West Seattle Bridge Updates



The sudden closure of the West Seattle “High-Rise” Bridge in March 2020 has been a major challenge for Seattle and Washington State. Even though the West Seattle Bridge is not in Seattle’s District 4, Councilmember Alex Pedersen provides periodic updates on the closure, stabilization, repairs, and other issues impacting the bridge because he was appointed to Chair the City Council’s Transportation & Utilities Committee in January 2020. The West Seattle Bridge is an infrastructure asset vital not only to the 100,000 people of West Seattle but also to the entire region, especially as it impacts the economic engine that is the Port of Seattle.

November 19, 2020 Update:

Today Mayor Durkan announced her decision to REPAIR the West Seattle Bridge, which I support after careful consideration. Here is my statement:

After consulting technical experts, Seattle residents, local businesses, and the Port of Seattle, I want to thank our Mayor for her careful and thorough consideration of how best to move forward safely and effectively so we can quickly restore this vital infrastructure,” said Seattle City Councilmember Alex Pedersen, appointed earlier this year to chair the Council’s Transportation Committee.  

After studying the various choices, I agree with Mayor Jenny Durkan that immediate repair of the bridge is the best choice so we can quickly and safely restore mobility to our region’s bridge network. Repairing the bridge now still keeps open the long-term solution to plan and fund a methodical replacement in the future and to coordinate with increased transit options. I believe the cracking and closure of the West Seattle Bridge must be a wake-up call to take better care of all our aging bridges with more investment in maintenance to keep transit and freight moving throughout a city defined by its waterways and ravines. After being appointed to Chair our City’s Transportation Committee earlier this year, I remain committed to work with Mayor Durkan, our Seattle Department of Transportation, our Port of Seattle, the rest of the City Council, and Seattle residents to make sure we honor this commitment to our bridge infrastructure and get this done.”  

  • For Mayor Durkan’s decision (press release of November 19, 2020) to immediately repair (rather than replace) the West Seattle Bridge, CLICK HERE.
  • For the November 19, 2020 press release from Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle), CLICK HERE.
  • For the initial Seattle Times article on the decision, CLICK HERE.
  • For more about Councilmember Pedersen’s efforts to increase funding to maintain the safety of all Seattle bridges, CLICK HERE.
Councilmember Pedersen with engineers during inspection underneath (and inside) West Seattle high bridge November 17, 2020
Councilmember Pedersen at one of the post-tensioning stabilization locations inside the West Seattle high bridge, November 17, 2020. The stabilization work is necessary for safe repair anyway; therefore, no time is being lost as we move forward to restore the bridge.

November 9, 2020 Update:

Councilmembers Alex Pedersen (as Chair for the Transportation Committee) and Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle) asked the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to provide the City Council and the public with a formal update on the West Seattle Bridge at a “Council Briefing” today.

  • For SDOT’s November 9, 2020 presentation, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) of various options for repair and replacement, CLICK HERE.

Now that the West Seattle high bridge is stabilized, the key question is whether to repair or replace it and we have developed several good options for moving forward to restore that vital infrastructure for Seattle residents and our regional economy. I know the Mayor is prudently consulting engineers, stakeholders, and funders so that she can make a strategic decision that prioritizes safety and reliability for our city and our region. I believe this crisis should be a wake up call to our city that we need to do much more to fund the maintenance of our aging bridges, a challenge further demonstrated by the recent audit of Seattle’s bridges.

September 16, 2020 Update:

After the sudden closure of the West Seattle Bridge in March 2020, Councilmember Pedersen asked the City Auditor to provide an independent assessment of all Seattle Bridges. That report confirmed that Seattle has been under-investing in its bridges and made several recommendations for improvement.

  • For the Auditor’s report and presentation to the Transportation & Utilities Committee, CLICK HERE.

August 19, 2020 Update:

As Chair of the City Council’s Transportation & Utilities Committee, Councilmember Pedersen asked SDOT to update his colleagues and the public on the status of the West Seattle Bridge. For SDOT’s presentation, CLICK HERE.

July 16, 2020 Update:

Mayor Durkan issues emergency proclamation and order on West Seattle Bridge, which will encourage federal and state financial assistance for repairing/rebuilding this vital regional asset that connects 100,000 people and freight to the rest of the state. Councilmembers Herbold and Pedersen issue joint statement in support; CLICK HERE.

April 22, 2020 Update:

Councilmember Pedersen joined Councilmember Lisa Herbold to co-host a Town Hall with SDOT on the West Seattle Bridge. For SDOT’s Powerpoint presentation, CLICK HERE:

April 15, 2020 Update:

Councilmembers Herbold and Pedersen Respond to West Seattle Bridge Remaining Closed through 2021

4/15/2020 STATEMENT: SEATTLE – Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1 – West Seattle/South Park) and Councilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4 – Northeast Seattle and Chair of Transportation & Utilities Committee) issued the following statement regarding the ongoing and extended closure of the West Seattle Bridge:

“Today we learned from the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) that, while the rate of cracking of concrete under the West Seattle Bridge has slowed, new cracking continues even with no vehicles.  Unfortunately, SDOT now estimates the bridge cannot be made safe for traffic for at least the next 21 months (through the end of 2021). Safety will continue to be the top priority during this infrastructure emergency. SDOT is developing plans to shore up the bridge in advance of the likely extensive repairs. SDOT believes, however, that repairs would extend the life of the bridge for only 10 years.

“The impact of this long-term closure on West Seattle cannot be overstated. We will need additional work to manage traffic and mobility for residents. Ensuring access to emergency services and transit will be critical as well. What we are doing now to provide alternate routes will not be sufficient once traffic resumes normal levels.

“We look forward to working with our State and federal governments to identify the funding for both the repairs and the eventual replacement of the bridge, including an expected stimulus package for infrastructure from Congress. This situation also reinforces the importance of renewing the Seattle Transportation Benefit District to provide additional bus service.

“It’s good that SDOT is creating a technical advisory panel to leverage engineering expertise.  The City Council’s Transportation & Utilities Committee will require timely updates from both SDOT and the technical advisory panel.  We will also pursue Legislative Department participation on the technical advisory panel to increase oversight of the complex solutions.”

Presentation: For SDOT’s April 15, 2020 presentation to update the media on the condition of — and plans for — the West Seattle Bridge, CLICK HERE.

March 30, 2020:

For our City Council Resolution immediately adding the sudden major repairs of the West Seattle Bridge to the Watch List for Capital Projects, CLICK HERE. Sponsored by Councilmember Lisa Herbold (representing West Seattle) and me (Councilmember Pedersen), the City Council passed it unanimously.

For SDOT’s March 30 presentation to City Council CLICK HERE.

March 23, 2020 (ORIGINAL POST):

West Seattle Bridge closed by Mayor Durkan (March 23) due to structural issues; safety actions supported by Council leaders

March 23, 2020:

PRESS RELEASE EXCERPT: “Out of an abundance of caution, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) announced today that it will close the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge effective 7:00 PM tonight (March 23, 2020) to all traffic due to accelerated concrete cracking that was observed during a regular bridge inspection. A comprehensive assessment has already begun with a team of experts to determine the extent of the cracking and put together a plan for a near-term repair. The bridge closure will begin at 7 PM tonight will remain closed until further notice.” (source: Seattle Department of Transportation)

ALTERNATE ROUTES: https://sdotblog.seattle.gov/2020/03/24/alternate-routes-for-west-seattle-high-rise-bridge-closure/

March 23, 2020: STATEMENT FROM COUNCILMEMBER PEDERSEN:

“When I learned about this issue today, I immediately supported the Mayor’s decision to temporarily close the West Seattle Bridge because safety should be our top priority,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen who chairs the City Council’s Transportation Committee.  “As we provide safe travel alternatives for residents, first responders, and public transit, I look forward to hearing not only an analysis from structural engineers but also next steps, including a realistic timeline for solutions from our Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).”

“As Chair of the Transportation Committee, I’d like to schedule a public briefing in the future so we can all hear the latest structural reports on all Seattle bridges and the plans for repairs and upgrades.  Strategic infrastructure projects that increase safety, move freight, and get thousands of people to their jobs will be vital as we eventually lift ourselves out of the public health and economic crisis.”  

March 23, 2020FULL PRESS RELEASE (from SDOT):

Following Accelerated Growth of Concrete Cracks in West Seattle High Rise Bridge, SDOT to Close Structure This Evening for Assessment

Spokane Street “Low Bridge” to Remain Open Only to Transit, Freight, and Emergency Vehicles

Seattle – Out of an abundance of caution, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) announced today that it will close the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge effective 7:00 PM tonight (March 23, 2020) to all traffic due to accelerated concrete cracking that was observed during a regular bridge inspection. A comprehensive assessment has already begun with a team of experts to determine the extent of the cracking and put together a plan for a near-term repair. The bridge closure will begin at 7 PM tonight will remain closed until further notice.

Buses, freight and emergency vehicles will be moved to Spokane Street Bridge, which is also called the “low bridge,” and motorists should use the First Ave or South Park bridges.

“Even in the midst of a pandemic, the Seattle Department of Transportation has been closely monitoring our critical infrastructure. Last night, our engineers identified safety risks in our West Seattle high rise bridge and are now taking swift action to protect the public by removing traffic from the bridge while next steps are assessed,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan. “Transit, freight and first responders will continue to have access to the Spokane Street bridge to ensure access to and from West Seattle. To the residents and businesses of West Seattle: I want to thank everyone for their flexibility and patience during this challenging time in Seattle’s history. It is a top priority to ensure safety and access to goods and transit, and we will be working as quickly as we can resolve this.”

“We’ve kept a watchful eye on the West Seattle Bridge for years. Recently, a series of closely monitored cracks have grown faster than our team of experts had anticipated. Our engineers saw this acceleration as a clear warning sign that closer inspection is necessary, and complete closure is required to maintain safety as our top priority. As we close the bridge today, we will scale and accelerate a process already underway to determine next steps. Above all else, as the Mayor has made clear, we will make sure our first responders have quick and safe access to and from West Seattle,” SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe said.

“As a West Seattle resident and a citywide public official representing all Seattleites, I believe this is the right decision for the safety of West Seattle bridge users, and the long range transportation demands of my constituents,” said Council President M. Lorena Gonzalez (Pos. 9 – Citywide).  “I stand ready to work with Mayor Durkan, Director Zimbabwe, Councilmember Herbold and Chair Pedersen, to address the short-term and long-term impact of this bridge closure.  Keeping people safe is critically important and this closure prioritized the health and safety of the over 100,000 people who use the West Seattle Bridge every day.”

“I support the Mayor’s decision to temporarily close the West Seattle Bridge because safety should be our top priority,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen who chairs the City Council’s Transportation Committee.  “As we provide safe travel alternatives for residents and public transit, I look forward to hearing not only an analysis from structural engineers but also next steps, including a realistic timeline for solutions from our Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).”

At 7PM, all public and private vehicles will be prohibited from crossing the high-rise span of the bridge between I-5 and Fauntleroy Way SW. SDOT is putting signs in place to guide people through the new route. Prohibiting people and vehicles from the structure reduces the load weight and is necessary for public safety.

While the problems have accelerated at a rapid and unanticipated rate, this challenge did not appear out of the blue. The West Settle Bridge was originally designed for three lanes of travel in each direction. As Seattle grew, the bridge grew to three westbound lanes and four eastbound. This added traffic, combined with the significant increase in size and weight of commercial vehicles (including buses), has only compounded the long-term maintenance challenges posed by the West Seattle Bridge. Further, 80 percent of the bridge load is dead load, meaning deterioration is possible even when all traffic is removed. 

In 2019, however, the Federal load rating for this type of bridge changed and the Seattle Department of Transportation assembled a team of engineers and experts from the public and private sectors to begin actively assessing the extent and growth of bridge cracking, create safety recommendations, and a short-term repair plan.  As a component of that review, SDOT has been regularly inspecting concrete cracks in the West Seattle Bridge. During the latest inspection, an SDOT engineer found known cracks in the concrete had worsened at a rate SDOT and the outside specialists found unacceptable.

The City is working with King County Metro and regional transportation, life-safety, and maritime partners today to jointly develop a comprehensive traffic control plan to keep people and goods moving. This plan will include bus reroutes, general traffic detours to alternative streets and bridges, and a street-by-street approach to increase the capacity of detour routes to better carry the traffic using the high-rise bridge today.

The Seattle Police Department, Seattle Fire Department, and medical first responders are aware of the closure and planning detours. SDOT’s traffic control plan will use streets that accommodate the emergency response network to connect communities to hospitals as they are today.

King County Metro bus routes that typically travel the West Seattle Bridge include RapidRide C Line, 21 and 21X, 37, 50, 55, 56, 57, 116X, 118X, 119X, 120 and 125. Routes 37 and 125 are not operating during Metro’s temporary reduced schedule, which started March 23. Metro is working to finalize bus reroutes using the Spokane Street lower bridge and surface streets in SODO, and identify whether any bus stops might not be served as a result of the reroutes. Metro customer information staff plan to post service advisories online later Monday.

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MORE INFO ON SEATTLE BRIDGES:

All Bridges:

  • For the audit of ALL Seattle bridges obtained by Councilmember Alex Pedersen in 2020 after the sudden closure of the West Seattle Bridge, CLICK HERE.
  • For more information about ALL of Seattle’s bridges, CLICK HERE.

District 4 Bridge work:

  • COWEN PARK: For progress on the seismic upgrades being made to the Cowen Park Bridge (15th Avenue NE between NE 62nd Street and NE Ravenna Blvd) in our District 4, CLICK HERE.
  • FAIRVIEW AVE: For progress on the rebuild of the Fairview Avenue bridge from Eastlake to South Lake Union, CLICK HERE.

West Seattle Bridge:

  • SDOT: For more information on the West Seattle Bridge, please see SDOT’s website by CLICKING HERE.
  • West Seattle Blog: For updates from the detailed West Seattle blog, CLICK HERE.
  • Councilmember Pedersen: For his original March 23, 2020 blog post on closure of West Seattle Bridge, CLICK HERE.

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