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Seattle’s next top crisis: the cracking West Seattle Bridge

Seattle has another crisis on it hands. Even with costly repairs, the high bridge to West Seattle won’t reopen to traffic until 2022.

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.

(Images: SDOT)

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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19 thoughts on “Seattle’s next top crisis: the cracking West Seattle Bridge

  1. Potentially irreparable after 35 years, incredible. How much you wanna bet the deep bore tunnel lasts an even shorter period of time? Between this and our crumbling streets and budget shortfalls from the pandemic and the car tab tax initiative, what irony would it be if we have no where to go once the stay at home orders are lifted simply due to a lack of infrastructure?

  2. From the producers of the SR99 tunnel…

    If there’s no money for a bridge for Link, I’m sure they won’t be able to fund a more expensive replacement for this bridge.

    Just kidding, we love cars. We’ll delay all transit infrastructure (city center connector, ST3, bike lanes, less polluting ferries) and get a new shiny bridge.

    • This would be ideal.

      Plus, any replacement bridge should allow for the Ballard-to-West Seattle branch of Link.

      Oh, and as part of the replacement that line should be fast tracked.


      We need infrastructure in this city, and Link is part of it…this 25 year build out that Sound Transit has in mind is WAY too long.

      • That was suggested, but I read in West Seattle Blog that Good to Go is run by the state, and the West Seattle Bridge is part of SDOT. They say that is a no go. I hate to say it, but I think this closure will cause back ups all over the city. I-5 will be a mess with all the commuters trying to exit the detours to West Seattle. I moved out of West Seattle several years ago because my commute to work was horrible. I am about to move to the Eastside soon so that I will be able to bus and/or walk to work.

      • West Seattle bridge levy ?

        I’ve never understood why that bridge is so high. It seemed built as some kind of engineering show piece rather than as a practical highway.

    • asdf LOL, True, but not for long when all those West Seattleites head back to work!! Plus my commute will only be a 8 minute commute if I drive from my new place in the Eastside.

  3. Allow bicycle traffic to use the high bridge until the final decision or repair is made.

    Add concrete to the approach span side of pier 18 so the approach span bearing can be cut back to relieve the stress on the horizontal neoprene bearing pad that has been overly compressed.

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