SEATTLE – The Seattle Department of Transportation announced Thursday that the final phase of repairs for the West Seattle Bridge will begin in November. It added that the repairs cannot be made early enough.
Some said the challenges had only gotten worse since the bridge was closed. Dan Austin is the owner of Press and Peel, a pizza restaurant in West Seattle. He is also the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce.
Austin said the biggest impact of closing the bridge initially was that people didn’t want to take the detour and come to West Seattle for dinner. That effect is still there, but now there is another problem – major challenges with manpower and supply shortages that will be exacerbated by the bridging.
“It’s incredibly challenging to run right now,” said Austin. “It’s an insane scramble to get the basic ingredients in yourself.”
The West Seattle Bridge was closed on the same day that Washington State was closed on March 23rd. But while the state has reopened, the bridge will remain closed.
Almost everyone is affected by the bottlenecks, but with the high bridge closed and the lower bridge even restricted for some deliveries, the impact on businesses in West Seattle is even more significant.
“A lot of our warehouse suppliers who supply products have had driver shortages, so there have been issues where West Seattle has just been taken out of the equation,” Austin said.
Now, according to SDOT, the end is in sight. The last work and repair step will begin on the West Seattle Bridge in November.
“We are on schedule and on budget – exactly as expected. We’re in really good shape, ”said Heather Marx, director of West Seattle Bridge security programs for SDOT.
The bridge was suddenly shut down in March 2020 after inspectors found that cracks in the bridge were accelerating rapidly.
SDOT stated that steel tension cables in the concrete of the bridge were built to the standards of the late 1970s and early 1980s. But with modern usage, these cables began to stretch or “creep”. This changed the weight distribution on the bridge and parts of the bridge began to crack.
Climb down two ladders inside the bridge and you can see all of the cracks marked on the walls and floor of the bridge. SDOT said inspectors were so alarmed by the speeding up of cracking that they feared the cracks would combine and cause total structural collapse.
The bridge has now been stabilized. The crews installed new prestressing steel cables on the inside and a “carbon fiber reinforced polymer” wrapping on the outside.
“We are reviewing these critical sections, but the cracking has virtually stalled,” said Matt Donahue, director of roadway structures at SDOT.
The next step in the repair work is to add even more steel cords and carbon fiber so it can handle millions of pounds of traffic.
According to the SDOT, the bridge is expected to reopen by mid-2022.
“I really hope that ‘mid’ means June and not July. Each of these months is critical to us, ”said Austin. He said Peel and Press managed to break the past 18 months, but they’re among the lucky ones.
“I know getting a big infrastructure project off the ground early is wishful thinking, but please make it happen, SDOT,” said Austin.
The high bridge was the most used bridge in the city, over which an average of over 100,000 vehicles drove every day.
The total cost of everything related to the bridge – including stabilization, traffic control, and repairs – will be approximately $ 175 million. The repair work itself will cost about $ 55 million.
When the work is complete, the bridge will restore the bridge to its original lifespan, which corresponds to a further useful life of almost 40 years.
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