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Initial stabilization measures on West Seattle Bridge completed

West Seattle Bridge Interior -- post tensioning strands, November 2020. (SDOT/Flickr)

At the end of last week, the Seattle Department of Transportation announced that it had completed the initial set of West Seattle High-Rise Bridge emergency stabilization measures.

The completion of this work is “setting the stage for the next phase of repairs” to take place later in 2021. The emergency stabilization work over the past eight months was necessary in order to complete the repairs and work yet to come, as SDOT explained in a written release.

The West Seattle Bridge has been closed since March 2020 after engineers found growing cracks. While a task force and city officials weighed the decision to repair or replace the bridge, SDOT began the stabilization work, which has helped to stall the cracking.

Stabilization measures included adding steel post-tensioning cables, carbon-fiber wrapping, Pier 18 bearing release and replacement, and an intelligent monitoring system. Moving forward, SDOT will continue constant monitoring and regular visual inspections of the West Seattle Bridge. Full bridge repairs will depend on how the now stabilized bridge responds to seasonal temperature changes.

Since Mayor Jenny Durkan opted to repair the bridge, it should reopen to the public in 2022.

For now, SDOT says it is “taking a number of steps to keep traffic moving in West Seattle and the Duwamish Valley,” which includes “dozens of bike, freight and traffic mitigation projects aimed at improving mobility.”

The lower bridge is currently operating at limited capacity, restricted to emergency vehicles, transit, freight, vanpools, employer shuttles and a handful of people, like port workers and West Seattle businesses. The goal is to keep that low bridge as free of congestion as possible.

The Lower Spokane Street Bridge access dilemma

Photo enforcement is now active on the low bridge as well to ticket drivers using the bridge between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. who are not part of the restricted group. There is a push, however, to allow emergency health care workers and patients access to the bridge.

KIRO Radio’s Chris Sullivan contributed to this report.

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