Audit finds Seattle doesn’t spend enough money on bridge maintenance

Sep 14, 2020, 3:36 PM
Seattle, bridge...
University Bridge and I-5. (Photo courtesy of SDOT Flickr)
(Photo courtesy of SDOT Flickr)

An audit of 77 bridges across Seattle makes 10 recommendations for improving the city’s bridge maintenance and investment policies.

WA State Patrol warns drivers against blocking roads for protests, street races

Seattle City Councilmember Alex Pedersen, chair of the council’s transportation committee, requested the audit, released on Monday, of bridges owned and managed by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).

“I requested this audit of our bridges because the rapid deterioration of the West Seattle Bridge underscored the need for city officials and the general public to have a clear, thorough, and independent understanding of the condition of major bridges throughout Seattle, including the adequacy of the City’s preventative maintenance investments and practices,” Pedersen said.

Bridges require large investments to build and maintain, Pedersen says, in order to make sure they remain safe for generations to come.

“In a city defined by its many waterways, our bridges connect us,” he said. “And this audit report proves city government must do a better job investing in this basic infrastructure.”

The SDOT says the audit offers clear and helpful ways to strengthen the current bridge maintenance programs, agreeing with most of the recommendations. It also says public safety is the department’s No. 1 commitment.

“We’ve already begun this effort, but when it comes to maintaining public safety, we always strive to do better, and this audit serves to bolster those critical improvements already underway,” reads SDOT’s blog post.

Additionally, SDOT said one of the takeaways of the audit was that the issues that led to the closure of the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge do not appear to be the result of any deficiency in the bridge maintenance program. The department also added that the most critical challenge is funding.

History of the West Seattle Bridge

The audit also concluded that the city government’s annual spending is far below what is needed to maintain its bridges. SDOT confirmed this, adding that it “estimates its annual spending is tens of millions of dollars less than what is needed to maintain its bridges.”

“I am hopeful that Mayor Durkan and the City Council will pay close attention to this audit report and respond appropriately during the 2021 budget discussions to ensure that critical infrastructure does not continue to deteriorate with potentially disastrous consequences,” Pedersen said.

City Auditor David G. Jones says the report shows a gap between what is budgeted for bridge maintenance and what is needed to keep them in good condition.

“Our recommendations are for activities that SDOT should do now to better inform where investments are made, and more effectively use the resources they currently have,” Jones said.

The auditor’s report will be presented to the Seattle City Council this Wednesday, Sept. 16. The full report is available online here.

The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.

Local News

Echo Glen...
Dalton Day

Echo Glen youth detention center, site of recent escape, understaffed, underfunded, report says

A 2018 report indicates that employees of Echo Glen insist that the detention facility is short staffed, and that its counselors are not sufficiently trained.
23 hours ago
Washington voting...
Nick Bowman

Washington weighs significant changes to how (and when) it votes in 2022

A trio of proposals related to how Washington conducts its elections could bring dramatic voting changes to the state by the end of the legislative session.
23 hours ago
Paine Field 5G...
KIRO Newsradio Newsdesk

5G concerns, fog lead to more cancellations at Paine Field

More Alaska Airlines flights out of Paine Field were cancelled Thursday, citing issues created by the combination of 5G signals and fog.
23 hours ago
catalytic converter...
MyNorthwest Staff

Competing proposals for catalytic converter theft crackdown up for Thursday vote

Competing proposals from Democrats and Republicans to crack down on catalytic converter thefts are set for committee votes on Jan. 27.
2 days ago
Gov. Jay Inslee, long-term care tax...
MyNorthwest Staff

Gov. Inslee approves 18-month delay on long-term care tax

The Washington State Senate voted to delay implementation of the new long-term care payroll tax on Wednesday. 
2 days ago
Rideshare companies...
Nick Bowman

Rideshare companies pour millions into PAC ahead of push for Washington ballot initiative

Rideshare companies have poured over $2 million into a new PAC, in what appears to be the precursor for a Washington ballot initiative. 
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
Audit finds Seattle doesn’t spend enough money on bridge maintenance