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Kraemer North America selected to construct final phase of West Seattle High-Rise Bridge repairs

West Seattle Bridge at sunset. Photo Credit: Madison Linkenmeyer

We mark another milestone and remain on schedule to reopen the bridge in 2022. The new contractor is slated to start construction this year. 

We have selected the construction firm Kraemer North America to complete the final phase of West Seattle High-Rise Bridge repairs. Today’s selection of a contractor marks the latest in a series of on-time milestones in the ongoing effort to safely reopen the bridge on schedule in mid-2022. 

The West Seattle High-Rise Bridge was closed to protect public safety in March 2020 after city engineers discovered rapidly growing cracks in multiple locations. We immediately set to work on a stabilization effort using tried-and-true methods, including installing 10 miles of taut steel cable inside the bridge, repairing a disformed bearing in the Pier 18 support structure, and wrapping the structure in carbon fiber in multiple locations.  

These emergency measures, which were completed by late 2020, have successfully halted the cracks from growing larger and kept the bridge standing, but additional work is needed to further strengthen the bridge to support the weight and stress of daily traffic. After successfully completing the first phase of stabilization and conducting extensive monitoring, the bridge is behaving as expected. 

In parallel with the design of the repairs to bring live traffic back on the bridge, we released a Request for Qualifications/Project Approach for a general contractor/construction manager in March and received qualifications from six firms. The list was then narrowed to a shortlist of three teams who were invited to interview and further demonstrate how their experience and qualifications make them best-suited for the project ahead.  

Kraemer was selected based on their qualifications, experience, price proposal, and history of success, which all indicate that this firm can finish the final phase of repairs and reopen the bridge on schedule. Next, we will engage with Kraemer to develop a pre-construction scope of work so they can immediately participate in progressing the rehabilitation design.  

“The past year has been full of once in a lifetime challenges for our residents and businesses. We’re midway through this complex project and the end can’t come soon enough for everyone who’s been stretched by the emergency closure. Our new and growing construction team will work urgently to safely reopen the bridge,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. 

Kraemer is a full-service, heavy civil contractor working around the country on transportation, rail, and marine projects. Headquartered in Wisconsin, they have worked on multiple projects in the Seattle area, including the Northgate Pedestrian and Bike Bridge and emergency bridge stabilization of the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge. 

“This contractor selection marks a major milestone in our work to quickly and safely reopen the West Seattle Bridge to the thousands of people who rely on it to get to work and move around the city, and to our essential freight network,” SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe said. “We closed this bridge under emergency conditions and have been working day-in, day-out to guarantee that it’s safe to use and reopen it as quickly as possible. I want to thank all the companies that threw their hat in the ring on this contract, and thank the City staff who oversaw the selection process.”  

This repair contract will rehabilitate both the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge (high bridge) and the Spokane St Swing Bridge (low bridge).  

“The Port of Seattle and Northwest Seaport Alliance are glad to see the final repairs of the West Seattle Bridge make further progress with today’s contractor selection announcement. This critical infrastructure links our marine cargo terminals with businesses across the region and nation. Over a half-billion dollars is being invested in Terminal 5 to make it a premier container terminal on the West Coast, with neighboring communities and the environment built into its design. The rapid repair of the West Seattle Bridge is essential to our ability to enhance operations in our gateway, create living wage jobs, and increase economic opportunities across our state,” said Fred Felleman, Port of Seattle Commission President and Northwest Seaport Alliance Co-Chair. 

We will deliver the project with Kraemer through the general contractor/construction manager (GCCM) project delivery approach. With this approach, we are bringing the construction contractor on board earlier in the design process, providing a greater opportunity for cost control and schedule predictability through creative ideas around constructability and starting the procurement of any long-lead-time items that may be needed for the repairs. 

“We stand behind our partners at the City of Seattle and do all we can to help reopen the West Seattle Bridge next year,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “As we begin the process of returning to full Metro bus service and focus on West Seattle riders, we are in close coordination with the City on how buses will get across the Duwamish Waterway. Selecting a contractor today demonstrates the continual progress we see from this project team and helps build excitement for next year when buses and riders can return to the West Seattle Bridge.” 

“Restoring the West Seattle Bridge and the connection to Interstate 5 is important to the state’s economy and to the transportation network,” said Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Secretary Roger Millar. “We are excited for the City of Seattle as they make progress to reopen the bridge and we will continue to be strong partners in addressing mobility needs across the Duwamish.” 

Close collaboration between SDOT and Kraemer will help identify ways to stay on schedule and find innovative solutions. We are also working to make smart use of the contractor team while the bridge is out of service, which may include additional work like replacing bridge expansion joints or repairing pavement. 

The City’s Finance and Administrative Services (FAS) department worked closely with us to develop bidding documents and reach today’s major contractor selection milestone, working to ensure a fair, open, and competitive bidding process. The selection process scored each proposal based on its technical merits, price proposal, and interviews between each shortlisted contractor and our technical engineering and construction experts. 

We are also working closely with WSDOT, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to advance this project and safely reopen the bridge. The USDOT today said it would reinstate and expand a pilot program to allow local hiring provisions in federally-funded projects, which the City of Seattle supports through its Priority Hire and Community Workforce Agreement programs implemented in project contracts. The federal local hire rule is currently in a 30-day public comment period.  

We look forward to continuing our strong partnership with the Seattle Building & Construction Trades Council in advocating for USDOT’s proposed local hire program as the project moves forward. 

This federal program, if established, could allow us to require its bridge contractor to hire construction workers from local, economically distressed ZIP codes in the Seattle region such as those covering the Delridge, Highland Park, South Park, and Georgetown communities, which have also borne the highest impacts of diverted traffic from the bridge closure. The program also prioritizes women, people of color, and registered apprentices. 

We have focused our own City crews on installing safety and community-requested improvements to the detour routes and neighborhood streets in these impacted West Seattle and Duwamish Valley communities. Since the bridge closed last year, they have done 195 projects in these areas. Recent news from the department shared recent project work, including sharing three “home zone” plans for pedestrian-friendly streets in neighborhoods, installing five radar speed signs in Georgetown, planting 40 trees in South Park, and constructing more than 80 speed humps. 

“We as affected communities and the Community Task Force appreciate the steady progress the City is making to reopen the bridge and calm the busy detour routes in our communities of the Duwamish Valley and West Seattle. We look forward to meeting the contractor team and sharing who they are as well as sharing our hopes for the year ahead. Helping those most impacted by this closure by reopening the bridge safely and quickly – and engineering safer streets in the meantime – remain our priorities, and we look forward to having a new partner to support all these,” said Paulina Lopez, co-chair of the bridge Community Task Force and executive director of Duwamish Valley Clean-up Coalition.