After lengthy closure, how is West Seattle Bridge holding up?

May 4, 2023, 5:02 AM | Updated: 7:11 am

west seattle bridge...

West Seattle's forced exile ended eight months ago when the high bridge opened after emergency repairs. Has traffic returned to normal, and how is the bridge holding up? (KIRO 7)

(KIRO 7)

West Seattle’s forced exile ended eight months ago when the high bridge opened after emergency repairs. Has traffic returned to normal, and how is the bridge holding up?

I was looking at some pictures I took inside the damaged West Seattle Bridge during the two-and-a-half-year closure recently, and it got me thinking, how are those repairs doing, and what have the inspections been showing?

More Chokepoints: Orange cones multiplying in May; warm weather means construction season

Despite the discovery of a large hole Tuesday evening that caused the northbound ramp of State Route 99 over the West Seattle Bridge to close, the bridge is holding up great according to the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).

I caught up with Kit Loo of SDOT this week. He’s the interim division director of roadway structures for the city. Eight months after the reopening, the bridge is doing great.

“There were no red flags that noted that the structure was not behaving the way that we predicted, based upon the repairs that we’ve done for the bridge,” Loo said.

SDOT started with monthly inspections inside the bridge and then moved to quarterly inspections because nothing looks out of line. Engineers are also monitoring all the sensors put inside the bridge daily.

“We actually had a pretty robust program, including evaluating the structural health instrumentation that we had put on the bridge as part of the repairs, and all those data points, as well as the physical inspection, have shown that the repairs are performing as expected,” Loo said.

So what does an inspection look like?

“Looking to see if there’s any development of any new cracks or extension or propagation of existing cracks that might be on the bridge,” Loo said. “Looking at the fiber wrap that we put on there to see if there’s anything de-laminating from the side of the walls and looking at the general health of the structure itself.”

Engineers also check the new anchor points for all the steel cables used to strengthen the span. The bridge is doing well enough that SDOT has moved to six-month physical inspection cycles and hopes to return to the standard two-year cycle soon.

What happens if any of those new sensors go off, indicating a potential issue with the bridge?

Loo said the first thing the engineers will check is the sensor. If it’s just one sensor, there could be a data issue. If it’s multiple, Loo said they have a plan put together.

“We may have a response team go out to the bridge to do a physical inspection to check to see if there are any problems with it, or if there are multiple signals and data training towards an issue, then we respond with the emergency response,” Loo said.

Engineers can also put eyes inside the bridge at any time.

“We do have video cameras that are installed as part of the health monitoring systems that allow us to peek inside the bridge in real-time to see if there’s something that raises to a level that we need to do something immediately,” Loo said.

And despite Tuesday’s ‘speed bump,’ there have been no major issues, which is great.

As for the loads on the bridge, Loo said there has been some extra freight travel with the opening of Terminal Five, but the daily commute has not returned to pre-closure levels.

Between 60,000-65,000 vehicles a day have been using the bridge so far this year. That’s way down from the nearly 100,000 vehicles a day that used the bridge before the closure.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.


summer traffic washington...

Chris Sullivan

Summer means traffic delays for Washington highways

It's almost summer, and like the weeds in your yard, the orange cones (and traffic delays) are coming to Washington highways.

9 hours ago

Fish Passage Bellevue...

Chris Sullivan

Ambitious fish passage work begins under I-90 in Bellevue

Four new bridges are being built along the I-90 corridor in Bellevue, but they aren't for cars or bikes. They are for a fish passage.

2 days ago

park shoulder airport fine...

Chris Sullivan

Don’t park on the shoulder at the airport, you can get fined

Don't add to the problem by parking on the side of the airport expressway while waiting for your people to arrive.

7 days ago

travel survey SEATTLE TRAFFIC...

Chris Sullivan

New survey tracks how we travel for the greater good

There's a huge survey underway right now that will help determine the future of travel in our region and how it's developed.

9 days ago

Seattle I-5...

Chris Sullivan

Prepare for NB I-5 closures through Seattle this weekend

All northbound traffic through Seattle is going to be diverted off I-5 and onto SR 520 from 10 p.m. Friday until 10 a.m. Saturday.

14 days ago

Amazon Seattle Traffic...

Chris Sullivan

‘Amazon Effect’ crushing morning traffic into Seattle

We thought that our traffic had returned to pre-pandemic levels. The return of Amazon workers to Seattle shows we hadn't seen anything yet.

14 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...

Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

After lengthy closure, how is West Seattle Bridge holding up?