What SDOT is doing to maintain and preserve the Spokane St Swing Bridge
Seattle Department of Transportation
Safety for the traveling public is our number one priority. To keep our bridges safe, we continuously perform basic bridge maintenance including regular inspections, monitoring, preservation, and repairs. We also complete bridge earthquake retrofits and occasionally replace bridges, like the recent Levy to Move Seattle-funded Fairview Ave N Bridge Replacement Project.
The low bridge is staffed and monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Planned closures are needed as part of the longer-term rehabilitation program and have been happening over the past year. We can alert travelers in advance to prepare for when these closures happen. Unplanned closures like the current one occur when the aging parts malfunction and need repairs. As of Tuesday, December 27, expectations are the closure will last a minimum of two weeks. Our crews have been working every day since the recent incident to develop a repair plan and schedule. This is a high priority, and we are working to correct the issue as quickly as we can.
While this work is underway, we’d like to share the low bridge work we recently completed and what’s planned for next year.
Structural rehabilitation – Completed Q4 2022
Earlier this year, we injected epoxy resin into existing cracks in the low bridge and added carbon-fiber wrapping in several locations on both interior and exterior surfaces. The carbon-fiber wrapping strengthens the bridge, much like putting a cast on an injured arm or leg.
When we add carbon-fiber wrapping to the surfaces of the bridge, it works in tandem with the steel already inside the bridge to increase overall bridge strength.
Control and communications system upgrades – 2023
We use the control system to open and close the low bridge. The original system of buttons, switches, and wires is about 30 years old. Our work will include rerouting the wires connecting the control tower with the motors that open and close the bridge off of the high bridge to a new conduit under the West Duwamish Waterway. This work will increase the resiliency of the West Seattle Bridge system and help decouple the low bridge from the high bridge.
The system includes computers that control the machinery that lifts and swings the spans and activates the gates that prevent traffic and people from crossing when the low bridge is open. It also includes the communication lines that connect the computers, control tower, and the moving parts to one another.
By making these updates, we proactively address the risk of potential component failures associated with operating the bridge.
Lift cylinder replacement – 2023
Two large hydraulic lift cylinders, located on the east and west side of the low bridge, do the heavy lifting that allows the bridge to swing open for ships and boats in the West Duwamish Waterway. The cylinder acts as a pivot point around which each span rotates to get out of the way of waterway traffic. Without the lift from the cylinders, we would not have a functioning swing bridge.
In addition to the two active cylinders, the bridge has a third spare cylinder in case one of the active cylinders needs repair. In 2023, we’ll install a rehabilitated cylinder on the east side of the waterway. After the swap, we’ll inspect and refurbish the removed cylinder, replace the seals, determine if any other repairs are needed. Once this work is completed, the refurbished cylinder will go back into protected storage as a spare.
Hydraulic and electrical components replacement – 2023
This project identifies and completes the next phase of major maintenance, replacement, and overhaul of the bridge’s electrical and hydraulic components. These components serve a variety of functions and help the bridge to operate. Parts eventually wear down either from ongoing use or by reaching the end of their intended service life. There are various parts in the bridge that have been in service for 30 years and are showing their age.
The component overhaul work will replace or repair these parts so that they can continue to function as originally designed, and can be readily replaced if needed, as part of our ongoing preventative maintenance work on this bridge.