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caption: The West Seattle Bridge, closed since March, rises above the Spokane Street Bridge across the Duwamish River.
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The West Seattle Bridge, closed since March, rises above the Spokane Street Bridge across the Duwamish River.
Credit: Seattle Department of Transportation

Mayor declares civil emergency over failing West Seattle Bridge

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has declared a civil emergency in connection with the damage and “potential failure” of the West Seattle Bridge.

The proclamation gives her emergency powers to address public safety concerns around the city's busiest bridge.

"This emergency proclamation will give Seattle the tools we need to expedite permitting and procurement and strengthen our efforts to receive state and federal funding,” Durkan said in a press release.

RELATED: Another West Seattle bridge in trouble

Any remedies for the badly cracked bridge are expected to be expensive and time-consuming.

The proclamation states the bridge closure "will disrupt travel and commerce for many years and may have adverse health consequences for people in the South Seattle area."

South Seattle’s already-polluted Duwamish Valley is now getting an extra dose of car and truck exhaust as traffic detours around the shuttered span.

As the state's economy opens up and more people resume working and traveling to usual locations, that traffic and air quality is expected to worsen.

The bridge was closed to all traffic in March. The city's transportation department has been studying whether to repair or replace it.

An advisory panel of engineers told the Seattle Department of Transportation this week it had found no evidence to suggest repairing the bridge was “infeasible or economically unviable.”

The panel said its assessment was based on limited information.

Original calculations, shop drawings and field notes from the bridge’s construction, completed in 1984, were nowhere to be found.

“No current survey data, geotechnical assessment, or seismic vulnerability evaluation were provided for consideration,” panel co-chairs Barbara Moffat of Stantec and Scott Phelan of David Evans and Associates wrote.

Durkan has also declared civil emergencies this year around the Covid-19 pandemic and protests against police violence.