West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force offers mixed advice in conversation with Mayor Durkan
With a week to consider the 89 page Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) document that looks at the pros and cons of the many aspects of repairing or replacing the damaged West Seattle Bridge, some people have drawn conclusions. For a majority of those speaking or being represented in the Community Task Force meeting Oct. 28 with Mayor Jenny Durkan, repair looks like the best choice.
In a wide ranging conversation, no powerpoint this time, the task force member offered their thoughts for the mayor's consideration.
First up was Barbara Moffat of Stantech and a member of the Technical Advisory Panel (TAP).
Has the TAP looked at the rapid replacement? This in reference to the newest idea up for consideration, a tied arch replacement structure that engineering firm HNTB introduced in the last two weeks that would, if all things went as planned have traffic flowing again by 2023.
She said "it’s exciting," and acknowledged that the TAP has discussed with HNTB, but that since it's simply too early in the process it’s not fully designed."It should be considered as a subset of alternative 4 in the CBA," meaning the replacement alternative. She said it would advance that time line over the original replacement concept but that the type, size and location study would still need to be done.
Is it feasible? "There are challenges" she said and "there are unique risks but it is not unfeasible," the TAP concluded, adding that, "It’s very nice looking structure."
Anne Higuera of Ventana Construction sent email to CTF Co-Chair Mayor Greg Nickels noting that the CBA has shown (on page 59) that given the delays likely in the arrival of light rail we should minimize the closure time which would point to repair but she also noted that the CBA did not capture the cost to citizens, indicating the full socio economic impacts were not factored into the CBA. "The costs and time for people in the community are “important money too,” she said.
Project Manager for SDOT Greg Izzo said the "rapid replacement" idea closes the gap between the apparently lower cost of the repair with a consideration of the full life cycle since the repair would mean the bridge would need to shut down again to be replaced in 2060's. In other words the community would face another 3 to 5 year closure in 40 years or less.
Dan Austin, owner of Peel and Press in the Morgan Junction asked, "Why was the repair rated highest by TAP?" meaning the two primary choices, repair the bridge for traffic back by 2022 or replace it for traffic back by 2023 were not regarded as equally weighted by the Technical Advisory Panel
Moffat said, "We did atrtibute weighting from a technical perspective.. the repair is feasible," said Moffat. But other groups had other priorities which influenced their opinion. "The CBA shows it is the higher value index followed closely by alternative 4," the rapid replacement option.
Deb Barker of the Morgan Junction Association said that Page 24 of the CBA which talks about equity, "needs more attention. it’s not a smoking gun but more like a smoking car." She also wondered "Where did the 2060's date come from.?"
Greg Izzo explained it represents "the 40 year remaining service life of the bridge."
Moffat added, "it’s in reasonably good shape for its age. But there is a risk.. will another bearing fail? and that "Any new bridge design has to go through preliminary engineering." if a replacement is chosen over a repair this should be considered.. you take the concept and put it through the engineering stages. But regarding the replacement option she said, "We do not see fatal flaws in this concept."
Mayor Durkan then spoke and said she had "Three questions."
When looking at repair or replace:
How much will it cost?
How long will it last?
When can we get it open?
"The impacts of the loss of this bridge cannot be overstated, she said, and explained, "We did have one curveball because the Trump Administration labled Seattle as supporting anarchists some of the labeling in the funding we receive applied to our transportation dollars.. which led to us filing a lawsuit last week"
Marci Carpenter said, "I was beginning to feel repair is the best option then we got the rapid repalcement option.
Repair will get us open faster but we don't know how long the rest of the bridge will last. I now think the rapid replacement is the best option."
Jill Mackie with Vigor Shipyards, said "Vigor is a potential fabricator in any repair option and could play a role in it."
Diane Sosne, President of SEIU Healthcare said "The decision making process should be put on a fast track.
asking, "And what is the timeline for the Mayor to make a decision?"
Dan Austin chimed in saying Job creation is important. The businesses are being hurt. “We’re hurting on multiple fronts” He too favors repair because the claim for the rapid replacement that the permitting and potential enviornmental issues being fast tracked is not realistic. "The 10 week EIS is ludicrous, he said, and "$47 million to repair the bridge seems like a no brainer to me. My wife is a manager for Covid testing for Kaiser and she’s stuck in traffic 3 hours a day. We don’t know if that in the 2060’s we might have tech that would allow us to extend its life."
Deb Barker said "I’m a replacement fan. I want to see more urgency and more out of the box thinking on permitting."
Colleen Desmond (from Highland Park) said her area is "experiencing heavy traffic impacts.. the urgency for me is about the people and how this is affecting them, and the socio economic impacts."
John Persak representing Georgetown and maritime labor favors replacement. "The money we’d spend on repair could be spent locally," he said, "There’s risk and that could actually mean three shutdowns," meaning if the repair failed it would lead to the same situation we are currently in with a shutdown if it failed.
Jen Temple with West Seattle Bridge Now the group that strongly prefers repair said. "Based information we have in hand now, it’s the only way to get us back to normal quickly. Rapid replacement has way too many open questions. It’s a bit of a unicorn."
Ann Higuera continued, "The seismic concerns were top of mind originally" but she now favors repair..
"It buys us a lot of time to plan for a replacement eventually. Repair is.. “gonna work but I’m concerned what will happen to the West seattle community with that bridge out."
Tim McConnell of West Seattle Runner said, "The rapid replacement has a lot of benefit but not a lot of detail. Im still looking at repair as the best option." He continued, "We need to get this thing moving. If all the movies I’ve seen are true we will have flying cars by then."
Peter Goldman said, "I favor replacement because I favor the long view. I would urge you to get Sound Transit involved It would be a huge game changer to get them involved. It seems too siloed to me."
Katie Merrill with MLK Labor, "Nothing has persuaded me that repair is better than replacement." She's a 32 year old homeowner and looks at the long term view. Since the rapid replacement option promises a 100 year life it's a factor in her opinion.
David Bestock of the Delridge Neighborhood Development Association (DNDA) said, "I agree with Peter Goldman that coordinating efforts with Sound Transit," is important and sees replacement as the best option.
District 1 City Councilmember Lisa Herbold said, "The sooner we restore bridge access the better. Two years for repair is shorter and the capital cost (at $47 million) is relatively affordable." She explained that "Council is ready to authorize 100 million for debt. Other consultants seem to be “in concurence” with the lifetime of a repair."
"Six years is too long. There are risks for a rapid replacement and not all of them are solvable through political will."
Peter Steinbrueck Port of Seattle Commissioner said it was, "Far too premature to be settling in on one option including the replacement." He pointed out that "47000 bridges across the nation are in critically deficient condition. Let’s get sober about this. What matters most is that we get capacity restored as soon as possible. I would remind you the viaduct was an emergency too. how many years did it take?
Speaking only for himself and not on behalf of the Port he said, "We should look at the probability of how long it would take, and noted that there is "No such thing as a six week EIS review" Adding "We really need to have an alternative that could accommodate light rail."
Todd Carden Elliott Bay Brewing said "I’m a firm believer in repairing the bridge now. Fix the bridge now and plan for the future. Work toward a future replacement option."
Mark Aytch, primary care provider and activist said, "I lean strongly toward replacing the bridge. How many more times are we going to deal with this as a community?
Lord Radford, Executive Direction of the West Seattle Junction Assocation said she had just come from a board meeting representing the area businesses and," I can say overwhelmingly, please repair the bridge and let's do it safely. Let’s get the engine of commerce going again."
Greg Nickels, former Seattle Mayor and Co-chair of the CTF said, "Time is of the essence. There’s no unanimity… I did not favor repair when we started this. But now we’re hearing 40 years. But by then Sound Transit will certainly be done and we will have a backup. The repair option gives us some certainty. The rapid replacement idea needs to be vetted."
Paulina Lopez of DRCC and co-chair of the CTF said, "Equity and a regional approach are top priorities.
Mayor Durkan, spoke again and acknowledged that SDOT has been very busy and offered her praise and thanks.
She can’t give a date on the decision, 'We're going to make it in a time frame, but I need more information.
We’ve been pushing Sound transit but they've delayed all their projects. We have to push on Sound Transit really hard to have light rail, transit and bikes. I asked SDOT if any of the choices are compatible with sound transit. the short answer is no. But we do need to make that a multi modal bridge."
With regard to funding "We're going to leverage our regional impact to get all the federal dollars we can and we actually stand really well for federal funding. We're the only bridge in such a category where the bridge is actually out, not just in need of repairs. I thought replacement was just not on the table. But now we’re looking harder at it.
We’ve gotta get this thing going. We’ve made mistakes at other times in Seattle’s history so I want to make sure the decision we make has the durability to last."
In closing she made a strong plea to eveyrone to wear masks, wash hands and avoid gatherings. since the Covid 19 numbers are going up.
Colleen Desmond had questions about the approach structures to the bridge.
Heather Marx with SDOT explained the approaches will be considered in any type, size location study.
She also noted that SDOT is engaged in discussions with Sound Transit frequently and that in terms of the approach structures light rail would need to be addressed.
Moffat said the approaches are resilient at this point.
Marx addressed the more specific timing as seen now and that repair would put traffic on the bridge in mid 2022 but the rapid replacement would tentatively make it happen by first quarter 2023.
Dan Austin asked about risk analysis on repair vs.replace.
Heather Marx acknowledged that yes repair carries less risk. "Permitting is always going to be the biggest risk."
"From a TAP perspective," Barbara Moffat said regarding the rapid replacement "They’ve been able to address some of the issues we were concerned with so it remains a very intriguing alternative.
Lora Radford reiterated, "The business owners are leaning more toward repair. The message really is. get traffic moving as soon as we can."
Jen Temple said Having followed this conversation … i think the reason replacement feels like a unicorn is that we are NOT Minneapolis or Genoa," where bridge failures were dealt with rapidly in the past.
Marx explained, "We didn’t have federal money flowing in, in the same way they did. We still have to put the funding together."
Greg Izzo said near the end of the meeting, Our goal with the rapid replacement is to avoid in-water work which is often a problem with permitting."
While no clear time frame was set for a final decision the Mayor said she was waiting to learn more but recognized that getting a solution underway soon was important.
I cannot fathom life in West Seattle for the next decade with the replacement option. Repair is the only option that respects the mental state and livelihoods of most of us who live in West Seattle. We DO contribute to the success of Seattle as a whole and without reasonable access to other Seattle neighborhoods, our jobs, and our friends, for 6 or 8 years, I can't see how we can continue to live in isolation.
Seattle continues to be unable to built infrastructure. Regarding the West Seattle Bridge, why is it the old Steel WS bridge lasted longer than new state of the art engineering? As are all the much older, steel bridges that also need replacement all over our city. And now this display of engineering ego and construction corruption is failing 40-50 earlier than touted as its life span when built in the 1980’s.
I have asked over and over IF repair includes the rebuilding. It is obvious repair is going to take so long, and only last so long, that rebuilding really needs to be part of the repair plan. Not a separarte issue. The repair is only meant to last a decade. It will take at least a decade to build a new bridge. And, I haven’t understood how light rail factors into this as it has up until
now. Is light rail going to run on the lower bridge grade? there was talk of a tunnel...this sounds SO SEATTLE!!! The right hand doesn’t know or talk to the left hand!!! For example: SDOT says it hasn’t talked to or considered Sound Transit. Then, to continue, if a tunnel option for light rail is chosen, how will this effect the foundation of the high car only bridge?!?
I’ve lived here all my life. The viaduct built when I was born. I’ve seen the freeways, floating bridges, viaducts, tunnels all take years longer than “planned” and never staying on budget.
At least HTNB has someone thinking ahead. I do not see that in our city politics, city council or inter departmental cooperation or communication.
Making any regional success impossible.