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Mayor Durkan celebrates that final phase of West Seattle Bridge repairs is underway, keeping City on track to reopen the bridge in mid-2022

Editor’s Note: A video of the press conference held today (November 29, 2021) can be viewed below. It is also available to view on YouTube.

Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan and the SDOT team celebrated the final phase of West Seattle Bridge repairs beginning and SDOT being on schedule to reopen the bridge at full strength next year. 

“Since March 2020, our city has faced unprecedented challenges, including the closure of the West Seattle Bridge. After the important work to stabilize the bridge then design the specialized repairs, SDOT is starting the final repair phase of the West Seattle Bridge. Because of the work at SDOT, the end is in sight to reopen the bridge in the coming months. This is an important milestone for our residents, commuters, and businesses as we urgently work to reconnect West Seattle to the greater region,” said Mayor Durkan.

We’ve been diligently working to repair the West Seattle Bridge since it was closed in March 2020. We completed the first phase of stabilization repairs in 2020, and since then have completed the design to repair the bridge and selected the specialized contractor to complete the work. Now, construction crews are returning to the West Seattle Bridge to begin the final phase of the high-priority work to repair the bridge and prepare it for reopening next year. We’ll also add epoxy and carbon fiber wrap to the Spokane St Swing Bridge to fill any existing cracks and strengthen that bridge further.

“All of this work has only been possible through our partnerships – including with funding partners like the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Port of Seattle, as well as local funding allocated by the City Council,” said SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe. “We know the impact this closure has on the community, and it is our responsibility to work with urgency to safely complete repairs on the bridge so that it can be a vital transportation connection again.”

The final phase of repairs includes:

  • Injecting epoxy into the cracks to seal them and prevent corrosion.
  • Wrapping parts of the structure with carbon fiber-reinforced polymer for durability to strengthen the bridge, similar to putting a cast on a broken bone.
  • Installing more tight steel cables called post-tensioning strands through the entire bridge. These strands reinforce the concrete, much like the bridge’s skeleton.

SDOT and its construction contractor Kraemer North America agreed on a construction schedule that will complete repairs by mid-2022, pending any unforeseen issues due to extreme weather events, supply chain problems, worker shortages, or other unexpected conditions.

A tour of the inside of the West Seattle Bridge to view phase 1 repairs in fall 2021. Photo Credit: Tim Durkan.

Following Kraemer completing the repairs, SDOT will test the bridge for strength and resiliency before reopening it to traffic. We’ll share a more specific reopening date – and community activities to celebrate it – as work advances.

Current costs for repairs remain consistent with previous estimates. The newly signed construction contract with Kraemer estimates that contractor costs for the final phase of repairs will be roughly $45 million. This phase is one part of the larger West Seattle Bridge Program, including all the work related to the West Seattle Bridge closure. It consists of both phases of repairs to high bridge, rehabilitation work on the low bridge, and many other traffic and safety improvements built throughout West Seattle, Delridge, High Point, South Park, and Georgetown to address detour traffic and provide mobility options.

Initial work includes hydroblasting (using high-powered water jets to cut through concrete) to open access points for work platforms that will hang from the bridge and give workers access to the underside. In December, we’ll hoist the platforms into place and drill out concrete cores to add steel tendons to post-tension the bridge for extra strength.

“For 20 months, District 1 residents and businesses have been suffering, with longer commutes to work, medical appointments, school and activities, less time spent with loved ones, and difficulty accessing necessary business supplies,” said Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold. “For residents in the southern neighborhoods, including South Park, they’ve had increased traffic safety impacts. Starting the repair process is a huge step for District 1; completing the repair by the scheduled date of mid-2022 is critical. I will be in close coordination with SDOT as this work moves toward successful, on-time completion of the repair.”

“The emergency stabilization of the West Seattle Bridge that’s already occurred gives these full repairs a head start and we all look forward to their completion next summer to restore this vital transportation link for tens of thousands of Seattle residents,” said Seattle City Councilmember Alex Pedersen, Chair of the Council’s Transportation Committee. “I’ll continue to be a champion for investing in our infrastructure and strengthening Seattle’s bridges and I am pleased the final phase of these repairs are underway so everyone can use the West Seattle Bridge again as soon as possible.”

“Whether you’re taking Metro or driving, we’re all looking forward to getting back on the West Seattle Bridge next year, and having this vital roadway reconnecting West Seattle,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Our partnerships with the City of Seattle, SDOT, and Metro have helped keep people moving throughout this project, and we’re all eager to see it across the finish line.”

“On behalf of the people and businesses in West Seattle, I want to share our excitement and support for reopening the West Seattle Bridge next year. Seeing the workers returning this week to finish repairs is symbolic of how close we are to getting back to using the bridge. Thank you to those workers and their families for supporting the reopening each and every day they’re on the job,” said King County Councilmember Joe McDermott.

“Today’s announcement ensures that the historic investments being made by the Northwest Seaport Alliance will preserve quality careers on our working waterfront. Repair of the West Seattle Bridge and Spokane Street Swing Bridge is critical to enabling Seattle’s maritime and residential communities to co-exist. We’re proud to work with the City of Seattle and federal government help fund these repairs to reduce congestion, improve air quality and retain access to the nation’s fourth largest maritime gateway. We look forward to reopening the bridge to keep cargo moving safely and efficiently through the region,” said Port of Seattle Commission President and Northwest Seaport Alliance Co-Chair Fred Felleman.

Mayor Durkan, SDOT, and the City’s Finance and Administration Services Department have also been working with the construction team and the U.S. Department of Transportation to prioritize job opportunities for workers who are women and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), community members living in the impacted areas, as well as BIPOC-owned firms. These efforts are part of the “Priority Hire” programs managed by the City. Priority Hire is being applied to the West Seattle Bridge project as part of the FHWA pilot program administered by USDOT under the Biden Administration. The West Seattle Bridge project is among the first federally funded projects to utilize this program in the current administration.

West Seattle Bridge. Photo Credit: Seattle Municipal Archives.

“This is great news for Seattle and shows federal dollars at work, supporting our communities in ways that matter. I worked very closely with the city of Seattle to make sure we got as much federal support to get this done as possible. Bottom line: we can keep goods and commuters going where they need to go—this is a huge relief for anyone who has been dealing with the fallout of the West Seattle Bridge’s closure. I’ll keep working in the other Washington to keep Seattle moving forward,” said U.S. Senator Patty Murray.

“The West Seattle Bridge is critical to our national and regional economy. Before its closure, more than 84,000 cars and trucks and 25,000 bus riders crossed the bridge every weekday, connecting one-sixth of Seattle’s population to the rest of the city and providing a key freight link in and out of the Port of Seattle. Repairing the West Seattle Bridge and the lower Spokane Street Bridge will help relieve the bottlenecks in our supply chain, protect the $350 million investment in modernizing Terminal 5, and ensure that freight can be moved efficiently to it and the other port terminals that support over 45,000 jobs. I want to thank Mayor Jenny Durkan for her hard work and urgency in getting these repairs completed,” said U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell.

“As a West Seattle resident, I know how important it is to our neighbors, businesses, port, and regional economy that we quickly and safely repair the West Seattle Bridge,” said Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. “That’s why I fought to secure an $11.2 million INFRA Grant for this critical project in addition to passing a historic investment in our country’s infrastructure that includes more than $8.5 billion for Washington, America’s single largest dedicated bridge investment since the mid 1900s, and around $600 million for repairing and replacing bridges right here in our state. Working hand-in-hand with local leaders across Seattle, members of our Congressional delegation, and the Biden Administration, we are making necessary repairs and truly building back better.”

“We’re nearing the finish line for our West Seattle and Duwamish Valley communities,” said Community Task Force Co-chair Paulina López. “A priority of the Community Task Force has been to minimize the burden of the bridge closure on our most impacted communities. We appreciate that SDOT conducted inclusive processes in three neighborhoods to identify pedestrian improvements and traffic calming options to mitigate the impact of the closure. We are also appreciative that, through the priority hire program, some of the economic benefits of this major repair effort can stay within these communities.”

“This is a big deal for folks in West Seattle who’ve been counting down the days until they get to use the bridge again. Thank you, Mayor Durkan, for convening the task force to help guide you and your team as you dealt with tough choices these past two years. You really listened,” said Community Task Force Co-chair Mayor Greg Nickels.

While the final West Seattle Bridge repairs are underway, we’re also planning additional maintenance work on the entire West Seattle Bridge corridor from the connection at I-5 to Fauntleroy Blvd.

West Seattle Bridge at sunset. Photo Credit: SDOT.

These improvements include:

  • Replacing bridge joints that allow the structures to expand and contract during hot and cold weather safely
  • Paving to give people driving a smooth and predictable surface that will last for years
  • Replacing all signs and the structures that hold them with signs that are easier for people driving to read and withstand high winds and storms

Performing major maintenance work now – while the bridge is closed – is smart use of the contractor teams and we’ve sequenced the work, so it won’t affect the schedule of returning traffic to the bridge or lead to construction delays or detours for people driving and transit once we’ve reopened it to traffic.

“The Seattle Building Trades applauds the progress being celebrated today on the restart of construction of the West Seattle Bridge. Labor stands ready with the City of Seattle and Mayor to make repairs and get this important job done right. We will keep working on the bridge tirelessly to make sure it’s safe and ready for the public,” said Executive Secretary of the Seattle Building & Construction Trades Council Monty Anderson.

“Repairing the West Seattle Bridge is a jobs program and a critical component of recovery from the COVID 19 economic crisis. Having large scale public infrastructure projects is one way to keep highly skilled professional trades workers employed with family wage careers and benefits when work in the private sector dries up and offer apprenticeship opportunities to new construction workers. Furthermore, thousands of union members rely on the West Seattle Bridge to commute to and from their jobs. Complete repair of the bridge is critical to economic recovery for all workers who rely on the Bridge to get to and from work.” said Executive Secretary-Treasurer of MLK Labor Katie Garrow.

“Our teams have been preparing for months to come back to the high bridge to complete this work to get vehicles back on the bridge. Our crews are familiar with the bridge from our work on stabilization and excited to get going,” said Kraemer North America Project Manager Adam Dour. “We’ll also be working to strengthen the Spokane St Swing Bridge as part of this contract, and we’ve worked closely with SDOT to ensure that our schedule prioritizes the reopening of the bridge as quickly as possible.”

Washington’s federal delegation have been important advocates for funding these repairs in the interest of the reginal economy and getting people back to work. Sen. Patty Murray, Sen. Maria Cantwell, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, and Rep. Adam Smith, were instrumental in securing more than $39 million in federal transportation funds for the West Seattle Bridge program, and the Port of Seattle committed an additional $9 million.

The City has committed the balance of funding in the $175 million overall program to bring the bridge back into service and mitigate the impacts of the closure. SDOT was also just awarded a federal grant through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) discretionary grants program to rebuild the critical freight and bicycle connection on East Marginal Way S.

The repair program is a massive undertaking that involves adding 91 tons of steel cable to the West Seattle Bridge – totaling more than 46 miles in length if stretched end-to-end. We’ll also add the equivalent of more than 2 football fields of carbon fiber reinforced polymer, and raise 10,000 square feet of work platforms along the 1,300-foot-long bridge.

During construction, most work will take place inside the bridge – but rest assured we’re hard at work, even if you can’t see us. We anticipate some limited construction impacts, including occasional nighttime low bridge closures, parking impacts underneath the bridge, and other limited impacts as work continues.

Stay up to date on any traffic impacts and our major construction milestones on our blog and webpage, in our weekly email updates, and via social media. We’ll share photos and videos throughout the construction process to keep you informed of what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. We hope you’ll follow along!