West Seattle, Washington
4:12 PM: Just announced by SDOT: The West Seattle Bridge is expected to reopen in September. From the written version of the announcement made during the Community Task Force meeting:
“We expect the West Seattle Bridge to be open to traffic during the week of September 12. Sharing that today is a relief since our focus has always been on safely getting everyone back on the bridge ASAP. It’s been hard having to wait for this update, but we did need to get through the concrete work to understand exactly where we were schedule-wise. Thank you for being so patient, Seattle,” SDOT Program Manager Heather Marx said.
The disruptions caused by the regional concrete strike have had an ongoing impact on the project schedule. SDOT’s construction contractor originally planned to begin pouring concrete at the beginning of the year, but ultimately had to wait until mid-April to start pouring the structural concrete, which is essential to strengthening the bridge. Today’s announced schedule shift is about equal in length to the extra time spent waiting for concrete to arrive.
During the concrete strike, SDOT adjusted the sequence of work activities to minimize delays and keep the project moving forward in other ways. Crews never stopped working to repair and strengthen the bridge, and continued working on epoxy injections and carbon fiber wrapping during the wait for concrete.
Specialized structural concrete is an essential part of the plan to strengthen the bridge. Crews finished pouring structural concrete on May 26, 2022 and it takes 28 days for the concrete to fully harden and become strong enough to hold the 20 million pounds of force associated with the new post-tensioning system. Crews are currently in the process of installing ducts and threading steel cables through the concrete blocks, but must wait for the concrete to finish hardening before they can tighten these cables to strengthen the bridge and prevent future cracking.
Since the final structural concrete pour was completed, SDOT has worked with the construction contractor to finalize the sequence of the remaining work. SDOT will continue to hold its construction contractor accountable to meet their updated timeframe. Remaining repairs for completion of the project require challenging and complex work. SDOT released a tentative schedule today in the interest of transparency, and stressed that a project of this scale may still encounter additional unforeseen challenges outside the City’s control. SDOT will continue to provide ongoing construction updates and notify the public if the schedule changes. …
Final repairs to the bridge include three key repair procedures: epoxy injections to fill cracks, carbon-fiber wrapping to add strength, and post-tensioning with steel cables to compress the concrete.
After the post-tensioning is complete, crews will complete a final round of epoxy crack injections and carbon-fiber wrapping. They will also complete other work to prepare the bridge for reopening to traffic. This work includes replacing expansion joints, restoring the road by closing crew access holes, replacing overhead signs, replacing concrete panels east of 35th Ave SW, installing a concrete overlay on the Fauntleroy Expressway, and removing detours and adjusting traffic signals in West Seattle.
If this timeline holds, the bridge will reopen after 2 1/2 years of closure, dating back to its shutdown – with only a few hours of advance notice to the public – on March 23, 2020. Three weeks later, SDOT warned the bridge wouldn’t reopen before 2022. Seven months after that, then-Mayor Jenny Durkan announced her decision to proceed with repairing rather than replacing the bridge. Stabilization work had already been done; one year after the mayor’s announcement, “final repairs” began.
Below, our continuing coverage of the Community Task Force meeting at which today’s announcement was made:
4:01 PM, MEETING BEGINS: Two years and two and a half months after the West Seattle Bridge‘s emergency closure began, its end may finally be in sight. We’re expecting news of a reopening date during the Community Task Force meeting that’s just under way – we’ll be chronicling the meeting live below this video window you can use to watch:
The meeting began with a mention of two traffic deaths in West Seattle and SODO last month. Task Force co-chair Greg Nickels then offered reflections, and thanks, noting it’s been two years since then-Mayor Jenny Durkan convened the advisory group. He talked about the group’s advocacy for ensuring people in need of life-saving medical treatment could use the low bridge – noting he and his wife Sharon Nickels needed that as she underwent months of cancer treatment.
SDOT interim director Kristen Simpson also offered gratitude to the CTF members.
4:11 PM: Bridge program director Heather Marx says the bridge
will is expected to reopen “the week of September 12th.” We’ve now added the written announcement above, but will continue chronicling the meeting here. She says “structural concrete curing,” epoxy injection, carbon-fiber wrapping, post-tensioning, and other work remains. “A precise date” is expected with one month’s notice, Marx says. She warns there are still risks to even that schedule.
4:17 PM: City Councilmember Lisa Herbold asks if there’s any way the bridge could open sooner – like, before school starts. Marx says the bridge crews “are already working 60 hours a week” so adding to that isn’t feasible, but they’re looking at other options. How’s the falcon nest doing? asks CTF member Deb Barker. Fine, says Marx.
Next, CTF member Dan Austin says he’s astonished (not in a good way) by the September date. Marx tries to explain that the delay, saying, “When I heard September, my heart sank.”
4:28 PM: CTF member Anne Higuera says this would still be in the third quarter, and she’s OK with that. Marx warns that “schedules are malleable” and “this might still be something of a roller-coaster in the next few months.” Then she goes into a recap of what’s been done so far and what’s yet to be done.
4:38 PM: Now on to the low bridge, which also has repair work planned. Some closures are anticipated, no dates yet. Marx also reiterated that low-bridge restrictions will be lifted once the high bridge reopens. She also discussed the sequencing of testing and finishing touches at the end of the process. “The bridge you’re getting back is going to be better,” she insisted. … What kind of monitoring is planned in the future? she was asked. “The bridge is (now) all wired up,” Marx noted, adding “it’s a little more expensive taking care of a repaired bridge than a new bridge” – more repainting will be needed, because some of the repair components are UV-sensitive, for example. That’ll require financial support for more bridge maintenance, it was noted.
4:51 PM: Co-chair Nickels notes that this remains the last scheduled meeting of the CTF, though the bridge won’t be reopening for (at least) three months – unless something major happens. He mentions there’ll be some kind of ribboncutting before it reopens (that would be separate from the celebration that a community coalition’s been planning). Co-chair Paulina López offers her reflections too, asking CTF members to share their thoughts on how their part of the process has gone.
5:06 PM: What ensued was more a round of thanks and acknowledgments, and now the meeting is over. Bottom line again: SDOT does not expect the bridge to reopen before “the week of September 12th.”
We followed up on a discussion that erupted after we published this image from the SDOT camera atop the 27-months-closed West Seattle Bridge:
Commenters noted the missing bus-lane markings. Though we’ve reported previously that SDOT has said the lane configurations on the bridge will not change – the eastbound bus lane stays – we thought we’d re-verify. So we asked SDOT’s Mariam Ali about both the bus-lane markings and overall resurfacing plans. Her response:
The reason why the cam image showed that the high bridge eastbound pavement was missing the red bus lane was because they were removed to create a blank slate for contractor construction markings. We need to remove the old markings to install the new markings.
Markings and the bus lane do stay the same [for reopening] and will be returned as it was before the bridge closure.
For the new resurfacing before reopening of the bridge, we will be replacing 60 concrete panels from Fauntleroy Expressway to 35th. We will also be placing a concrete overlay on parts of the Fauntleroy Expressway (see attached document – the red marking).
There will be no deck rehab on the high bridge itself since Piers 15-18 decks are in good shape. We will also fix the holes on the high bridge that were made during construction.
As we’ve been noting, tomorrow’s the day the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force is scheduled to get an update on the timeline for reopening the bridge. The meeting starts at 4 pm Thursday and will be viewable live (and on replay) here. We’ll add the full agenda when we get it. (Update: Here it is.)
Perhaps the biggest meeting this week is now three days away – the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force, 4 pm Thursday (June 9th). This is the meeting at which SDOT promises “an update about the reopening timeline” for the bridge repairs, now that the structural-concrete pours have all been completed. Note that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll announce an opening date – the language they’ve used is exactly what’s quoted above, a timeline update. We don’t have the agenda yet but you’ll be able to watch the meeting live here. (Update: Here’s the agenda.)
As of tonight, the West Seattle Bridge has been closed for 800 days. Next week, SDOT promises an update on the timeline for reopening it. And once there’s a date for that, the community coalition planning a reopening celebration will know when it can happen. In the meantime, the design contest has a winner:
The artist is Susie Perry. Full details are yet to come, but the party planners expected to use the logo on a variety of swag/merchandise, including T-shirts. The community-planned-and-funded celebration is likely to include a run/walk on the bridge plus a food festival. Plans are likely to solidify afterthe aforementioned timeline update is presented at the June 9th meeting of the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force
As first reported here on Tuesday, SDOT said the last two structural-concrete pours for the West Seattle Bridge repairs were scheduled for yesterday and today – and they’ve just announced that indeed, the last one did happen today. Here’s the announcement:
Today, our construction contractor finished pouring structural concrete inside the bridge, forming the structures that will hold new steel cables essential to strengthening the bridge. Completing this crucial project milestone marks the end of a challenging process that affected our reopening schedule.
We still expect to reopen the bridge in mid-2022 and can now work with our construction contractor to finalize the sequence of the remaining work.
Concrete work was originally scheduled to begin in February and was delayed by a concrete strike that affected practically every transportation and construction project in the Puget Sound region. We appreciate and thank the concrete suppliers and drivers who came together for the community to enable projects like the West Seattle Bridge to move forward again.
We never stopped working on the bridge, despite the concrete strike. We adjusted the sequence of work activities so that we could complete other strengthening measures like sealing cracks with epoxy and wrapping the bridge walls with carbon fiber.
This week’s deliveries involved concrete trucks making back-to-back pours. Our construction contractor poured 15 truckloads of concrete in two days, more than half of the 245 cubic yards of structural concrete needed for the entire project.
The concrete was piped into the hollow bridge interior through a hole in the deck and was used to create massive blocks that form the foundations of the bridge’s additional post-tensioning system. Once the concrete structures have cured after 28 days, they’ll be capable of holding more than 20 million pounds of force.
The next step in the post-tensioning process is to install ducts in the new concrete blocks so that we can thread steel cables through the length of the bridge. After the concrete has fully cured, we will tighten these cables to strengthen the bridge and prevent future cracking.
SDOT also confirmed earlier this week that it expects to present a reopening-timeframe update when the Community Task Force meets on June 9th.
Last Friday night, we noted that City Councilmember Lisa Herbold‘s newsletter had two West Seattle Bridge timeline updates that weren’t included in the SDOT bridge newsletter sent just a few hours earlier. So we followed up. Here are the answers we received today:
CONCRETE: Almost six weeks after the first structural-concrete pour, the last two are expected to happen tomorrow and Thursday, according to SDOT spokesperson Ethan Bergerson. That doesn’t mark the end of the repair work, but it’ll be a milestone, since SDOT has said it needs to get through those pours before it can update the completion schedule. Speaking of which …
TIMELINE UPDATE: Bergerson explained Herbold’s mention of a timeline update expected June 9th: “We plan to give an update about the reopening timeline at the next Community Task Force meeting on June 9.” When the CTF last met in April, the June meeting date wasn’t finalized, and there was hope the reopening date would already have been announced, so that it would be less of a briefing meeting, but apparently not.
3:49 PM: We’ve been checking again this week with SDOT regarding the status of the high-bridge repair work. They’re still awaiting two more pours of specialized structural concrete and are working on that schedule, we were told in multiple inquiries this week. Today’s weekly update shows what they’ve been doing in the meantime:
We continued working on post-tensioning anchorage forms [above] in the West Seattle Bridge’s south girder. These anchorages contain lots of steel reinforcement and must be assembled with sleeves or openings. These sleeves allow for utility lines and new post-tensioning strands to pass through them. All of these components must be placed together correctly so that when the new post-tensioning strands are stressed to more than a million pounds, the bridge and all of its existing systems compress and strengthen the bridge as intended.
During the structural concrete pours, we are completing a review of the post-tensioning work completed so far, which includes the rebar we’ve installed, the holes we’ve drilled for the post-tensioning system, and the performance of the concrete.
As we complete this review, we’re making real-time adjustments to our work so we’re confident that the post-tensioning elements and the future post-tensioning system will ensure a safe and long-lasting repair.
SDOT has said repeatedly that they won’t be able to estimate the reopening date until those two remaining concrete pours are done. They’ve also said they expect to be able to provide the date with one month’s advance notice.
P.S. Reminder – the eastbound Spokane Street Viaduct continuation of the bridge east of Highway 99 is scheduled to close for expansion-joint and pothole work from late tonight through early Monday.
8:25 PM: Councilmember Lisa Herbold writes in her weekly newsletter, circulated tonight, that she’s been told the two structural-concrete pours are expected next week, and that “SDOT expects to make a time-frame announcement on June 9th.”
As covered in our morning traffic watch, the low bridge was out of service for more than an hour this morning, and intermittently closed for testing for a few hours beyond that. We asked SDOT what went wrong. Here’s the explanation:
Today during the rush hour commute, the Spokane Street Swing Bridge (West Seattle Low Bridge) was closed to vehicles due to an electrical issue. Our bridge operations team found that one of the electronic sensors (known as temponsonic transducer) which sends signals to the computer controlling bridge movements was causing an error message and had to be reset. Our crews fixed the current issue and completed several tests before opening the bridge to traffic. We are hopeful that the issue has been resolved. We will continue to perform our regular maintenance and frequent inspections on the bridge to ensure it stays operational and safe.
New electronic controls are part of what the low bridge is getting as part of the repair/rehab work scheduled later this year.
Last night we published Stephen‘s reader report about his car getting spattered by concrete and rocks while he was driving under the west end of the West Seattle Bridge on Monday afternoon. Others reported in comments that it had happened to them, We asked SDOT about it this morning. This afternoon, we have their reply:
Yesterday, crews were grinding the bridge deck in preparation of the concrete overlay coming to the Fauntleroy Expressway. The grinding machine removes old concrete and preps the surface for paving and sprays water while it’s working to keep dust under control. Unfortunately, [it] went deeper than expected, and a combination of the existing concrete and water dripped through the bridge deck and onto the ground and some cars below. Initial inspections show no serious damage to the bridge structure or deck that won’t be fixed when the new pavement is laid.
If someone believes their private property – including their vehicle – was damaged, then they can file a damage claim with the city through our online portal at Filing a Damage Claim | seattle.gov. We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused for anyone who has been affected.
The Fauntleroy Expressway is the formal name of the west end of the bridge, before and as it curves up toward Fauntleroy Way.
ADDED: In response to a followup question, SDOT spokesperson Mariam Ali said the problem was caused by failure of a “sensor,” which has since been replaced.
The community coalition planning a celebration for the reopening of the West Seattle Bridge (no date yet) has unveiled three finalists in the design contest (announced last month). See them, and vote for your favorite, by going here. Winner gets $500 and “VIP treatment” at reopening events.
The West Seattle Transportation Coalition‘s monthly meeting included a bridge briefing, an early look at a proposal for freight-only lanes, light-rail comments, and big news from the group’s leadership. That’s where we’ll begin:
WSTC LEADERSHIP: Both chair Michael Taylor-Judd and vice chair Marty Westerman say they intend to relinquish those roles, and to leave the WSTC board entirely after a half-year of transition or so. Both have been involved with the WSTC since it was founded in 2013. With other departures, the board has five openings in its upcoming elections, so if you want to get involved with West Seattle transportation advocacy, now’s the time.
WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE REPAIRS: SDOT’s Heather Marx presented an update. Much of it was a rerun of what the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force was told one week earlier, except for the structural-concrete timeline – she said the third of six deliveries was expected the following day (Friday, April 29th), and indeed, SDOT confirms that happened. Here’s a time-lapse video from early last week as they removed wooden forms from some of the interior concrete:
She said the project can’t control when the concrete supplier can deliver, so they still don’t know when the last pour will be. (As for the next one, SDOT has since told us the fourth pour “should hopefully occur within the next week.”) At the meeting, Marx reiterated that they’ll know the reopening date about a month in advance but they’re not out of the woods yet regarding concerns – supply-chain issues, COVID, the weather, now even wildlife (with the nesting peregrine falcons). Overall, “we know a lot about this bridge, but there are still ways in which it can surprise us.” Q: So how much more time after the last concrete pour? The concrete needs 28 days to cure, and then other tasks need to be done. “After that last pour, we’ll have a date for you” – both a “done with construction/start for testing” date and “open date.” Q: When will the falcons fly? They hatch in May, fledge in June. “The work continues, it’s just a little slower,” Marx said.
FREIGHT-ONLY LANES? Radcliffe Dacanay and Chris Eaves of SDOT were there to talk about a draft plan for freight-only lanes as well as transit lanes that allow freight. They stressed that these lanes would be “tested as pilots,” and reiterated repeatedly that this is a draft plan. The slide deck outlines the key points – see it here.
A few key points: Larger vehicles will be the focus for starters. They’d only locate the freight-only lanes in Manufacturing Industrial Centers – Duwamish Valley and SODO in this general area. They’re not sure when they might try this pilot. Eaves stressed they want to be careful about proceeding on this. WSTC’s Taylor-Judd said that they support the idea of testing something before it becomes full-fledged official. The SDOT reps stressed that this is “what we’re thinking,” very early-stage. Much conversation, notification, and information would happen regarding any location that is under active consideration. Meantime, the Freight Advisory Board and other volunteer boards/commissions are being consulted too.
WSTC COMMENTS ON LIGHT RAIL DRAFT EIS: The meeting was on the day that commenting closed for Sound Transit’s West Seattle/Ballard Light Rail Extensions Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The WSTC sent a letter – here’s an excerpt:
In light of what we have learned in the last 2-3 years, the WSTC strongly encourages consideration of placing some previously dismissed early alternatives back into to the scope of this EIS process for further study and consideration.
• We urge further consideration of the so-called “long tunnel” option along the Yancy alignment to avoid the destruction of many single-family homes and possibly even some taller multifamily structures in the Avalon neighborhood.
• We also call for the reconsideration and further study of the so-called “Purple Line” alternative which featured a crossing of the Duwamish River at a point further south, tunneling through the Puget Ridge approximately along the SW Genesee alignment, then following the current elevated station and guideway alignments along that street before entering a tunnel below the Avalon neighborhood and continuing underground into the West Seattle Junction.
You can see the WSTC’s full letter here.
NEXT MONTH: Tentative guests, pending confirmation, will be Mayor Bruce Harrell and citywide city councilmembers. The WSTC meets most months at 6:30 pm on the fourth Thursday, which means May 26th.
4:42 PM MONDAY: Nighttime traffic alerts are out for
four of the next five nights because of surface-street work related to the West Seattle Bridge repairs. We got the first hint at this with an unexplained Metro detour advisory issued late last week, and obtained the full list of alerts from SDOT just now:
This week, crews will be installing safety measures beneath the West Seattle High Rise Bridge and Fauntleroy Expressway as a precaution for upcoming overhead work. Crews will need space to stage equipment beneath the bridge while equipment is being installed, leading to some late-night detours on SW Spokane St, West Marginal Way and East Marginal Way on certain nights this week.
Here is the full detour information for each night this week.
10 PM Monday, April 25 to 5 AM Tuesday, April 26:
Closure of eastbound Spokane Street Between Avalon Way & Delridge Way
Detour in place: Southbound on SW Avalon Way, east to SW Genesee St, North on Delridge Way SW
7 PM Tuesday, April 26 to 6 AM Wednesday, April 27:
Closure of southbound right lane of West Marginal Way.
Pedestrian path to be closed from 10 PM to 5 AM
10 PM Wednesday, April 27 to 5 AM Thursday, April 28:
Closure of East Marginal Way U-turn lane and right lane approaching the U-turn
10 PM Thursday, April 28 to 5 AM Friday, April 29:
Closure of westbound Spokane St between Delridge Way and Avalon Way
Detour in place: south on Delridge Way SW, west on SW Genesee St, northbound on SW Avalon Way
10 PM Friday, April 29 to 5 AM Saturday, April 30:
Closure of S Spokane Street to northbound East Marginal Way; closure of Northbound East Marginal Way at Spokane Street.
There will be a signed detour to Eastbound Spokane St.
6:42 PM TUESDAY: Updated above, with Wednesday night work added, and Thursday scope changed.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
A big part of the role of West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force members is to serve as community liaisons to circulate information to and from fellow community members. When the CTF met online today, one member explained all she’s hearing from everyone with whom she talks is “When? When? When?” regarding a bridge-reopening date.
No date yet. But today’s meeting had a definite “light at the end of the tunnel” – well, bridge – mood.
BRIDGE UPDATES: SDOT’s Heather Marx recapped what’s happening now with repairs, including the first two deliveries of specialized structural concrete Saturday and Wednesday.
The nesting pair of peregrine falcons on the bridge have required coordination with the state and creation of a “falcon management plan,” just approved today, less than a week after the nesting birds were found.
As we’ve been reporting, a community coalition led by the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce and West Seattle Junction Association is planning a celebration for the West Seattle Bridge reopening – not a celebration of the closure/repairs, but a celebration of the restored connection with the rest of the region. We noted last month that a logo/slogan contest was planned – and now organizers have sent the announcement that it’s on:
On behalf of the West Seattle Chamber and our West Seattle community, we are excited to announce a contest to feature a community-selected artist’s design for all marketing and swag! The winning design (and slogan, if desired) will receive $500, VIP treatment for all bridge-reopening events, and of course good ol’ bragging rights
The deadline for rough drafts is April 30th and the community will vote the 1st week in May. Please note: while we welcome all submissions, artwork needs to be family-friendly to qualify for voting and selection. Your entry submission means you are allowing West Seattle to use your art across all forms of marketing.
We’re looking forward to seeing all your ideas!
* Any and all bridge events in no way, shape, or form impact the reopening date of the bridge, which is still unknown. The City of Seattle and Department of Transportation have granted us access one week before the bridge is set to open, which will happen regardless of the date it actually opens.
* Contest is open to West Seattle residents.
The celebration funding, including the contest prize, is from community sponsorships.
SDOT just announced another milestone in the West Seattle Bridge repairs, albeit a belated one – the first pour of strike-delayed specialized structural concrete, a key ingredient for strengthening the bridge before reopening it. SDOT’s announcement explains that this concrete “will be used to form structures inside the bridge to hold the new steel cables for the improved post-tensioning system” – summarized as “46 miles of steel cables … capable of holding more than 20 million pounds of force.” SDOT sent this aerial video of today’s pour – the truck’s atop the bridge but the concrete’s destination is inside:
As reported previously, the project received two deliveries of non-structural concrete earlier this month for new expansion joints, part of the maintenance work that’s being done before the bridge reopens. Today’s announcement adds, “This past week, SDOT completed the final core drills through the bridge’s pier structures, which is another major milestone to get ready for installing the new post-tensioning system. SDOT and its contractor have also be been continuing to make progress filling existing cracks with epoxy and installing carbon wrapping on both the interior and exterior of the bridge.” As for when the bridge will reopen, SDOT reiterated today that they can’t reassess the schedule until all the concrete pours for the post-tensioning are complete.
One week ago today, SDOT announced that the West Seattle Bridge repair project finally had started receiving concrete again. The initial delivery, SDOT said, was going toward expansion-joint work, part of the maintenance that’s scheduled to be done before the bridge reopens to traffic. The deliveries were made possible by the decision of some concrete drivers to return to work though their labor dispute with suppliers hadn’t been resolved; in the past week, the strikers expanded that decision, announcing they would all return to work while negotiations continued. So today, we asked SDOT what’s happened since those first deliveries last Tuesday, particularly whether they’ve started receiving concrete for the post-tensioning (strengthening) that’s a key part of the repairs. Spokesperson Ethan Bergerson tells WSB, “We expect to begin receiving structural concrete for the post-tensioning system this weekend. We’re pleased that the concrete work is moving forward as fast as possible, given the concrete supplier’s delivery constraints. In total, the project needs 245 cubic yards (about 30 truckloads) of structural concrete for the post-tensioning system. Last week, 2 truckloads of non-structural concrete were delivered for the expansion joints.” SDOT has said they won’t be able to offer a revised reopening timeline until the last of that concrete is poured. We’re likely to get an update next week when the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force meets at 4 pm Thursday, April 21st.
10:30 AM: Just in from SDOT:
Concrete trucks arrived early this morning on the West Seattle Bridge. The first pours are for new expansion joints as part of major maintenance work being done while the bridge is closed.
Following the expansion joint concrete pours, we’ll then pour concrete inside the bridge for the improved post-tensioning system that will provide additional strength for the repaired bridge. These bridge repairs require 245 cubic yards – or about 30 truckloads of specialized concrete. Once the concrete structures are done, they’ll be capable of holding more than 20 million pounds of force for decades to come.
While we’re encouraged that our construction crews have begun the concrete work delayed by the strike, we now need to see how the deliveries will go and manage the pours for the next month or so. After the pours are done and the work inspected, we’ll be able to revisit the project schedule and share an update about the timing of the reopening, originally scheduled for mid-2022.
It’s now six weeks past the February 20th deadline the city originally cited for needing concrete in order to stay on that schedule. The labor dispute between concrete drivers and suppliers hasn’t been resolved yet, but some drivers represented by striking Teamsters Local 174 recently said they would return to work for some suppliers in order to get things moving on the West Seattle Bridge and other major public projects. SDOT’s contractor Kraemer North America was then in talks with supplier Cadman to ensure the necessary specialty mix would be available, and then to determine a schedule. We’ll be asking a few followup questions.
12:39 PM: Still awaiting followup answers. In the meantime, Mayor Bruce Harrell has issued a statement – here’s an excerpt:
Reopening the West Seattle Bridge is the top transportation priority for my team and getting concrete today is an encouraging step that brings us closer to that goal. Throughout this strike, I’m continuing to have intense discussions with both sides to urge a fair resolution to this contract dispute. I want to again thank the Teamsters for taking the extraordinary, good-faith action of returning to work with three concrete companies. Despite those companies having no existing agreement with our contractor to work on the bridge, my administration immediately engaged to identify which business could meet our specific needs and worked relentlessly to help facilitate concrete delivery. Thank you to Cadman for their willingness to assist and help expedite a solution.
West Seattle/South Park City Councilmember Lisa Herbold has published a similar statement – read it here.
5:24 PM: SDOT has sent replies to our followup questions. They’ve confirmed that Cadman committed to all 245 yards of concrete the bridge project needs. Will the concrete situation add to the repair-project cost? “We’re hoping this doesn’t add extra cost, but won’t know for sure until all the concrete is delivered. We don’t anticipate any cost increases to the overall contract, which includes built in contingency that could be released to cover additional costs if needed.” Anything else causing delays right now? No, SDOT says.
P.S. The next major public briefing on the bridge will be at the Community Task Force meeting at 4 pm April 21st.
Three West Seattle Bridge updates:
CLOSER TO CONCRETE? When last we checked with SDOT regarding whether some striking drivers’ offer to return to work would result in concrete for the bridge, they said contractor Kraemer North America was talking with potential supplier Cadman about the “recipe” for what they need. Today, when asked for an update, SDOT told WSB, “At this stage in the project’s pursuit of concrete, the city has evaluated and approved Cadman’s concrete mix designs. Kraemer is now working with Cadman to determine their delivery capacity and schedule.” SDOT’s response to our inquiry also said, “We are still aiming to reopen the bridge in mid-2022.”
PROGRESS REPORTS: The bridge project team continues to have “progress report” meetings on Tuesday. As explained here in early March, we requested the reports from those meetings and were told they could only be released through the public-disclosure process, which has been taking about a month. So we continue to file requests for them. We just received six more, from the meetings January 25th, February 1st, February 8th, February 15th, February 22nd, and March 1st; the only notable point is that the concrete situation is recapped weekly, with the February 1st notation, “Project can endure strike without schedule impacts through about February 20th. After this date, impacts will be day for day.” That was eight days before the city publicly announced the February 20th date; also of note, we hadn’t heard the “day for day” point before; SDOT has repeatedly said that the schedule impacts won’t be known until the last pour for the post-tensioning (strengthening). February 8th brought a mention of concern about “exposed rebar” somewhere on the bridge deck. And the February 15th report noted an incident: “Westbound Highrise vehicle drove into perimeter gate. No injuries or major damage. Security could not locate car.” That week’s report also mentioned a possible “mayoral visit” to the bridge, but no further notations about whether that ever happened.
CELEBRATION PLANNING CONTINUES: As also previously mentioned, a community coalition has been working on plans to celebrate the reopening of the bridge, whenever it happens. Members of the subcommittees are holding an online meeting every other Tuesday to check in, and today brought one of those meetings. Many specifics are still yet to be decided, but here are a few toplines. Instead of just a logo contest, they’ll ask community members to suggest slogans too. Watch for the announcement of that. They’ve settled on some verbiage, though – there’ll be a website at westseattlebestseattle (dot) org, and they’ll encourage use of the #westseattlebestseattle hashtag – this, to underscore a goal of the reopening celebration, to encourage the rest of the region to come visit. They’re also still seeking sponsors for the celebratory event(s).
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
In our first report noting the second anniversary of the West Seattle Bridge’s sudden closure on March 23, 2020, we looked at what’s happening right now with repair work.
Before the night’s out, here’s one more report – including what happens once it’s back open.
We talked again late today with SDOT’s Heather Marx, the West Seattleite who is in charge of what’s become the West Seattle Bridge Program, encompassing not just getting the high bridge fixed and reopened, but also repair/maintenance work on the low bridge, as well as offshoot programs to calm detour traffic and encourage commuting alternatives.
Our questions included some that recur in discussion of bridge stories, even though they’ve been asked and answered before. For one – when the bridge reopens, will it reopen gradually, or all lanes at once? “It’s still the plan to open all lanes at once,” Marx said, again. There will be a two-week-or-so testing period once contractor Kraemer North America says they’re done – a plan has already been drafted for that, she adds – and then, it’ll be fully reopened.
Will the low-bridge restrictions all go away once the high bridge is reopened? Yes, Marx said. Private vehicles will have full access again, and transit will return to the high bridge.
Speaking of the low bridge, we asked if those fears about truck traffic from reopened Terminal 5 have come true. Basically, no. She said that T-5 has been making use of its rail capabilities, and that’s lessened the truck volume. So they’re not going to have to cut back on low-bridge access as they warned for months might be necessary: “We wanted to be sure people were emotionally prepared for the worst-case scenario.” But they’re not going to relax restrictions, either – the current status quo will remain until the high bridge reopens.
Meantime, “a hundred little projects” for the low bridge are continuing, though the big work – carbon-fiber wrap and epoxy injection, like the high bridge – is on the back burner while the high bridge stays in the spotlight. The “hundred little projects” are moving ahead, Marx said, including rerouting control wires and cables through an underground tube.
And as mentioned in a past briefing, they’re also working on what you might call an “undo list” – things that need to be removed (think of all those detour signs) or changed once the high bridge reopens. Marx explains that requires more logistics than you might expect, ensuring that crews “have space on their summer calendar,” for example.
Yes, she said “summer.” So that brings us back to the concrete concern. As we reported earlier today, contractor Kraemer NA is now talking with supplier Cadman – one of the companies to which striking Teamsters Local 174 drivers said they’d return – about what’s needed for this project. In our conversation late today, we asked Marx for more specifics on those talks. She said they’re working on a “mix design,” aka recipe, for the “self-consolidating” concrete that’s needed for the post-tensioning (strengthening with steel cables). So what happened to the concern that even once the concrete was flowing again, the West Seattle Bridge wouldn’t be anywhere near the head of the line, because a relatively small amount is needed? Marx said it turns out “there’s not a very long line for this kind of concrete.” She also said Mayor Bruce Harrell has been “encouraging” Cadman to prioritize the bridge.
Here’s something that hasn’t changed: The estimated completion date can’t be calculated until the “last concrete pour” for the post-tensioning, Marx reiterated. And she’s not willing to estimate how long it’ll take Kraemer and Cadman to work out the details to get to the pouring point.
Two years ago today, in announcing the closure, SDOT warned repairs could take “months”; three weeks later, they warned the bridge might not be fixable, and even if it was, it wouldn’t reopen before 2022. Now, one-fourth of the way into that year, it’ll be a while longer before we know when in 2022.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
At 7 pm tonight, it’ll be exactly two years since the city’s emergency shutdown of the crack-plagued West Seattle Bridge, announced just hours before the closure took effect.
There’s still no date for its reopening, and the unavailability of concrete because of a months-long labor dispute has left the long-estimated “mid-2022” in question.
But there’s new hope today that concrete could be flowing soon, in the wake of Teamsters Local 174‘s recent announcement that some striking drivers were willing to return to work to get public projects moving again. SDOT spokesperson Ethan Bergerson tells WSB, “Our construction contractor is currently in the process of developing a contract with Cadman, and communicating with them about their ability to produce the specialized concrete required for the repair and ensure that it meets the necessary quality specifications.”
Concrete is needed for several aspects of the work but most critically, the added “post-tensioning” – strengthening via steel cables. SDOT says the work to prepare for this is being done now: “This includes drilling holes through the inner walls of the bridge for the post-tensioning strands to pass through, building and positioning forms for the various concrete components that will support and anchor the post-tensioning strands, and installing rebar for these components.” Once concrete is available, the post-tensioning cables themselves will be installed.
We asked what else is currently being done while awaiting concrete: “Right now, crews are focusing on epoxy crack injection and carbon-fiber wrap work at various points of both the bridge’s interior and exterior. This process involves cleaning concrete surfaces that contain cracks and using pumps to inject epoxy into the cracks. Once the epoxy cures, crews smooth the surface and apply carbon-fiber sheets injected with a similar compound.”
As explained when the project manager from the repair contractor, Kraemer North America, briefed the Community Task Force extensively in December (WSB coverage here), maintenance work is under way too. Bergerson says one key component of that involves the bridge’s expansion joints: “Over the past few weeks, we removed and cleaned older joints and are now installing new joints. Once concrete becomes available, we will finish the installation of the new joints that are currently ready for pouring.”
SDOT’s bridge-project director Heather Marx has said they can’t estimate a date for reopening until the concrete pours are happening, but as of her last public briefing, she was still hopeful “mid-2022” was in reach. On the occasion of the closure’s two-year anniversary, Marx tells WSB, “We haven’t missed a day of work on the West Seattle Bridge in the two years since it closed. This project is – and has been – Seattle’s number one transportation emergency and priority. I’m so thankful and appreciative of my West Seattle family, friends, and neighbors who weathered this closure with our team and me. And I’m grateful to folks in Highland Park, South Park, Delridge, and Georgetown who’ve been sharing their neighborhoods with detour traffic for so long. In the bingo game of challenging circumstances we’ve all been living through these past two years, I didn’t have ‘concrete strike’ on my board. We’re managing that with our contractor, and I’m looking forward to getting concrete soon. Right now, our primary focus is to keep moving forward on every inch of bridge repairs that we can. Only one type of repair system is waiting on concrete.”
All of our bridge-closure-related coverage since March 23, 2020 – 271 stories and counting – is archived here, newest to oldest.
2:29 PM: It’s been six weeks since Mayor Bruce Harrell and County Executive Dow Constantine stood in front of media in White Center and warned that the concrete drivers’ strike was starting to seriously hinder major public projects. Despite Teamsters Local 174 offering to send some drivers back to work at some companies, that apparently hasn’t happened yet. Today Constantine went to the King County Council, in collaboration with other entities including the city, and put forth a new idea: He wants them to approve what a news release describes as “legislation that would study the feasibility of King County and other local entities developing their own concrete manufacturing facilities to ensure the future of critical infrastructure construction in our region.” The study wouldn’t be due until December 1st, so, the county acknowledges, it’s not going to help the current situation. Meantime, we’re checking on the status of the nearer-term idea Constantine announced at that White Center event back in February, seeking alternate suppliers. We’re also checking with SDOT for any update on concrete supplies for the West Seattle Bridge, which has been closed exactly two years ago as of tomorrow.
3:18 PM: KCE spokesperson Chase Gallagher says the Request for Qualifications for alternate concrete suppliers closed March 11th, “no bids received.”
One small bridge project has resumed, but the West Seattle Bridge work still awaits concrete, despite drivers’ back-to-work announcement earlier this week. First, here’s what SDOT announced today about the Andover overpass over the southwest end of the West Seattle Bridge:
We’ve resumed work on the SW Andover St Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge (Andover Bridge) seismic retrofit project. Our contractor for this project is using independent drivers to pour small amounts of concrete.
Remaining work includes landscaping around the new sidewalk and base of the bridge, installing and painting the handrail, and replacing fencing near the bridge. With work starting on the Andover Bridge again, we expect to complete the seismic retrofit in the next few weeks. We appreciate your patience and look forward to reopening the bridge after the work is done and it’s ready for use again.
After getting that announcement, we asked SDOT if there’s an update on the Teamsters Local 174 drivers’ offer to resume work for three companies in hopes of getting concrete to some projects including the West Seattle Bridge. The reply from spokesperson Ethan Bergerson:
Contractors have autonomy to select concrete suppliers and we were informed last week by the contractor for the Andover St Pedestrian Bridge Seismic Retrofit project that they would be pouring a comparatively small amounts of concrete using independent drivers.
This is not the same kind of concrete as is needed for the West Seattle Bridge. The West Seattle Bridge program requires specialized concrete which is capable of holding more than 20 million pounds of force and must sustain its strength for decades for the bridge to remain standing. This is a different kind of concrete than what is used for most other transportation projects like streets or sidewalks, which does not need to hold up to the same kinds of force.
Kraemer has reached out to all the concrete suppliers to determine who can supply the special type of concrete needed for the West Seattle Bridge and other details about timing and logistics. We are still awaiting more information from the concrete suppliers.
As for the drivers, they have a new statement online tonight, saying drivers for one company – Salmon Bay – are back at work, but alleging another company, Cadman, is dragging its feet on setting a date for drivers’ return.
Two West Seattle Bridge notes this afternoon:
CONCRETE FOLLOWUP: As reported here Monday, striking concrete-truck drivers say they’te willing to return to work at three of the four companies involved in the labor dispute, to get concrete going again for projects including the West Seattle Bridge. Today the companies have released a joint statement, saying only two of the companies had heard from Teamsters Local 174, but that they’d be happy to welcome those drivers back to work. Meantime, we have another update from SDOT this afternoon, after their earlier response that bridge-repair contractor Kraemer North America is contacting the suppliers named in the Teamsters announcement: “We are working closely with Kraemer as they urgently seek a concrete supplier for the bridge and continue to reorder and evaluate the repair schedule. We are talking with them every day about ways to keep the bridge repairs moving forward and minimize delays as much as possible.”
PARTY-PLANNING UPDATE: Though we don’t know when the West Seattle Bridge will reopen, a volunteer community coalition is continuing to plan celebrations. This is entirely a grass-roots effort, coordinated by the executive directors of the West Seattle Junction Association and Chamber of Commerce. The purpose is two-fold: Both to celebrate the end of the closure, whenever it happens, and to ensure the rest of the region is invited to head back this way. Nothing’s finalized yet but the first thing you’re likely to hear about soon is a logo contest with a theme along the lines of “I Survived the West Seattle Bridge Closure” – they’ll be looking for a logo for T-shirts and other merch. As for events, there’s talk of a run/walk on the bridge at some point before it reopens, followed by an afterparty, and a “business activation” event/campaign after it reopens, as well as neighborhood-specific celebrations. This is all privately funded so far, and one of the subcommittees is actively seeking sponsors, after signing STS Construction Services (WSB sponsor) and Compass Real Estate as lead sponsors.