Why is it taking so long to figure out the West Seattle Bridge?

Jun 25, 2020, 7:46 AM
West Seattle Bridge...
The West Seattle Bridge. (SDOT, Flickr Creative Commons)
(SDOT, Flickr Creative Commons)

It’s been more than three months since the West Seattle Bridge closed to traffic, and people who rely on it are starting to question why it’s taking so long to figure out what to do.

SDOT says West Seattle Bridge can be fixed, debates whether it should be

The third meeting of the community task force on the bridge featured a lot of questions on the time it’s taking to decide whether to fix the 36-year-old bridge, or simply replace it. To those community members, it looks like very little has been done over the three months.

Seattle Department of Transportation engineer Matt Donahue defended his team’s actions, telling the 30-plus task force members it is a very complex situation that can’t be rushed.

“It may seem like we haven’t been doing much, but I can assure that I have personally put in hundreds of extra hours, nights and weekends to address this issue,” he said. “If you expand it out to the team and the consultant and the contractor, it’s thousands and thousands of personnel hours that have been thrown toward this.”

Donahue said most of the work cannot be seen by the public, which includes all the data collection on the cracking and all the technical work that needs to be done, and that the team has actually done quite a bit in a very short time.

“There has been a substantial amount of work, that would normally take years, that has been conducted in weeks and months,” he noted.

The work to shore up the West Seattle Bridge is ramping up. It needs to be done whether replacement or repair is the chosen path long term. The contractor will be dangling a barge under the bridge that it can moved from section to section as workers wrap the cracking concrete with carbon fiber.

Donahue said they have designed the wrap to work for both a repair and a replacement. They don’t want to have to rip up something they just put up.

“We’re trying to be very careful and expeditious in stabilizing the bridge to stop it from continuing to crack, but we’re also trying to do it in a way that we can use that same stabilization for other means, to expand it for long term repair or to use it as part of a shoring and demolition scheme for replacement,” he said.

History of the West Seattle Bridge

The task force also met the outside engineers advising the city on the West Seattle Bridge. Barbara Moffat is co-chair of the Technical Advisory Panel, and said the team has no expectations heading into this project.

“We do not want to come in with assumptions,” she told the group. “We are being open. SDOT and WSP have been on this longer. We have not seen anything that would preclude, at this point, a repair, but we have not seen anything that proves a repair should be done.”

In two weeks, the city will start asking the neighborhoods in West Seattle what they want done for traffic mitigation. Director of Downtown Mobility Heather Marx said they hope to have the project list finalized in September. In the meantime, the city will open the Lower Spokane Street Bridge to general traffic during some hours of the day.

“Our recommendation for now is to open up the lower bridge for overnight access for everyone, from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., seven days a week,” she said.

The city also plans to use photo enforcement to ticket drivers who do not have the authority to use that low bridge the rest of the day. The cameras should be up in August, after a list of new potential authorized users is determined. The city is considering whether to allow vanpools, maritime workers, employer shuttles, and essential healthcare workers to the approved list.


Mariners Opening Day T-Mobile Park Traffic...
Chris Sullivan

The no fuss guide to getting to Mariners Opening Day

It's here, opening Day for one of the most anticipated Mariners' seasons in decades. What's your plan for getting to the ballpark?
2 days ago
Julie Timm...
Chris Sullivan

6 months in, Sound Transit CEO Julie Timm sits down with Sully

Julie Timm is passionate about transit. She is thoughtful. She took the time to answer all my questions during a sit-down interview.
4 days ago
Chris Sullivan

Lawmakers taking hard look at where ferries are built

Lawmakers have a tough decision to make on the ferry service. Do they abandon environmental and wage goals to get new ferries built faster and cheaper?
10 days ago
Hood Canal Bridge...
Chris Sullivan

100+ mile Hood Canal Bridge detour will mess with summer weekends

A 100-mile detour is what drivers will face this summer if their plans take them across the Hood Canal Bridge.
11 days ago
homeless encampment...
Chris Sullivan

WSDOT’s homeless initiative showing some early signs of success

I think we all realize just how tough it is to clear homeless camps from the freeway, and only kicking people out doesn't work.
16 days ago
Chris Sullivan

SR-520 drivers won’t be getting a lane back for another year

This is not the news westbound State Route 520 drivers want to hear, they will not be getting their second lane back to Interstate 5 any time soon.
18 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.
Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.
SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!
safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Why is it taking so long to figure out the West Seattle Bridge?