CHOKEPOINTS

Two weeks from West Seattle Bridge decision, SDOT leans toward replacement

Oct 8, 2020, 6:56 AM
west seattle bridge...
West Seattle Bridge. (SDOT/flickr)
(SDOT/flickr)

We’re two weeks from a decision on whether to repair or replace the closed West Seattle Bridge, and the city appears to be leaning toward replacement. At least that’s the feeling after the latest meeting of the community task force.

While the Seattle Department of Transportation might be leaning toward replacement, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan didn’t show her hand while meeting with the group.

“How much is it going to cost, how long is it going to take, how long is it going to last are kind of the three elements, but buried beneath each of those are some uncertainty, a lot of risk, and a lot of factors about the build environment today versus five years from now, or seven years from now,” she said.

One of Durkan’s key goals is to get the best fix for the situation as fast as she can. She knows this closure is hurting the entire West Seattle community.

“This has been bad,” she said. “This has been awful for West Seattle, and the worst part about it is there’s no immediate fix. We know there’s going to be ongoing negative impacts.”

West Marginal Way could lose half its capacity, even as lifeline for West Seattle

There are still no dollar figures being thrown around in public for the potential options, but the city has laid out the general case for each one.

The repair option is the cheapest on the front end, but it comes with a lifetime of maintenance costs to make sure that repair is doing the job. It could add 15-40 years of life to the bridge, but there is no guarantee it won’t fail again, possibly before that optimistic timeline. And there is no guarantee it could hold the same capacity as before the closure.

If a replacement is the chosen plan, it could be done in 2022.

“We would first need to complete the stabilization work to see how the bridge responds,” the city’s Heather Marx said. “There is a chance that the bridge doesn’t respond to stabilization, so then we’d have to rethink our options.”

Translated: The city would have to go to immediate replacement, which would create another bridge closure.

There is going to be another bridge closure if the repair option is chosen, it’s just a matter of when.

There are three replacement options still left on the table. One is to replace the superstructure only, another is a full replacement with a new bridge, and the third is a full replacement with a tunnel. The option to only replace the failing middle section has been eliminated.

A replacement, no matter which option is chosen, has a much higher front end cost, but lower costs in maintenance over a 75-year lifetime. It would also take longer, up to 2026. The tunnel option is the most expensive and would take the longest, according to the city, with traffic not returning to the corridor until 2030.

Marx said the members of this task force must decide what they value the most.

“Speed or certainty?,” she asked the group. “Would you rather have it open and then closed, and open again, or would you rather have it closed and open forever?”

Task force members, like Jen Temple, now have about two weeks to give their thoughts to the mayor on what they believe the community wants. She wants the repair option to keep West Seattle from dying on the vine.

“If we can repair, and we’ve heard it will be safe, and we’ve heard that it can last for 15-40 years, given the cost to the community of waiting any longer, the choice seems fairly obvious,” she told the group.

History of the West Seattle Bridge

But here’s the key takeaway in all of this: The decision the mayor makes in two weeks will only be on whether the city will repair the bridge first and then replace it in the future, or whether the city will go directly to replacement.

The replacement options are just baselines for what a replacement might be since they can change, or different ideas for replacement can be explored once this decision is made. There is a lengthy type, size, and location study that will begin immediately, if replacement is the decision, that will determine what the replacement will actually be for the bridge.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.

Chokepoints

wood plank, sr 169...
Chris Sullivan

WSDOT archaeologist solves mystery of structure under Maple Valley Highway

The Maple Valley Highway finally reopened to all traffic Wednesday after an unexpected discovery pushed a weekend culvert project out three days.
5 days ago
WSDOT...
Chris Sullivan

WSDOT accounts for 21% of state employees fired over vaccine mandate

Of 1,887 state employees that lost their jobs over the vaccine mandate, the largest group was from the Washington State Department of Transportation.
7 days ago
Maple Valley Highway...
Chris Sullivan

King County crews find mystery structure under Maple Valley Highway

You never know what you'll find when you dig in this corner of the country. Road crews found that out this weekend when fixing a culvert under Highway 169.
7 days ago
Climate Pledge Arena...
Chris Sullivan

Getting to Climate Pledge Arena 101: Prepare to ditch the car

The old ways of getting to the arena in downtown Seattle have intentionally been made more difficult so that public transit is a more palatable option.
12 days ago
I-5, bumps...
Chris Sullivan

Why there are bumps along I-5 through downtown Seattle (and when they’ll go away)

When KIRO Radio's Dave Ross asks you to update something for him, you do it. So what's with those annoying bumps on I-5 SB out of downtown Seattle?
14 days ago
I-90, grooves...
Chris Sullivan

Why are portions of I-90 near Snoqualmie Pass so ‘groovy’?

Another question from Chris Sullivan's recent driving: What's with the horizontal grooves on portions of I-90, east of Snoqualmie Pass?
19 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Medicare open enrollment for 2022 starts Oct. 15 and SHIBA can help!

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, […]
...

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
...
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
...
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
...
Comcast

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at www.ComcastRISE.com for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
Two weeks from West Seattle Bridge decision, SDOT leans toward replacement