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West Seattle Bridge Milestone: Repair Remains on Track as SDOT Moves to Next Steps in Construction

West Seattle Bridge, Seattle, SDOT, Spokane Street Swing Bridge, Reconnect West Seattle
Courtesy of SDOT

Seattle Department of Transportation moved from emergency stabilization to full rehabilitation with an accelerated design process. 

Seattle – Following the successful completion of the emergency stabilization work in December 2020, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has now reached the preliminary design milestone for the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge (high bridge) this week. This important step allows the department to begin the selection process for a private contractor to make improvements to the high bridge and Spokane Street Swing Bridge (low bridge).   

This contractor will make final bridge rehabilitation repairs starting this year and work to reopen the bridge in 2022. These repairs, which use tried-and-true methods that stabilized the bridge in 2020, are part of a comprehensive plan that provides the highest degree of certainty for a safe and rapid restoration of travel with the lowest level of impact to communities in and around the Duwamish Valley, the city, region, and state. SDOT has also developed a forward-thinking plan for the low bridge to ensure it remains strong throughout the closure of the high bridge and for the rest of its life.  

The contract method SDOT is using for bridge rehabilitation engages the construction contractor earlier in the project timeline and is considered an “alternative delivery” method. Traditionally, a construction contractor is selected once the design is complete. For rehabilitation of the two bridges, SDOT is bringing the construction contractor on before then — during the early part of the design phase. When the designer and contractor work collaboratively, there are more ways to ensure schedule predictability.  

Coupled with Mayor Durkan’s rapid decision to initiate stabilization repairs in March 2020 and the work SDOT has been completing on, under, inside, and around the bridge since last spring, this means that not a moment of forward progress has been lost. Through these repairs, the Mayor not only prevented significant potential harm to the public, but also preserved the integrity of the bridge so a repair pathway remained viable and proactively moved months down the repair this pathway.   

This milestone also follows other important efforts in 2021, including planning and implementing improvements to Reconnect West Seattle, working with communities to plan projects that calm traffic and improve neighborhood livability through Home Zone plans, and more — all while working hand in hand with regional and federal transportation partners.   

Against the backdrop of combined challenges brought on by COVID-19, SDOT has kept the vital West Seattle High Rise Bridge Safety Project on schedule.  

“The bridge closure has had so many impacts on the residents and businesses of West Seattle, Georgetown and South Park. We’re keeping pace with our aggressive schedule and taking another major step toward reopening the West Seattle High-Bridge,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said. “SDOT and our workers continue to make progress in the pandemic to successfully achieve a very significant milestone on schedule.”   

Reaching this milestone also allows SDOT to provide more specific cost estimates and continue diligent work to secure all necessary funding. For both the high and low bridge rehabilitation, total estimated costs are approximately $72 million ($58 million for the high bridge and $14 million for the low bridge). Standard practice for bridge rehabilitation projects includes using overall cost estimates at this preliminary design milestone as a baseline.   

SDOT advertised today a Request for Qualifications and Project Approach to the private sector consultant community, initiating the process to bring a contractor on board that will both finish the design and construction of the rehabilitation measures on the bridges. This method expedites the process through efficient collaboration and allows SDOT to restore travel across the high bridge as predictably as possible. For example, the construction contractor is able to provide input while the design contractor finalizes the design, and the designer can provide input on the construction contractor’s means and methods to building the work — such as where work platforms will be raised and attached to the bridge.    

The selection process invites contractor teams to show how their experience and qualifications make them the best fit to rehabilitate both the high and low bridges. Shortlisted firms will be interviewed later this spring.  

SDOT is petitioning the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) to allow the use of the city’s Priority Hire Program on this federally funded project. If approved, the city will be able to create local jobs and put more money back into underserved communities near the bridge and around the county.  

SDOT remains committed to the federal and state Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program (DBE) and the city Women and Minority Owned Businesses Program (WMBE) to support women- and BIPOC-owned businesses in these government contracting opportunities. Through the WMBE program, SDOT makes it a priority to employ BIPOC and women-owned businesses for at least 30% of consulting and 19% of purchasing needs. The rehabilitation projects will include a DBE goal, which we will set later in the design process in coordination with funding partners.  

“Our work to reopen the bridge is on track, and we’ve made great progress to date,” SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe said. “Simultaneously, we are continuing to implement solutions for impacted communities – including traffic mitigation, paving, detour signage, and installing safer walkways and bike lanes. I am proud of the work of our teams across the department as we continue to work with urgency to restore the vitally important connection the bridge provides to our region.”