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Task force meets to discuss future of West Seattle Bridge

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

The community group tasked by the City of Seattle to provide insight and feedback on the West Seattle Bridge met for the first time Wednesday.

City preps for potential West Seattle Bridge replacement

It was a somewhat awkward meeting since it was being done virtually. Members spent the first 45 minutes simply introducing themselves. Many had not met before, and there are more than 30 people on the task force.

Former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, who serves as a co-chair of the committee, joked that he had chaired thousands of meetings like this before, but never like this.

The director of downtown mobility Heather Marx led the participants through the details, getting the group up to speed on the issues before them.

“Your objectives, your assignment, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to advise on key bridge and finance decisions, to guide traffic mitigation and project prioritization and to bring forth community values, priorities, and ideas,” she said.

The only new information about the bridge to come out of this meeting was on potential timelines. Should the city go with the repair option, the earliest any cars could be back on the bridge would be 2022, and this would be limited capacity, not a full opening. Replacement under this scenario would begin in 2032.

Under the replacement option, a new bridge could open between 2024 and 2026. Marx said the city is getting very close to having to make this decision. The bridge is still cracking but at a slower rate since traffic was removed in March.

The history of the West Seattle Bridge

She said the path forward will be decided over the summer. The shoring up of the bridge will continue to try and keep it from collapsing under its own weight.

“We need to stabilize and shore the West Seattle Bridge,” Marx said. “When the bridge comes down, we want to make sure it’s because we want it to come down, not because we haven’t done the work that we need to do to keep it in place.”

The group was also briefed on traffic mitigation. To get an idea of how bad it has become for West Seattle residents, Nickels offered this:

“We went from having a 10-minute commute to Costco to a 40-minute commute,” he said.

We also found out that the Lower Spokane Street Bridge is showing its age. It has experienced some small deterioration, and is now being monitored.

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