CHOKEPOINTS

Former Seattle mayor to lead West Seattle Bridge advisory group

May 27, 2020, 6:55 AM | Updated: 10:26 am
West Seattle Bridge...
The West Seattle Bridge. (Feliks Banel, KIRO Radio)
(Feliks Banel, KIRO Radio)

Seattle has done the most Seattle thing in dealing with the closed West Seattle Bridge: It has formed two panels of experts to deal with damage to the bridge and the ensuing traffic problems from its closure.

Engineers believe West Seattle Bridge could eventually suffer partial collapse

The first is a technical panel made up of engineers. The second is a 21-member group headed by former Mayor Greg Nickels. It includes neighborhood, business, and maritime leaders as well. Another 10 people, elected officials or staff, will also be in the group.

This community task force’s job is to “help ensure transparency, clear communication, and broad community engagement and understanding around both traffic mitigation efforts and the future path forward for the West Seattle Bridge.”

The 125,000 vehicles a day that used the West Seattle Bridge before the closure are going to have to go somewhere, especially when we return to a somewhat normal situation after the pandemic. Most drivers have been using West Marginal Way to South Park, then moving onto 509 to Michigan to get to I-5. That route cannot handle all that traffic.

I asked city mobility director Heather Marx last week how those streets have been performing, even with the traffic at less than half of normal.

“We are seeing massive increases in traffic on West Marginal Way leading up to the bridge. We’re also seeing traffic levels on Michigan that are identical, if not at least a little higher, than our baseline pre-COVID,” she said.

The Seattle Department of Transportation said it has already completed more than 80 projects to help mitigate traffic in the area. That includes new traffic monitors to get an understanding of how many cars are using what streets. SDOT has also tweaked the signal timing at 25 intersections to help traffic move more smoothly, and moved up some construction projects that were already planned for Spokane Street and 6th Avenue.

Residents face ‘scary’ prospect of losing West Seattle Bridge for good

It considers the Healthy Streets initiative, where the city closes streets to through traffic, as one of the ways it is mitigating traffic by allowing better bike and pedestrian options through the Delridge and High Point neighborhoods.

The plan is still to shore up the bridge and make a temporary fix, but as we have discussed before, the bridge is making the decisions.

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Former Seattle mayor to lead West Seattle Bridge advisory group