses are opening up again, we hope these projects are going to makee it easier for people to spend time in our neighborhoods.”
5:53 PM: They’re running polls along the way – first, what zip code participants are in; 98116 led, followed by 98136, followed by 98106. Then: How did you hear about the meeting? Email newsletters came in #1, WSB #2. After that, Deputy Mayor Moseley was brought on. He spoke of a call today involving West Seattle Bridge issues and Washington state members of Congress. He announced $12 million in new federal dollars, routed through the state, bringing total federal funding for the project to almost $38 million.
Bridge program director Heather Marx followed, noting she too is a West Seattle resident. She recapped what’s happened along the way, saying the bridge cracking “was likely caused by insufficient post-tensioning [steel strengthening]” in the bridge. That wasn’t an error, but just the bridge being “built to the standards of the time,” she said.
When will the bridge reopen? She said that at intermediate design, it’s too soon to say anything more specific than “mid-2022.” As has been said multiple times lately, construction of the repair work will start late this year.
She also showed new schematic designs that were debuted at last week’s Community Task Force meeting (see them in our coverage).
She also tried to explain why the design work is “a careful, highly mathematic process” and “how important it is that we get this design exactly right.”
6 PM: Marx handed the baton to Maureen Sheehan, the low-bridge program director. She recapped why low-bridge access is restricted, and which groups are eligible for authorization to use it during the restricted hours. (See all that info here.) She also noted that they are surveying current users as part of determining how access might change once Terminal 5 launches cargo-ship service early next year.
Next poll – how do people want to hear bridge updates in the future? Of the options presented, email newsletters/blog posts led.
6:10 PM: Sara Zora, who manages the Reconnect West Seattle program, was next up. The 200 projects of which she spoke include the speed humps, radar speed signs, and other installations you’ve seen in multiple neighborhoods, particularly Highland Park, many under the Home Zone umbrella. She also touched on West Marginal Way (including, most recently, the future-protected-bike-lane decision).
Then, a pitch for mode-shifting, which SDOT has talked about since the start, to try to keep traffic semi-manageable even as people return to commuting. What you do affects everybody else, she reiterated.
6:20 PM: Wes Ducey, yet another West Seattle-residing SDOT manager, talked about planning for replacing the bridge … in 2060. “Where the replacement bridge” should be built – or maybe a tunnel – is the focus of the study they’re doing. Its “draft findings” will be available this fall. Then the last poll – what do you want to hear about going forward? (Consultant/facilitator Angie Thomson said respondents could make multiple choices.) “Repair progress,” unsurprisingly, led. Then, a quick reminder of ways to stay updated.
Q&A followed. As noted in comments, the written questions submitted via Zoom were NOT visible to all (we’ll be asking for the list). Questions were addressed to specific participants, so that’s who replied.
#1 – What can be done to speed up the repair? Zimbabwe replied. “I can assure you there is urgency in our work to achieve the repairs.” He said “very delicate design” and material procurement are things that take time. He insisted “everybody at SDOT is working urgently … day in and day out.”
#2 – Why hasn’t the design been done over the time the bridge has been closed? Marx: “Design has actually been under way for a significant portion of the closure” – first the stabilization, then full repair design started last November.
#3 – Can we promote more local services in West Seattle to “stay local”? Herbold: “I’m happy to do whatever I can.” She said she would be happy to use her weekly newsletter to promote things, and “we all can do more.”
#4 – Have there been any thoughts on increasing frequency of/extending hours of water taxis, and adding one from Fauntleroy? Zora noted that King County runs the WT, and ridership has been increasing. They did look at adding foot ferries, but “the assessment we had seemed like it would not necessarily improve the mobility option in the timeframe we needed it.”
#5 – Once bridge is reopened, will work continue to plan for a replacement? Ducey said that the study focusing on siting as well as figuring out how traffic would flow during a replacement will be helpful.
#6 – Why not open the low bridge at more times? Sheehan noted that the weekend mornings added 3 hours recently, “and we continue to evaluate.” But if they opened it further, it would be too crowded for emergency passage.
First verbal question at 6:34 pm – #7 – Why can’t Uber/Lyft use the low bridge more hours? Sheehan replied that while they’re evaluating, “it’s a finite resource” and the rideshare group is “too large” to grant access and still preserve emergency vehicles’ mobility. Marx added later that traffic apps have been a bit problematic lately and SDOT is working with them.
#8 was a written question. There’s construction everywhere – how is it being coordinated? Marx said for one, the Delridge project will be done in a couple months. Otherwise, “we ARE coordinating construction.” She gave examples such as the early-morning work hours for the West Marginal/Highland Park Way weekend work. “We do everything we can to be sure we can complete work in off-hours.”
#9 – Is Zimbabwe working from home or commuting? He said “a mix of both” (he was at his home near The Junction while participating in the meeting).
#10 – Will a mayoral change mean changes in the bridge program? Herbold said the Council approves funding and no dramatic change would be possible without councilmembers’ support. She doesn’t see “any big changes” likely no matter who moves into the mayor’s office next year.
#11 – What are law enforcers doing to prevent line cutting, especially at the 99/509 onramp by the transfer station? SDOT’s Trevor Partap said enforcement is the best way to address that and there’s been some – they’ll “send a reminder.”
#12 – Are motorcycles allowed to use the low bridge and if not, why? Sheehan said no, because urgent trips and emergencies are prioritized. (We published a longer reply to this months ago.)
#13 was a verbal question at 6:45 pm – What could have prevented the bridge getting to the point it needed to close, and what’s being done to keep other bridges from getting to that point? He also voiced concerns about side-street safety. For the first part, Zimbabwe said “the bridge was built to the standards of the time” as Marx had said earlier and all the records have not revealed “a fatal flaw.” The stabilization work, and repair work, require opening up the bridge deck and so whenever the problem was caught, a closure would have resulted. As for other structures, they’ve added “real-time monitors” to look for the kind of problems that might require closures. Regarding side-street safety, Zora said the Home Zone program has been focused on that. firstname.lastname@example.org if you have specific areas you want to see evaluated.
#14 – Has SDOT considered opening the bridge for limited traffic? Marx said no, because there are holes in the road surface so the interior can be accessed. Also, the engineer of record says “that is not a safe option.”
#15 – What is the plan for light rail on the new bridge? Ducey said that the Sound Transit need for a new cross-Duwamish bridge does not align with replacement planning for the bridge but their work keeps “informing each other.”
#15 – How can all these construction projects improve traffic – should we be doing so many while the bridge is closed? Zimbabwe said a lot of “large scale and small scale changes” have been made and they did require construction – remember the emergency signal at Highland Park Way/Holden? He said the safety improvements are vital.
#16 – Could new park-ride lots be set up near the low bridge? Zora pointed out the existing one under the high bridge.
#17 – Will you be offering low-bridge passes for students who have to cross the Duwamish? Sheehan said school buses can use it and they urge people to get ride-share permits.
#18 – Toll? Herbold said that would require a public vote. And it wouldn’t be fair to restrict access to those who could pay.
#19 was a verbal question at 6:55 – he said the closure was the city’s fault for adding a fourth lane on the bridge and not limiting weight of vehicles. Zimbabwe addressed it, saying “We don’t plan any change to the operation of the high bridge when it opens. …. There’s no indication that the change in travel lanes led to the structural problems.”
#20 – Does SDOT intend to promote a kindness initiative for drivers using the detour route? Marx said that was a great idea. “We are all in this together. All the people on the detour routes are your friends, your family, your neighbors … Make sure you extend to people the grace you hope they would extend to you.”
#21 – Any way the bike paths can be cleaned? Bridge to South Park to Tukwila, also Fauntleroy Way. Zora said yes.
#22 – Will the same number of lanes be used when the bridge opens? Will the .4 mile bus lane be removed when the bridge reopens? Marx reiterated, “We expect to return the bridge to its original configuration,” maybe with wider shoulders on the westbound side. “All those buses were using it before the bus lane.” so it’s not considered to have been a problem.
#23 – a verbal question at 7:02 pm: Is 9 pm the wisest time to start low-bridge access? There’s a massive backup at 8:58 pm every night. Also – re: construction, why did they all have to be started at the same time? Sheehan replied to the low-bridge questionm saying it’s likely to happen whatever time the low bridge opens, Zimbabwe answered regarding the construction that they’re trying to mitigate some of the bridge impacts as quickly as they can, so that’s why so much construction.
#24 – When will we start seeing workers on the bridge? Marx said some were up there on Monday – some asbestos testing – and if you watch the bridge, you’ll see more things like that. But much of the repair work will be inside the bridge. (Work platforms will go up in November, as previously announced.)
#25 – Thistle Street/35th has become problematic with detour traffic. Zora said they can get some folks out to analyze the signal timing and see if other improvements can be made.
#26 – Are they working with the Port re: T-5? Marx said yes, they’re working closely, and T-5’s first berth is expected to open in January. “Freight is an incredibly important part of our system” and that’s why they need to ensure things flow smoothly.
#27 – How are you managing traffic at Highland Park/West Marginal, and can you install signage at the Chelan intersection? Partap said regarding the first, they are “constantly monitoring intersection operation and adjusting signal timing as needed” plus have improvements under way. At Chelan/WMW, “we can work with SPD to be (look at enforcement)” regarding cutting but they also can look at engineering possibilities.
#28 – Did the heat wave cause any new cracks? How did the bridge perform? (We reported on that.) Marx said the stabilization work prevented anything from going awry and they’re “really confident” in what they’ve done.
That was the last question and the meeting wrapped at quarter past 7 (with a video recap of the situation to date). If your question didn’t get answered, an FAQ will be posted. Marx also said questions are always welcome at email@example.com.
7:32 PM: The archived video is playable now in the window above.
This Wednesday, SDOT has promised to answer your questions during an online community meeting about the West Seattle Bridge, closed now for 16 months. When the meeting was first announced, some readers wondered if Q&A would be handled like some past meetings, with questions sent off into the ether, most unseen by other participants, most unanswered. So today we asked SDOT how Q&A will work at this meeting. The reply from spokesperson Ethan Bergerson:
There will be time set aside for panelists to answer questions after the overview presentation. Participants will be able to ask questions either by typing them into the Zoom Q&A box for the duration of the meeting, or by using the hand raising function to ask a question verbally during the Q&A session. We will switch back and forth between written and verbal questions.
The meeting starts at 5:30 pm Wednesday (July 21st); while it’ll also be streamed to YouTube, if you want to ask a question, you’ll have to be participating via Zoom. All the info is here.
With the West Seattle Bridge briefing this week including low-bridge access updates, we – and some WSB readers – wondered about a stat that wasn’t part of the latest briefing: How many drivers are getting ticketed for using the low bridge without authorization during the restricted hours (all times except 9 pm-5 am Sunday night/Monday morning through Thursday night/Friday morning, 9 pm-8 am Friday night/Saturday morning and Saturday night/Sunday morning)? That information is kept by Seattle Police, not SDOT, so that’s where we went with the request. Here are the numbers we received from SPD today. Note the big jump in June:
EB SW Spokane St
February = 4,965
March = 4,790
April = 7,730
May = 5,472
June = 8,731
WB SW Spokane St
February = 7,849
March = 7,457
April = 10,454
May = 10,472
June = 14,643
SPD confirms those are the actual $75 citations, not warnings – SDOT has said that first-time violators get warnings. Note that there’s no breakout of how many unique license-plate numbers are involved, nor how many of those citations have been paid. The most recent public briefing on low-bridge stats was during the May meeting of the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force (WSB coverage here), at which time SDOT said the daily number of citations was roughly equal to the daily number of first-time violators getting warnings. Whatever penalties are paid, there are administrative costs for Verra Mobility – formerly American Traffic Solutions – to run the cameras, and a cut goes to the state, as explained last year when we reported on the city ordinance authorizing the cameras:
After paying for administrative costs, half of the remaining funds are to be remitted to the state’s Cooper Jones active transportation safety account, which the state uses to fund grant projects or programs for bicycle, pedestrian, and non-motorist safety improvements. The remaining half of the funds may only be used for transportation improvements that support equitable access and mobility for persons with disabilities.
(Bridge update starts 1 hour, 9 minutes in)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
What SDOT calls the West Seattle Bridge Program has ranged so far beyond the bridge itself, today’s Community Task Force meeting was more than an hour old before the bridge’s status finally got the spotlight.
We’ve already published three updates on other matters that preceded the bridge progress report:
–West Marginal Way bicycle-lane decision
–WMW/Highland Park Way intersection work starting Saturday
–Low-bridge access status
So now – here’s what’s up with the bridge-repair planning.
Yet another update from today’s West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force meeting: Current stats on who’s authorized to use the low bridge.
A new round of access authorization starts on the first of each month, with the application deadline on the 15th of the previous month. (Tomorrow’s the deadline to apply for August access – get the application here.) Patients who need to use the bridge to get to treatments for life-threatening conditions are granted access for three months.
One stat that wasn’t presented is one we’ve been asking SDOT about: Employer shuttles. In a major sign that some morkers are returning to offices, 116 employer shuttles now have access to the low bridge, SDOT tells WSB.
One CTF member asked whether unrestricted access hours – currently 9 pm to 5 am except 9 pm to 8 am on Friday/Saturday and Saturday/Sunday nights/mornings – would expand. Short answer from SDOT: No, though the topic is often revisited.
The decision is finally in on the West Marginal Way protected bicycle lane replacing a half mile of the outside southbound traffic lane north of the Duwamish Longhouse. The West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force has just been told – in their monthly meeting (watch here) – that the lane will be built.
It’ll be a 4-foot, 2-way protected bike lane with a jersey barrier (here’s our previous coverage of the design that was recently unveiled).
SDOT contends that losing the lane at that spot will have a “negligible” effect on travel times. The construction will not start, however, until after the bridge reopens in 2022. In Q&A, Zora says the mayor has signed off on this. Here are the topline reasons for the decision:
In discussion post-announcement, SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe noted that traffic on WMW is not likely, post-bridge-reopening, to be anything near what it is now. He insists SDOT is committed to freight mobility (the city’s Freight Advisory Board opposed the bicycle lane, and the Port of Seattle expressed concerns). Other updates from the meeting will be in separate coverage.
Your next chance for updates on the West Seattle Bridge and related projects/issues is noon tomorrow, when the Community Task Force meets online. Here’s the link to watch; here’s the agenda. Updates will include the 60 percent repair design milestone, the latest low-bridge access stats, and West Marginal Way (still awaiting the bike-lane decision). The meeting is scheduled from noon to 2 pm; if you can’t watch, just one week later, SDOT promises bridge updates at its community meeting (5:30 pm July 21st). P.S. The West Seattle Transportation Coalition, which usually includes bridge updates at its monthly meeting, will NOT be meeting this month – instead of its regular meeting, which would have been on July 22nd, they’re urging everyone to attend SDOT’s meeting.
The next big update on the West Seattle Bridge is due one week from today, when the Community Task Force meets at noon July 14th. Then one week after that, SDOT plans a community update meeting, just announced today. The online meeting is set for 5:30 pm Wednesday, July 21st. From the announcement:
Members of our team will provide updates about the ongoing repair effort on the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge (high bridge), expanded access on the Spokane St Swing Bridge (low bridge), and our work to improve access to and around West Seattle through the Reconnect West Seattle, Home Zone, and neighborhood travel options programs. We’ll also have plenty of time for you to submit questions, which will be answered live at our meeting by a panel of team members.
Participation information is in the SDOT announcement, which also notes that the meeting will be interpreted live in Spanish, Mandarin, and Vietnamese, while the recording posted online later will have subtitles in Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, Khmer, Somali, and Oromo.
Two West Seattle Bridge notes this evening:
HEAT WAVE EFFECTS? Since we heard a lot about watching how the stabilized bridge handled last winter’s cold weather – including a foot of snow – we wondered how it was handling the extreme heat. No problems as of this afternoon, SDOT told us via email, while explaining why the WS Bridge didn’t get the same treatment as some others:
Heat stress issues are a concern specifically for our movable steel bridges which is why we are monitoring their performance closely and cooling them with water during this current high temperature period. The West Seattle High-Rise Bridge (WSHB) is primarily constructed from reinforced concrete and is not effected by extreme heat in the same way that our steel movable bridges are. Also of note is that the WSHB is currently in a stabilized condition as a result of last years’ inspection, design and construction efforts. As such we don’t anticipate any damage to the WSHB from the extreme heat and therefore don’t see a need for cooling; however, out of an abundance of caution we still have active instrumentation throughout the WSHB to monitor performance and our readiness posture is still maintained with our Monitoring, Operation and Response Plan (MORP) in effect should something unexpected happen.
We’ll check again tomorrow.
NEW FEDERAL GRANT: Over the weekend, West Seattle-residing U.S. House Rep. Pramila Jayapal announced that an $11 million federal grant was on the way to help fund the West Seattle Bridge repairs. At the City Council’s morning briefing today, Transportation Committee chair Councilmember Alex Pedersen noted that while the grant was good news, it was less than the city had requested. We went back into the archives to find out how much the request was for, and found this slide from the March 17th bridge briefing before his committee, when the grant application was about to be submitted:
So the city was hoping for up to $21 million but got $11 million. As for the new federal infrastructure package, the council was told by staff this morning that it’s not clear yet what the city stands to receive. Previously received federal funding for the bridge, meantime, has included a $14 million grant routed through the Puget Sound Regional Council. The total cost of repairs plus other projects – low-bridge work, traffic calming along detour routes, trying to encourage people to shift modes, etc. – is estimated at $175 million.
Rather than one big wrapup, we’re breaking cpverage tonight’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting into separate topics. First – two milestones on the way to West Seattle Bridge repair work. SDOT’s Sara Zora said the repair design has reached the 60 percent stage, and that plan is being “circulated” now for review. For months, SDOT has said that once it gets to the 60 percent design mark, it will be able to hone in on a better estimate for bridge reopening than the “mid-2022” that’s been cited for a long time. Also, Zora said, they’ve officially issued a Notice to Proceed for repair contractor Kraemer North America, which means the contract has been finalized. She said they’re running a little bit ahead of schedule, because that wasn’t expected until the end of the month (as noted when the contractor choice was announced). We’ll be checking tomorrow with SDOT to see what additional information is available, since the next scheduled update isn’t until the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force meets July 14th. Meantime, SDOT also brought West Marginal Way speed and collision information to tonight’s WSTC meeting, as the group had requested; we’ll report on that separately.