Pending successful completion of remaining construction tasks, West Seattle Bridge will reopen in September 2022

The West Seattle Bridge, seen with downtown Seattle in the background, is expected to reopen this September. SDOT has been working to reopen it since concrete cracks started rapidly growing in 2020. Final repairs are now underway and will make the bridge stronger than before. Photo: SDOT

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We announced today that the West Seattle Bridge is scheduled to reopen as soon as the week of September 12, 2022.

“We expect the West Seattle Bridge to be open to traffic during the week of September 12. Sharing that today is a relief since our focus has always been on safely getting everyone back on the bridge ASAP. It’s been hard having to wait for this update, but we did need to get through the concrete work to understand exactly where we were schedule-wise. Thank you for being so patient, Seattle.” – SDOT Program Manager Heather Marx

The disruptions caused by the regional concrete strike have had an ongoing impact on the project schedule. Our construction contractor originally planned to begin pouring concrete at the beginning of the year, but ultimately had to wait until mid-April to start pouring the structural concrete, which is essential to strengthening the bridge. Today’s announced schedule shift is about equal in length to the extra time spent waiting for concrete to arrive.

During the concrete strike, we adjusted the sequence of work activities to minimize delays and keep the project moving forward in other ways. Crews never stopped working to repair and strengthen the bridge, and continued working on epoxy injections and carbon fiber wrapping during the wait for concrete.

Specialized structural concrete is an essential part of the plan to strengthen the bridge. Crews finished pouring structural concrete on May 26, 2022 and it takes 28 days for the concrete to fully harden and become strong enough to hold the 20 million pounds of force associated with the new post-tensioning system. Crews are currently in the process of installing ducts and threading steel cables through the concrete blocks, but must wait for the concrete to finish hardening before they can tighten these cables to strengthen the bridge and prevent future cracking.

Construction workers pour concrete inside the West Seattle Bridge as part of the bridge repairs in May 2022. Four people in construction vests and hardhats work around a wheel barrow inside the bridge.
Construction crews poured structural concrete inside the West Seattle Bridge to create large anchors blocks for a new post-tensioning system, which will compress the bridge, making it stronger and ready for traffic once again. Photo: SDOT

Since the final structural concrete pour was completed, we have worked with the construction contractor to finalize the sequence of the remaining work. We will continue to hold its construction contractor accountable to meet their updated timeframe.

Remaining repairs for completion of the project require challenging and complex work. We released a tentative schedule today in the interest of transparency, and stressed that a project of this scale may still encounter additional unforeseen challenges outside the City’s control. We will continue to provide ongoing construction updates and notify the public if the schedule changes.

Workers pour concrete into the West Seattle Bridge as part of bridge repairs in May 2022. A large truck is connected to the concrete while it is poured using heavy equipment atop the bridge.
Construction crews pumped the final batches of structural concrete inside the bridge from trucks on the bridge deck. The structural concrete necessary for final repairs of the West Seattle Bridge was delayed by a strike, by several months, but that work is now complete. Photo: SDOT

“We know that our residents and businesses in West Seattle, South Park, and Georgetown have had the bridge reopening date on their mind ever since it closed. Today’s announcement is helpful because we know we’re close – just a few months away.”

– Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold

The bridge closed in 2020 when bridge inspectors saw cracks growing rapidly on the 40-year-old structure linking West Seattle to the rest of the city across the Duwamish Waterway. We completed emergency repairs in 2020 to prevent further cracking and keep the public safe. In 2021, we designed and began final repairs to strengthen the bridge to safely withstand the weight and stress of daily traffic.

Final repairs to the bridge include three key repair procedures: epoxy injections to fill cracks, carbon-fiber wrapping to add strength, and post-tensioning with steel cables to compress the concrete. Together, these methods will rehabilitate the entire structure, prevent future cracking, and help keep the bridge safe for decades to come.

Throughout the repair processes, we put the West Seattle, South Park, and Georgetown communities front and center in its planning and outreach. Staff worked to expedite bridge repairs to West Seattle, calm traffic, and make neighborhood streets safer in Highland Park and the Duwamish Valley, where bridge traffic detoured through communities and business districts.

People walk through West Seattle along SW Alaska St. A woman wearing medical scrubs walks her dog while two people hold hands and a person walks across the street on the left side. Cars and buildings are visible in the background.
The West Seattle Junction is one business district affected by the West Seattle Bridge closure. People walk here on California Ave SW during last summer’s art walk. SDOT announced today that the bridge is expected to reopen as soon as September. Photo: SDOT

Our Community Task force we set up has brought a thoughtful, people-driven perspective to a major piece of infrastructure repair. We appreciate transparency from the City through all this process. In the next few months, I’m expecting to see more neighborhood-level safety work and support for our community members and small businesses. It’ll be a great day when we get through the work and come together to commemorate reopening.

– Task Force Co-chair Paulina Lopez

“I speak for all when I say that we wish the bridge could open safely, sooner. But we now have a date and can begin planning our lives around it. Our task force has labored for two years to get us to this point and we have made a difference. Thank you to all community members and staff for your effort and persistence!” Former City of Seattle Mayor and Task Force Co-chair Greg Nickels

After the post-tensioning is complete, crews will complete a final round of epoxy crack injections and carbon-fiber wrapping. They will also complete other work to prepare the bridge for reopening to traffic. This work includes replacing expansion joints, restoring the road by closing crew access holes, replacing overhead signs, replacing concrete panels east of 35th Ave SW, installing a concrete overlay on the Fauntleroy Expressway, and removing detours and adjusting traffic signals in West Seattle.

“I’m relieved we finally have a safe and certain reopening date, and I know it’s disappointing to many that the concrete strike delays could not be overcome.” – Seattle City Councilmember Alex Pedersen, Chair of the City Council’s Transportation Committee