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Aurora Bridge
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Aurora Bridge reopens in time for Wednesday commute

"Crews removed the paint from the steel on the Aurora Bridge so they had a clean surface and good look at the damage."(WSDOT via Flickr)

A collective sigh of relief among Seattle commuters as the Washington State Department of Transportation announced Tuesday that all lanes of the Aurora Bridge would reopen in time for Wednesday morning’s commute.

WSDOT said it had completed emergency repair to a damaged beam under the southbound lanes. The bridge had been reduced to two lanes in each direction since the night of Oct. 31.

“This was a complicated repair because the contractor was working with a stringer that was still holding a section of bridge deck,” WSDOT Assistant Regional Administrator Messay Shiferaw said in a news release on Tuesday. “We needed to lift the closed part the deck with additional steel to alleviate pressure from the stringer, repair the connecting steel and bolt it all back into place while still supporting the concrete deck.”

Engineers discovered damage to the stringer, a steel piece that runs lengthwise, on Oct. 27 during a scheduled inspection. There are 13 such stringers supporting each section of the bridge, built in 1931. When the damaged stringer shifted, WSDOT says the nearby stringers carried that extra weight.

Crews had painted trusses that support the bridge deck this fall, but not in the area of the damaged stringer. That section was painted as part of a 2016 project.

Aurora Bridge closure theory

Last week, KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson posed a theory that the closure and repair work on the Aurora Bridge could be a ploy by the Washington State Department of Transportation to get people to vote no on I-976.

The ballot initiative would take car tab rates down to $30, but the “No on I-976” campaign has emphasized through its ads how this would take away funds from infrastructure necessities, including bridges in need of repair.

National Progressive Institute founder Andrew Villeneuve, a member of the No campaign, wrote a piece at the Northwest Progressive Institute calling Dori’s monologue an “absurd, silly conspiracy theory.”

Villeneuve said that the timing of the bridge inspection and subsequent repair with the election is just one of the many “coincidences in life.” The department’s goal, he said, is to ensure every Washingtonian is safe on the road, not to illegally get involved in a campaign for an initiative.

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