CHOKEPOINTS

What’s next for West Seattle Bridge as concrete strike continues?

Feb 22, 2022, 5:02 AM | Updated: 5:21 am

West Seattle Bridge...

Concrete blocks, like these placed in the center span of the West Seattle Bridge, need to be built on the outer spans. No concrete, no blocks. (Chris Sullivan/KIRO Newsradio)

(Chris Sullivan/KIRO Newsradio)

The deadline Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell set for restoring the flow of concrete to the West Seattle Bridge has passed. What does that really mean for reopening the bridge, on schedule, in July?

Sound Transit anxiously waiting for strike to end

The work is at a critical point right now, where the concrete is really necessary to move ahead. Workers have been busy filling cracks with epoxy and covering areas with carbon fiber inside the box girders on either end of the center span, but project director Heather Marx said they need to start stringing the steel cables that tighten the bridge together. That requires concrete.

“We can only do so much epoxy and so much carbon fiber before we need the concrete,” she said. “We need that post-tensioning in place before we can finish the epoxy and carbon fiber.”

The city only needs about 25 truckloads of concrete to build giant blocks inside the girders that hold those cables in place and secure them to the bridge.

“In order to attach the steel to the concrete, we need to have anchoring at either end, and this concrete is going to have to hold a million pounds of pressure per each tendon,” Marx said.

And this is not the kind of concrete you can buy at Home Depot and mix yourself — it’s a special self-settling concrete, and the workers really need it now.

“We are ready to receive concrete any old time, and eager to get to that point in our construction,” Marx said.

To speed up the schedule and make up for any lost time, the contractor has pre-built all the forms for those anchor blocks.

“Instead of reusing the forms that we would use to build those concrete blocks, we’re forming them all up at the same time,” Marx said. “That saves us time in terms of the (concrete) pours.”

Back to the missed Feb. 20 deadline: What does this mean for the scheduled reopening in July?

“It’s not a situation where every day past the 20th means another day on the end of the schedule,” Marx said. “There still may be things we can do to skinny it up.”

But that window is closing.

“The sooner the concrete strike is resolved equitably, the sooner we can get back on the path,” Marx said. “We’re just hoping that everybody will get back to the table and see if we can resolve this thing.”

The positive news for the Seattle Department of Transportation and its contractor is on the jobs end. There is still plenty of work to be done on the Lower Spokane Street Bridge, which is also part of this job, so the contractor has not had to lay off any workers, which has been a significant problem for the other projects, both public and private, caught up in this strike.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.

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