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SDOT seeks City interfund loan to cover 2020 and Q1 2021 expenses, sets up new Capital Improvement Program for West Seattle Bridge Program.

West Seattle High Rise Bridge viewed from below.

2020 has been a year brimming with unanticipated, unprecedented, and consequently, unbudgeted challenges.

The rapid growth of cracks in the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge observed in late March, leading us to immediately remove all traffic, has been no exception. As public safety is our number one priority, we immediately jumped into action to slow crackingdetermine the structural state of the bridge, and to keep people moving in West Seattle and across the Duwamish.  

Given the nature of the emergency, we did not have the time or requirement to follow a typical planning and budgeting cycle, and instead began incurring non-budgeted costs related to the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge closure in existing programs, such as our Bridge Rehab and Replacement program. 

Though we are grateful to have had this funding flexibility, it is not a sustainable funding source going forward as we know bridge repair or replacement and associated costs are going to be significant over the next few years.  

The $70 million interfund loan legislation will provide the needed cashflow to cover West Seattle Bridge Program expenses in 2020 and the first quarter of 2021 as we work to secure other significant funding opportunities. 

To ensure we are resourced to do what is best for West Seattle and the surrounding region for the long-term, we are looking into all possible federal, state, and local ways to fund repairs or replacement of the High-Rise Bridge. In the meantime, however, we have an immediate need for additional revenues so we can carry out critical stabilization work and move other efforts forward simultaneously without missing a beat. To do this, we are advancing legislation to the City Council that will:  

  • Authorize an interfund loan to cover 2020 and early 2021 costs related to the West Seattle Bridge Program  
  • Establish a Capital Improvement Program (CIP) that outlines funding estimates for the first two years of work for the West Seattle Bridge Program 

Capital Improvement Programs are our standard funding model for large capital projects.  

We estimate spending between $160 million and $225 million over 2020-2021 on the West Seattle Bridge Program. With regard to these estimates, we want to be very clear that there is still a great deal of uncertainty around the West Seattle Bridge Program needs and this range represents the best understood cost estimates at the current time. These costs include expenses related to  

  • Bridge monitoring and testing 
  • Emergency stabilization repairs 
  • Planning and design costs for repair or replacements 
  • Low Bridge monitoring and maintenance  

Currently, the CIP only goes through 2021 and does not include all of the potential West Seattle Bridge repair or replacement related costs.  

We expect to continue to refine the project costs for this CIP as we move beyond the repair or replace decision. Once the repair or replace decision process is completed, we will evaluate and update the CIP project description as options are further refined, as well as cost estimate  

The $70 million interfund loan would be borrowed from the City’s cash pool and be repaid by SDOT with a $100 million bond sale in 2021.  Any needed spending above $100 million through 2021 will be supported by a separate interfund loan, to be established, if necessary, sometime in early 2021. 

City Council will be considering this legislation in September. We are hopeful that both the CIP and interfund loan will be approved so that we can continue our immediate response efforts, keep all options for repair or replace moving forward, and fund needed traffic mitigation projects through Reconnect West Seattle.  

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