West Seattle High-Rise Bridge may not reopen to traffic until 2022

April 16, 2020

Officials say they do not yet know if repair of the bridge is technically or financially feasible

Officials with the Seattle DOT this week announced that under a "best-case" scenario, the department does not anticipate the possibility of opening up the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge back to traffic in 2020 or 2021.

The bridge—which the Seattle DOT closed on March 23—had experienced rapidly accelerating cracking issues, which led to its closure. In a blog post, the city said it needed more information to determine the future of the high-rise bridge.

"We do not yet know if repair of the bridge is feasible technically or financially," the Seattle DOT said in a blog post. "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."

Despite these challenges, the Seattle DOT says it is exploring all options to preserve the integrity of the bridge so that the best decision possible can be made for the residents of West Seattle who rely on the bridge.

Some of the steps the DOT is taking to address the issue include working to stabilize the bridge and prevent further cracking by fixing bearings on Pier 18 and constructing shoring support structures; exploring long-term solutions to see if it is feasible to repair the bridge; and working with local transit agencies to keep people moving to and from West Seattle.

Back in 2013 during a routine inspection of the West Seattle Bridge, the city's inspectors discovered four sets of cracks in the bridge support structure. While the Seattle DOT says some cracking is normal, the department decided to increase monitoring to inspect the bridge every year. In 2014, the DOT installed real-time data collection equipment, allowing the city to remotely monitor the width of existing cracks on the bridge. 

The city is forming a technical advisory panel of experts to help bolster actions moving forward to address the bridge's future.

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SOURCE: Seattle DOT