The West Seattle Bridge will open Sunday, Sept. 18, the Seattle Department of Transportation said Thursday. The date is the most specific milestone set by the city since the bridge closed more than two years ago due to safety concerns and provides weary West Seattle travelers with a beacon of hope.
The city previously set the week of Sept. 12 as its window for reopening the bridge but hedged the announcement with caveats about possible unanticipated hiccups in the final stretch of construction.
The date provided Thursday is a reflection of the progress crews have made in recent months, most notably the final post-tensioning of nearly 50 miles of new cable, which compress the span of the bridge to strengthen the concrete. The cables are anchored by concrete blocks capable of holding 20 million pounds of force.
SDOT previously hoped to open the bridge in July, but a labor strike of concrete workers delayed progress on the bridge, as well as a heap of other major construction projects in the region.
The 40-year-old bridge is among the city’s most important, previously allowing 100,000 drivers and 20,000 transit users to move between West Seattle and the rest of the city every day.
The city first began monitoring cracks on the bridge in 2013, filling them with epoxy to slow their growth. But in 2020, crews noticed rapid growth of as much as 2 feet over several weeks, spurring then-Mayor Jenny Durkan to order its closure.
The disruption of the bridge’s shuttering was tempered only by the onset of the pandemic, as many workers ceased their daily commutes. Nevertheless, without the key passage to West Seattle, thousands of Seattle residents have had their daily lives disrupted by slow and congested detours to the south.
The city debated between repairing or replacing the bridge. Durkan elected the former, which engineers estimate will extend the bridge’s life span by 40 years. The entire project to repair the bridge and reconnect West Seattle is estimated to cost $175 million.
“SDOT is confident that the bridge will now stand strong for decades to come, fulfilling its original intended life span,” said Heather Marx, city project director.
In the coming weeks, the bridge will undergo safety tests, which will include parking trucks loaded with gravel on the newly retrofitted span. SDOT has also installed extensive monitoring systems to detect movement or cracks in the bridge.
In the final month before reopening, crews still must inject more epoxy into the tubes holding the steel cables to prevent deterioration and complete the carbon wrapping of the bridge for an added layer of strength. They will also install inspection equipment on the bridge and touch up the pavement on the bridge’s deck. The last weeks will also include cleanup of construction equipment.
SDOT did not rule out that unforeseen complications could still arise and promised the public speedy updates if the Sept. 18 date changes.
“It is a relief to be so close to the end of this difficult closure,” Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said.