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caption: Repair crews examine post-tensioning cables inside the West Seattle Bridge
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Repair crews examine post-tensioning cables inside the West Seattle Bridge
Credit: Seattle Department of Transportation

West Seattle Bridge to be repaired, not replaced

Seattle officials say they are going to repair, not replace, the West Seattle Bridge.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said a repaired bridge could reopen to traffic by “mid-2022.” Transportation officials declined to give a more specific timeline.

“The repair will get us returned to mobility most quickly,” Durkan said. “We know this has been very difficult on the communities.”

The badly cracked bridge has been closed since March.

The Seattle Department of Transportation had also been considering a “rapid replacement” bridge that could have opened in mid-2023, lasted 75 years or longer, and cost $400 million or more.

Traffic engineers expect a patched-up bridge could last anywhere from 15 to 40 years.

The Seattle Department of Transportation estimates repairs would cost $47 million, on top of the $20 million already spent to stabilize the deteriorating structure.

Projects aimed at helping nearby communities handle traffic better until the bridge reopens would cost another $50 million, according to SDOT. That sum includes everything from pedestrian safety projects in Georgetown, Highland Park and South Park — the neighborhoods most affected by detouring traffic — to expanded bus and water taxi service.

Repairs to the neighboring low-rise bridge, which has just two lanes crossing the Duwamish Waterway versus the closed bridge’s seven, would cost another $10 million.

Durkan said neither the repaired bridge nor the “rapid replacement” span could accommodate light rail. Sound Transit is planning to built a light rail bridge nearby.

Durkan said the city would also begin planning for a replacement bridge in case the repaired bridge fails to perform as well as engineers think it will.

The mayor said she was “hoping to have a conversation” with Sound Transit about the possibility of partnering to build a combined road-rail bridge.

Transportation department director Sam Zimbabwe said the work done since March to stabilize the closed bridge is “performing well.”

“This remains a challenging engineering solution, and we are approaching it carefully and diligently,” he said.