Councilmember Pedersen announces completed audit of Seattle Bridges — need more investments in our bridges for safety, regional economy.



Councilmember Pedersen viewing the seismic retrofit of the 15th Ave NE bridge connecting Roosevelt and the U District at Cowen Park in District 4.

SEPTEMBER 14, 2020 PRESS RELEASE:

Council Transportation Chair Pedersen Announces Delivery of Audit of Seattle Bridges 

SEATTLECouncilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4 – Northeast Seattle), Chair of the City Council’s Transportation Committee announced the delivery of the audit report on Seattle’s bridges with a focus on the efficacy of the City’s infrastructure maintenance program.

“In a city defined by its many waterways, our bridges connect us and this audit report proves city government must do a better job investing in this basic infrastructure,” said Pedersen. “Vital for transit, freight and our regional economy, bridges require relatively large investments to build and maintain to ensure they remain safe for generations. I requested this audit of our bridges because the rapid deterioration of the West Seattle Bridge underscored the need for City officials and the general public to have a clear, thorough, and independent understanding of the condition of major bridges throughout Seattle, including the adequacy of the City’s preventative maintenance investments and practices.”

After an extensive document review and numerous exchanges by the auditor’s office with the Seattle Department of Transportation’s engineers and managers, Councilmember Pedersen is pleased to report the completion of the audit report on schedule. The auditor’s report will be presented to the City Council at its Transportation Committee to be chaired by Pedersen this Wednesday, September 16 at 9:30 a.m.

Pedersen initiated the audit with an April 23 letter to the City Auditor asking his office “to assess the physical conditions and maintenance investments for the major bridges owned by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).” Pedersen’s letter requested a report from the Auditor by mid-September to inform the City Council’s fall budget process.

The audit concluded the city government’s annual spending is far below what is needed to maintain its bridges and SDOT confirmed this: “SDOT estimates its annual spending is tens of millions of dollars less than what is needed to maintain its bridges.”

The audit report makes 10 recommendations for improving the City’s bridge maintenance and investment policies. According to the report, SDOT generally concurs with the report’s recommendations and plans to implement them. However, it will take action from the Mayor and City Council to solve the insufficiency of funding. “I am hopeful that Mayor Durkan and the City Council will pay close attention to this audit report and respond appropriately during the 2021budget discussions to ensure that critical infrastructure does not continue to deteriorate with potentially disastrous consequences,” said Councilmember Pedersen.

City Auditor David G. Jones added, “Our report shows that there is a large gap between what is budgeted for bridge maintenance and what is needed to keep them in good condition. Our recommendations are for activities that SDOT should do now to better inform where investments are made, and more effectively use the resources they currently have.”

Additional Resources: 

From the Seattle Times editorial: “New City Councilmember Alex Pedersen deserves kudos for requesting the audit after the West Seattle Bridge closure. It gives the council facts and improvements to consider, and has already prompted change at the Department of Transportation. Yet the situation demands more, including a new mindset at City Hall and an authentic effort, starting with the next budget.”

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May 31, 2020: For a thorough article by the Seattle Times about bridge maintenance needs — which mentions my audit of city bridges — CLICK HERE.

April 25, 2020: For the Seattle Times editorial supporting our launching of the bridge audit, CLICK HERE. “One step to restoring trust is an audit of citywide bridge maintenance, requested last week by new City Councilmember Alex Pedersen.”

April 23, 2020: To read the initial article by the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE.

April 23, 2020: Here’s the press release:

SEATTLECouncilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4 – Northeast Seattle), and Chair of the Council’s Transportation Committee, today asked the City Auditor to complete an audit to assess the conditions and maintenance of Seattle’s bridges.

“In a city surrounded by several waterways, our bridges are the backbone of Seattle’s infrastructure for its residents and local economy and are vital for transit, freight, and other uses,” said Pedersen. “Bridges require relatively large investments to build and maintain to ensure they remain safe for generations. The rapid deterioration of the West Seattle Bridge underscores the need for City officials and the general public to have a clear, thorough, and independent understanding of the condition of major bridges throughout Seattle, including preventative maintenance investments and practices.”

Pedersen’s letter to the City Auditor states the purpose is “to request, as chair of the City Council’s Transportation and Utilities Committee, that the Office of City Auditor complete an audit report to assess the physical conditions and maintenance investments for the major bridges owned by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT)…”

“We look forward to performing this important and valuable body of work,” said David G. Jones, the City Auditor.

“I appreciate SDOT’s recent transparency, responsiveness, and proactive sharing of information regarding the West Seattle Bridge.  I want SDOT to remain focused on the immediate needs of the West Seattle Bridge and I am therefore, flexible on the Auditor’s final completion date for reviewing the other bridges,” said Pedersen, who has also requested an interim summary of the maintenance investments on bridges by mid-September to inform the City Council’s fall budget process.

According to the City of Seattle’s adopted 2020 operating budget (page 411) and SDOT’s 2019 Capital Roadway and Structures report (page 19), there are 124 bridges owned and operated by the City of Seattle. The City Auditor’s report will focus on SDOT’s bridge maintenance program for the major bridges in the City’s portfolio and may discuss other non-bridge assets managed by SDOT.  While SDOT already obtains and monitors much of this underlying information on our City’s bridges and the federal government and state government also provide important oversight, the audit will gather, summarize, and analyze that information for review by the City Council.

For the proposed scope of the audit, use the following website link: https://pedersen.seattle.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/CM-Pedersen-letter-to-Auditor-on-Seattle-bridges-2020.04.23-to-Auditor-.pdf

In addition to summarizing key information on all major bridges, the report should include a deeper analysis of a sampling of major bridges across our city including, but not limited to, the Ballard Bridge, Magnolia Bridge, Montlake Bridge, University Bridge, and West Seattle Bridge.

The Auditor will discuss the final scope with SDOT, which could include a description of other major non-bridge infrastructure assets owned by the City to provide context for SDOT’s broader asset management portfolio.

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