SEATTLE — The West Seattle Bridge will remain closed to traffic until 2022 to brace and then repair the cracking concrete main span, city of Seattle officials now predict.
City transportation officials closed the bridge March 23, after diagonal cracks grew quickly over two weeks following others since late 2018. Engineering consultants were becoming concerned that cracks on the walls, floor and ceilings of the hollow concrete girders would connect and create risk of collapse, The Seattle Times reported.
The cost of installing bracing for the 590-foot (180-meter) span, which arches above the Duwamish Waterway, is estimated at $33 million, according to Sam Zimbabwe, Seattle Department of Transportation director. That includes related traffic control and maintenance on the lower-level bridge and would require the rest of this year to complete.
“It may not be possible to repair the bridge as it currently is,” Zimbabwe said in a news conference Wednesday. “That may be because of the deterioration of the bridge, or the technical or financial feasibility of repair.”
Zimbabwe said he couldn’t estimate how much a full repair would cost to give the bridge another 10 years of use.
He also said it’s too early to know whether the bridge, once reopened, could revert to its original six lanes, or again handle heavy trucks and buses. That uncertainty creates a greater challenge for Seattle City Council members, who at a late March briefing hoped for a near-term, interim repair that could allow at least some traffic to flow.
The bridge is the city’s busiest with an average of 100,000 vehicles and 25,000 transit riders daily before the coronavirus pandemic dramatically decreased traffic. Continued telecommuting and many other changes in travel choices will likely be needed, officials said.
There appears to be no way to repair the bridge, which opened in 1984, to make it last for its entire 75-year design life, Zimbabwe said. Discussions need to start sooner than expected on a long-term replacement plan, he said.
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