In March, the West Seattle Bridge closed to traffic due to multiple structural issues.
On Thursday, Mayor Jenny Durkan declared the high-rise bridge a city emergency in the hopes of gaining state and federal assistance.
Mayor Durkan signed a proclamation of civil emergency regarding the closure of the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge and follow-on impacts, as well as an additional emergency order requesting state and federal assistance.
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“Our cities are facing a series of unprecedented crises, including rising COVID-19 cases and a significant economic crisis. At the same time, residents, workers, and businesses have been deeply impacted by the closure of the West Seattle Bridge – the City’s busiest bridge. As SDOT continues to mitigate traffic impacts and stabilize the bridge while evaluating repair and replace options, this emergency proclamation will give Seattle the tools we need to expedite permitting and procurement, and strengthen our efforts to receive state and federal funding,” said Mayor Durkan in a news release.
Her emergency proclamation “recognizes that the high-rise closure is a long-term emergency that will continue to evolve as the City plans for infrastructure repairs, investment, and multimodal mitigations,” and “comes at a critical moment when the mayor and SDOT are elevating ongoing conversations with federal partners and other elected leaders about securing the funding needed to build the best possible outcome for West Seattle and surrounding communities.”
The bridge is currently facing multiple structural issues, a main issue being that it has compressed and bulging bearings on Pier 18. These bearings are creating additional pressure on the bridge, causing cracks. To slow the cracking, SDOT is procuring a contractor to perform immediate emergency repairs.
Once the bearings are repaired, the city will be adding temporary support to the bridge to preserve its integrity. It is only after the support is installed that bridge repairs can be conducted.
“It may not be possible to repair the bridge as it currently is,” says Sam Zimbabwe, director of the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).
“That may be because of the deterioration of the bridge, or the technical or financial feasibility of repair.”
If repair is possible, the city is hoping that it can provide up to 10 years of additional use.