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City preps for potential West Seattle Bridge replacement

The West Seattle Bridge. (Feliks Banel, KIRO Radio)

The full-court press to come up with answers for the damaged and closed West Seattle Bridge is on.

The history of the West Seattle Bridge

The city is preparing for every possible outcome, good or bad, to return this artery to service, and that includes looking at bids for a possible replacement.

One of the biggest public criticisms of the West Seattle Bridge response has related to why the city is spending so much money to try and fix it, when it could just start planning for a replacement. Some people believe it’s a waste of valuable time to try and fix the bridge, when that time could be spent on speeding up the timeline for a new span.

The city addressed that criticism by putting out a bid for replacing the 36-year-old bridge. The Seattle Times reports the contract is worth between $50 and 150 million to design a replacement.

One of the key components of the bid is showing experience of building government-owned bridges worth at least $200 million. This backs up city mobility director Heather Marx’s comment to me from a few weeks ago saying the city is working on all possible tracks at the same time.

“We are preparing for shoring at the same time that we are preparing for repair at the same time we are preparing for replacement,” she said at the time. “At a certain point in the not too distant future, we’re going to know which direction we need to go.”

Plan A is still to find some way to repair the bridge in the short-term, and get another 10 years of life out of the bridge. But as we have said all along, it’s the cracks and the bridge that will be making the final decisions on this, especially if plans to shore them up fail.

Former mayor: Task force will work hard on West Seattle Bridge plan

The city has no estimate on what it would cost for a full or partial replacement for the bridge. It would likely run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. That cost will go up or down depending on what the city wants out of new bridge.

How many lanes will it have? Will it be required to handle light rail? There has been talk of combining this new bridge with possible plans for a light rail bridge for the expansion into West Seattle.

There is also no estimate on how long it might take to construct a new bridge. The plan remains to fix the bridge, but have this backup design ready to go if those plans go south.

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