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Mayor hosts West Seattle Bridge Town Hall to listen & respond to community feedback ahead of repair-or-replace decision

Image of Powerpoint slide that reads: "Town Hall - West Seattle High Rise Bridge Safety Project. Thank you for joining us tonight. We'll begin at 5pm. 5-6:30 pm. November 16, 2020."
Click the image above to view the full Town Hall.

You can watch a full recording of the event on SDOT’s YouTube channel .

A full summary of the Town Hall can be found here.

This week’s Community Task Force Meeting will take place on Thursday, November 19, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Mayor Durkan will join the meeting to provide an update and answer any questions. Watch this meeting live using this link. 

To inform her upcoming decision about whether to repair or replace the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge, Mayor Jenny Durkan hosted a town hall Monday to hear directly from community members – from those dealing with the loss of the connection to the West Seattle peninsula to those in the Duwamish Valley feeling the associated traffic impacts. 

Hosted online and attended by more than 400 people, the event highlighted recently completed work to stabilize the bridge and reduce the traffic impacts of the closure. Attendees also heard updated information for both repair or replacement pathways, and learned about ongoing opportunities for providing feedback. 

The event was moderated by Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Director Andrés Mantilla, and included remarks by Mayor Durkan and West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force Co-Chairs Greg Nickels and Paulina López.  

SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe recapped the work done to stabilize the bridge since it closed in March. Those measures were required to support either pathway, and include releasing damaged bridge bearings at the Pier 18 column, and the installation and tightening of post-tensioning steel cables inside the bridge girders to further support the main bridge arch. 

The bulk of the session was devoted to questions from the community. Transit needs, Low Bridge access, and traffic mitigation were among the many topics that came up during the discussion. Funding was also discussed, with Mayor Durkan saying the City will pursue all funding opportunities for both potential pathways. 

Two people walking a dog and walking away from the camera on the Low Bridge. The Rapid Ride C Line bus is coming towards the camera in the road to the walkers' right.
Low Bridge and transit access are some of the issues we’re continuing to address. Photo Credit: Tim Durkan. 

I really want you to know that I’m listening. […] particularly feedback people have on tipping points on time. When I push people on replacement and repair, the ability to actually get the bridge in place matters to people […]. We know that the High Bridge being closed has been just an extraordinary hardship and […] I also know that besides these alternatives on replace and repair, Sam and his team are looking for what other options we can have to restore additional or temporary mobility as we work on these other challenges.

Mayor Jenny Durkan

The panel fielded a number of questions about coordination with Sound Transit, which is working to bring a new Link Light Rail line to West Seattle. Zimbabwe said the two agencies are working together, but combining efforts presents challenges and requires further exploration. 

With both the repair/replace options, there are challenges with adding light rail because of engineering constraints. With repair, we won’t be able to add new lanes for light rail. This is a challenge with replacement as well, because the bridge will be using existing supports, which also makes it difficult to add new lanes. We will continue to work with Sound Transit regardless, but one thing we’ve learned is that we need more redundancies in the connections with West Seattle.” 

SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe

Other transit improvements, including a desire for increased bus and water taxi service, also came up. 

“Over 80 percent of voters supported Proposition 1, which helps us fund transit service through Metro. We identified West Seattle Bridge mitigation as part of this work, and partnership with [King County Metro] will help us to add some service to connect West Seattle. There are some opportunities for community shuttles or vanpools, but with diminished capacity due to COVID right now, this is a challenge. As we get back to transit carrying more people, those are all parts of how we will think about Reconnect West Seattle and parts of our mitigation plans.” 

SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe

More than 17,000 community members responded to the Reconnect West Seattle survey this summer, which helped us prioritize immediate and long-term community needs and projects to best mitigate the impacts of the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge closure and corresponding detour routes.  

To date, we have implemented more than 185 projects in and around West Seattle. We’re planning to deliver many more this year and next, and will continue to prioritize environmental justice by addressing detour impacts in communities already facing higher levels of pollution, asthma, and other environmental and health inequities. 

Mayor Durkan’s decision, expected soon, will be informed by many factors. These include months of study and engagement with the Community Task Force, input from the Technical Advisory Panel, and the Cost-Benefit Analysis we recently completed to evaluate various repair and replace alternatives. 

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