This 2014 aerial photo shows the West Seattle Bridge in Seattle. The bridge was closed March 23 after diagonal cracks grew quickly over two weeks. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)

This 2014 aerial photo shows the West Seattle Bridge in Seattle. The bridge was closed March 23 after diagonal cracks grew quickly over two weeks. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)

West Seattle Bridge declared a ‘civil emergency’ by mayor

Thousands are making a 3-mile detour, and even more are reducing trips.

Associated Press

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, 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.

Several work vehicles are parked atop the West Seattle Bridge following an emergency closure several weeks earlier, on April 15 in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, file)

Several work vehicles are parked atop the West Seattle Bridge following an emergency closure several weeks earlier, on April 15 in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, file)

West Seattle bridge repairs would take at least two years and give the span maybe 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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