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West Seattle Bridge to be Closed through 2021, at Least; COVID-19 Updates

West Seattle Bridge to be Closed through 2021, at Least

On Wednesday we received the news none of us wanted to hear: the West Seattle Bridge will be closed through at least 2021, if it ever re-opens.

It’s impossible to overstate the impact this will have on West Seattle.

The bridge opened in 1984, and was designed to last 75 years.

I’ve heard shock and anger from residents and businesses about how disruptive this will be. So many West Seattle residents leave the peninsula each day for work; small businesses are already reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 virus.  West Seattle residents were the most affected by the closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct during 2019. The West Seattle impact during the squeeze lasted about 8 months and approximately 30,000 transit rides on bus lines travelling routes that went to West Seattle.  The bridge closure will have a threefold impact both in time and number of commuters impacted.

I’m working to schedule an electronic town hall with SDOT soon and will let you know as soon as it’s scheduled. In addition, SDOT will present to the City Council at the Council Briefings meeting on Monday at 9:30 a.m. You can watch the meeting live at the Seattle Channel website or afterwards on the meeting archive.

We will need additional work to manage traffic and mobility: every option must be on the table. We will need to work with other governments and the private sector. It’s clear that what we are doing today to provide alternative routes will not be sufficient once traffic returns to normal levels. Below I’ve listed suggestions I’ve heard from constituents.

Here’s a summary of what SDOT has done in recent weeks to adjust signals and monitor traffic:

SDOT adjusted signals at the following intersections and dates:

Here’s information on traffic counts:

Traffic volumes on the lower bridge decreased from a high of over 15,000 or April 2nd and 3rd, to around 8,000 on April 8 and 9, when SPD began enforcement of restrictions on the use of the bridge.

SDOT 4/15 UPDATE

The SDOT presentation from Wednesday doesn’t include any good news.

SDOT notes that they do not yet know if repair of the bridge is feasible technically or financially. If repair is feasible, it could provide up to 10 years of additional use. So the West Seattle Bridge will need to be replaced, the only question is when.

SDOT proposes three phases for work the bridge: 1) slow or halt deterioration, 2) shoring, and 3) repairs.

SDOT notes that the cracks on the West Seattle Bridge continue to grow, though at a slower rate than when vehicles were on the bridge. SDOT has installed real-time monitoring equipment, and is inspecting the bridge daily.

Slowing or stopping bridge deterioration is needed due to the ongoing cracking, and the compression of bearings on Pier 18, creating additional pressure which affects the whole bridge.

The second potential phase of work is shoring the bridge, to add temporary support to the bridge to preserve its integrity and enable repairs.

The third phase, repair, depends on resolving whether the bridge can be stabilized before further deterioration makes repair infeasible; permitting; and whether repair is technically or financially viable.

SDOT is creating a Technical Advisory Panel with experts on bridge design and construction, geotechnical engineering for bridges, and marine/maritime expertise.

SDOT estimates a $33 million budget through Phase 2, shoring. This does not include the cost of repairs, which have yet to be estimated, and would likely be significantly more expensive.

As more work is done, it will become clearer whether it makes sense to proceed with shoring and repair, or if moving to replacement is a better choice. SDOT has said the bridge is not in imminent danger of collapse, though with cracks expanding, this must be monitored. Some of this work may be needed to ensure the bridge doesn’t collapse.

Sound Transit’s ST3 plan for light rail to West Seattle includes a bridge to either the south or north of the West Seattle Bridge, with a planned opening date of 2030, so this will need to be kept in mind moving forward.

Developments on social distancing re: the COVID-19 virus may affect the use of public transit; that’s another relevant factor moving forward.

I’ve expressed concern to King County Metro about ongoing cuts to service on the water taxi, and bus service in West Seattle. They note that ridership levels are currently very low; I appreciate their collaboration moving forward, and planning for adding back service.

SDOT has a West Seattle High Rise Bridge Safety Project webpage; you can sign up for e-mail updates there, and report road conditions at 206-684-7623 or by e-mail at 684-Road@seattle.gov.

Earlier updates from my newsletter are linked here: West Seattle Bridge Closure (March 25), West Seattle Bridge Update (March 27), West Seattle Bridge Update (April 3), West Seattle Bridge Update (April 10).

In the context of the bridge, a number of constituents have asked about property taxes and the center city streetcar. The King County Assessor sets home values that serve as the baseline for your property taxes. Here’s a link to the Assessor website, which also includes information on how to appeal property valuations. Here’s my blog post from 2018 with information about how property taxes are set.

COMMUNITY SUGGESTIONS

Thanks to all the community members who have proposed potential actions for time when the bridge is closed. Below are a few of the suggestions my office has received so far:

  • More express buses/more buses, especially to employment centers
  • Access for company shuttles to use the lower bridge (e.g. Amazon, Microsoft)
  • Ferries: re-directing some ferry traffic from Vashon/Southworth to Downtown, or adding trips from Fauntleroy to Downtown
  • Water taxi: adding trips, and other locations in West Seattle, and adding destinations beyond Downtown (e.g. Ballard, Expedia), similar to the “Mosquito Fleet” of yesteryear
  • Adding bus access to the water taxi throughout the peninsula
  • Emphasizing biking and walking on the lower bridge (especially e-bikes)
  • Creating a “park and ride” on the east side of the bridge for residents, to park their cars so that they could bus ride or walk across the bridge, then access their cars
  • Speeding up work on the East Marginal Way project to separate bike traffic between West Seattle and Downtown from freight
  • Better traffic control on West Marginal Way, safety at Roxbury/Myers Way at 4th, Sylvan Way, adding a left turn light on 16th Ave SW at Holden, and repairing pavement on Roxbury
  • Maintain telecommuting

COVID-19 Updates

Show Your Favorite Small Business Some Love

West Seattle Junction Association just launched its Small Business Relief Fund, a fundraising campaign to help small businesses throughout West Seattle cover their costs while business is down or doors are closed.  The Junction will cover processing fees, so 100% of your donation goes to your favorite small business.  Neighbors have already given more than $11,000.  #WeGotThisWS

South Park and West Seattle Community Support

If you need help, want to volunteer, or want to give to assist your Covid-impacted neighbors, try one of these community resource exchange websites:

Visiting Your Neighborhood Parks

With more lovely weather expected this weekend, many of us will want to visit our favorite parks.  Parks and Rec staff will be monitoring parks through the weekend and will close parks that become too crowded.  It’s OK to visit your favorite park, but keep moving while you’re there.  Keep walking, running, rolling or biking. That means no gatherings at our parks.

If your usual park is too crowded or closed, discover a new park in your neighborhood.

Questions about what’s open and closed?  Seattle Parks keeps this list updated.

Alki Beach will have some special restrictions to discourage crowds and keep people moving:

  • Parking lots at Seacrest and Don Armeni remain closed
  • Fire pits and picnic shelters are closed
  • No beach activities allowed

It’s important to stay at least 6 feet away from others – and avoid groups – whenever you’re outside your home, including when you visit a park.  If you see crowds forming, let Parks know:

Stay Healthy Streets in High Point this weekend:

Select streets in High Point will be open to pedestrians and cyclists this weekend as part of a Stay Healthy Streets pilot.  These car free streets were selected to amplify outdoor exercise opportunities for areas with limited open space options, low car ownership and routes connecting people to essential services and food take out.

After an initial evaluation, the City plans to convert approximately 15 miles to Stay Healthy Streets in the coming weeks. They will continue to re-evaluate after this weekend’s pilot and work with community and stakeholders on additional suggestions and recommendations.

Emergency Childcare

Everyone’s schedules have been become topsy-turvy because of Covid, and some parents may be struggling to find childcare.

If you are a healthcare worker, first responder, grocery store worker, or pharmacist, the City of Seattle is providing emergency childcare for your children ages 3 through 12.  Check with your employer for a direct link to access the program, or request emergency childcare here.

If your child is younger than 3, if you require childcare outside Seattle, and for all other parents who may need childcare, contact Child Care Resources for assistance.

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