West Seattle Bridge condition declared a ‘civil emergency’ by mayor

Seattle Bridge
Preliminary work began July 27 on a bridge that was declared a “civil emergency” by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan earlier this month. (Courtesy: Seattle Department of Transportation Blog)

SEATTLE — Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has declared the cracked high-rise West Seattle Bridge a civil emergency.

The declaration, issued Thursday, may increase the odds of winning federal or state money, The Seattle Times reported. Durkan also seeks to speed up repairs or replacement by skipping some city regulations regarding competitive bidding, budget limits or employment of temporary workers.

Meanwhile, the city’s engineering panel said it’s possible to repair the 36-year-old concrete bridge, which  has been closed since March 23 because of dangerous shear cracks. But the panel’s letter leaves many questions unanswered, such as how many lanes could operate if the bridge is fixed or whether repairs are affordable.

This month, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Seattle), mentioned the West Seattle Bridge during a speech on the House floor in support of a large infrastructure bill in Congress.

The high bridge typically serves 100,000 vehicle trips and 19,000 transit riders per day, the new documents say. Thousands are making a 3-mile detour, and even more are reducing trips.

West Seattle bridge repairs would take at least two years and give the span perhaps a decade of extra life, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation.

Contractors this week are expected to begin emergency shoring work there. The goal is to stabilize the bridge while the city considers repairs or replacement.

City officials and a 31-member community advisory panel have discussed the emergency declaration in recent weeks as a needed step to help deliver a new bridge or tunnel, for which the city has no funding.

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