Three weeks after the 1984-built structure was closed to traffic when routine inspections revealed unexpected deterioration, the Seattle Department of Transportation has announced some likely terribly expensive bad news:
We do not yet know if repair of the bridge is feasible technically or financially. If repair is feasible, it’s likely this would only restore up to an additional decade of life to the bridge. In either case, we will need to replace the West Seattle High Rise-Bridge much sooner than promised when it opened in 1984. Further, should repair prove feasible, under a “best case” scenario we do not anticipate traffic returning to the bridge in 2020 or 2021.
The West Seattle Blog has more on the fallout for the neighborhoods west of the Duwamish.
SDOT says, for now, their crews are working to stabilize the structure and prevent further cracking. Multiple detours are in place and, for now, are working to keep the area mostly connected to the city. Officials have larger concerns once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, however:
Today, during the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order, our reroutes to the 1st Ave S Bridge are sufficient with our below-average traffic levels. Once the stay home orders are lifted, however, and more people return to regular commute routines and other activities, there will be a greater strain on our arterial roads.
Repairs and stabilization that could possibly give the bridge another decade are likely to cost more than $30 million. When it opened in 1984, the bridge had a price tag around $150 million — adjusted for inflation, that nets out around $380 million.
Looking further ahead, replacing the bridge — or making it possible to live without it — now has to be prioritized by a city already facing budget shortfalls that could be deeper and longer lasting than anything in recent memory.
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