Repair or replace? The West Seattle Bridge decision now in mayor’s hands

Oct 29, 2020, 7:36 AM
West Seattle Bridge...
The Duwamish Waterway viewed from the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge. (Photo courtesy of WSP, via SDOT Blog)
(Photo courtesy of WSP, via SDOT Blog)

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has heard from the community task force and its thoughts on repairing or replacing the West Seattle Bridge. Now, it’s up to the mayor.

The future of West Seattle is in Mayor Durkan’s hands. Her decision is whether to repair the bridge now, a faster and cheaper option on the front end, or replace it, which is a longer and more expensive up-front plan.

West Seattle business owner Dan Austin almost begged the mayor to spend the $47 million now and repair the bridge immediately.

“We’re hurting,” Austin told the mayor. “We need this bridge restored as soon as possible.”

Task force member Peter Goldman is leaning toward replacement. He told the mayor there is no guarantee a repaired bridge will last the 15-40 years promised, considering the engineers don’t know how it’s responding to the shoring work currently underway.

“I feel for folks in West Seattle who are in hardship right now,” he said. “It’s heartbreaking, but I just don’t see how we can responsibly spend all of this money on something that might not last long.”

By my unofficial count of those that gave their decision to the mayor, it was 9 votes for repair and 8 votes for replacement, but that is just a fraction of total task force who will be giving the mayor their thoughts on paper.

“Mayor, there is not a unanimous feeling,” former Seattle mayor and task force co-chair Greg Nickels said. “You have a hard decision to make, which is why you get the big bucks.”

Nickels is now leaning repair, but he admits he is very intrigued by the three-year rapid replacement plan discussed last week. However, that’s an idea has not fully been vetted.

Does Seattle have the will to fast-track potential West Seattle Bridge replacement?

Many members are like Austin who don’t believe that fast replacement plan will work, considering Seattle’s love for process and procedure.

“I believe that the unicorn project that was thrown out, of a three-year rapid replacement with cutting EIS studies out of the City of Seattle, is a little ludicrous,” he said. “I’m sure it’s technically feasible to build that bridge. It is not technically feasible to do a 10-week EIS over the Duwamish (River) with tribal fishing rights and everything else.”

A repair could have people back on the bridge in the middle of 2022. The rapid replacement promises 2023. Other replacement options won’t get people on the bridge until 2026.

For Mayor Durkan, her criteria is simple.

“How much is it going to cost, both to build it and to maintain it, how long will it last, and when can we get it open,” she said.

The mayor is also keenly aware of the economic impacts of this bridge closure, but said she is not going to rush her decision.

“I can’t give you a date,” she said about making her decision. “There’s some additional information that I’m hoping to get. I wanted to get this input.”

Former Mayor Nickels gave the current mayor a little pep talk as she left the meeting.

“We are counting on you,” Nickels said. “We are giving you our best thoughts and advice, and we stand ready to help. Whatever decision you make, we’ll help you try to make it happen in the best possible way for the community.”

As for funding, Mayor Durkan said she has been working with Washington’s Congressional team and lawmakers in Olympia. She believes the city is in good shape to get federal dollars for this project.

Though she did say those federal dollars could be in jeopardy if President Trump is re-elected. The city’s transportation dollars are caught up in Seattle being labeled an “anarchist jurisdiction,” which is one of the reasons why the city sued the administration last week.

Check out more of Chris’ 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.
1 day ago
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.
3 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.
3 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.
8 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?
10 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?
15 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.

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 for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
Repair or replace? The West Seattle Bridge decision now in mayor’s hands