Envisioning the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge back to normal

West Seattle High-Rise Bridge. Photo Credit: SDOT Flickr.

Things feel a little different this spring. At this time last year, the pandemic was just beginning. Then, the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge suddenly closed. Together, these events brought compounding crises to West Seattle and Duwamish Valley communities. 

On Tuesday, the one-year mark since the bridge closed, we thanked you for your support and resilience. Yesterday, we looked back at how our response to the high bridge closure unfolded over those twelve months.  

Before we look ahead to what is to come, we want to take a moment to acknowledge the fatal crash in Georgetown this past Wednesday evening that resulted in the death of a person biking. Our hearts are with their family, friends, and the broader Georgetown community.  We are committed to advancing Seattle’s Vision Zero goals of ending traffic deaths and serious injuries,  and acknowledge there is more work to do. 

So what does lie ahead for the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge?  

For starters, we have a clear path to finishing rehabilitation and reopening the high bridge in mid-2022. That means that a year from now, we’ll be on the home stretch toward a return to more normal traffic capacity across the Duwamish.  

Earlier this month, we started the process to bring a private sector contractor on board to finish the design and construction of the rehabilitation measures on the high bridge and the Spokane St Swing Bridge (low bridge).  

This method expedites the process through efficient collaboration and allows us to restore travel across the high bridge as quickly as possible. Shortlisted firms will be interviewed this spring, and the selected contractor will begin work later in the year. 

Why include the low bridge in this contract? We have no reason to think that the low bridge is at any imminent risk of being taken out of service, but because it now plays such an important role as a link between West Seattle and the rest of the city, we have developed a forward-thinking plan to strengthen it further.  

Combining rehabilitation efforts on both bridges into one contract allows for improved efficiency in both construction coordination and scheduling, and minimizes impacts to the community.   

We also know the importance of investing back in the West Seattle and Duwamish Valley communities and it is our priority to keep as much of our contract investment as possible in the community.  

We have submitted a request to the USDOT for a priority hire waiver to permit SDOT to both use federal funds and require the contractor to hire from economically-distressed zip codes in the region.  

As we plan vital construction on both bridges, we’re also working to help the community through the high bridge closure. The West Seattle Duwamish Valley Travel Options portal is a growing hub where we are collecting and sharing information on different ways to travel to, from, and throughout the West Seattle peninsula. 

Walking, rolling, biking, scooting, riding transit or a rideshare, or flipping the trip to stay local or drive during off-peak hours are all ways people are getting around and helping minimize impacts to communities located along major detour routes.  

We’re also starting to build a series of projects – known as Reconnect West Seattle – that began with a community-led process in summer 2020 to reduce the impacts of the bridge closure and increased traffic in nearby neighborhoods.  

To date, we’ve completed over 20 of those projects through our Reconnect West Seattle strategy and plan to construct over 20 more in 2021, in addition to the over 190 traffic improvements we’ve completed since the high bridge closed.  

Many of the Reconnect West Seattle projects are small, but together they’ll have a big impact on how people move around your neighborhoods. These projects include improvements like adding speed radar signs and speed humps to calm traffic, as well as adding turn lanes, replacing rough pavement, and enhancing pedestrian infrastructure at identified intersections. Next up, we’ll be working to finalize  Reconnect West Seattle projects for 2022. 

That’s a lot to absorb. With so much happening in 2021, we’re planning a virtual open house later this spring. We’ll be sharing more information soon. 

Thank you again for your perseverance over this past year. We can’t wait to celebrate the reopening of the bridge with you in mid-2022. In the meantime, we’ll continue to share updates as things progress and , do everything we can to support communities affected by the bridge closure.