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Officials Expect West Seattle Bridge to Reopen By Fall

Sun June 26, 2022 - West Edition #14

On June 9, local officials of the Seattle Department of Transportation announced that the West Seattle Bridge would be reopen to the public this fall.
(Photo courtesy of SDOT.)
On June 9, local officials of the Seattle Department of Transportation announced that the West Seattle Bridge would be reopen to the public this fall. (Photo courtesy of SDOT.)
On June 9, local officials of the Seattle Department of Transportation announced that the West Seattle Bridge would be reopen to the public this fall.
(Photo courtesy of SDOT.) 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 courtesy of SDOT.) 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 courtesy of SDOT.) Crews finished pouring concrete structural components for the new post-tensioning system on May 26.
(Photo courtesy of SDOT.)

The West Seattle Bridge is expected to reopen this September, according to local officials.

Crews from the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) have 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.

"We expect the West Seattle Bridge to be open to traffic during the week of September 12," SDOT Program Manager Heather Marx said. "Sharing that 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."

The disruptions caused by the regional concrete strike have had an ongoing impact on the project schedule. The 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. The announced schedule shift is about equal in length to the extra time spent waiting for concrete to arrive.

During the concrete strike, SDOT 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 lbs. of force associated with the new post-tensioning system. Crews currently are 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.

Since the final structural concrete pour was completed, SDOT has worked with the construction contractor to finalize the sequence of the remaining work. SDOT 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. SDOT released a tentative schedule in the interest of transparency and stressed that a project of this scale may still encounter additional unforeseen challenges outside the city's control. It will continue to provide ongoing construction updates and notify the public if the schedule changes.

"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," Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold said. [This] announcement is helpful because we know we're close — just a few months away."

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. Crews completed emergency repairs in 2020 to prevent further cracking and keep the public safe. In 2021, SDOT 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, SDOT puts 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.

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.

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