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No timeline for even temporary repairs to West Seattle Bridge

This animation demonstrates the exponential acceleration of crack growth on the West Seattle Bridge, discovered for the first time on March 23. (Courtesy of SDOT)

If you’re looking for any timeline for reopening lanes of the West Seattle Bridge, don’t look to the Seattle Department of Transportation right now.

It still hasn’t determined why the existing cracks, which have been monitored since 2013, are growing so fast. Until the engineers get a handle on that, the city can’t really start thinking about opening lanes.

“We are working to do it as quickly as possible and to do all the things we need to do, but it’s going to be something that, unfortunately I think, will outlast the public health emergency that we find ourselves in right now,” SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe told the Seattle City Council.

Deterioration forcing West Seattle Bridge to close until further notice

City bridge engineer Matt Donahue told the council he believes a temporary fix would revolve around a carbon fiber mesh wrapping that would go around the bridge. It would be hardened using a special epoxy.

The city might also use some post tensioning of cables inside the concrete. If the design works, Donahue is hoping the work zone over the Duwamish River won’t require Coast Guard permits because they would further delay any temporary repairs.

The city continues to look at the abuse of the lower Spokane Street bridge. It is supposed to be reserved for emergency vehicles and transit. The council is determining whether first responders using their own cars will be allowed to use it as well.

Amid stay-at-home order, ‘essential’ construction depends on who you ask

There is also talk of increased enforcement to keep the bridge open to necessary traffic. For people on the north end of West Seattle, it is an extra five miles to head south and use SR 99 to get to I-5.

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