New Report Shows Dozens of Seattle Bridges in "Concerning" Condition

Make sure you wear a flotation device.

Comments

1

Two takeaways:

1 - University Bridge is rated as Poor. I agree with this assessment.

2 - Montlake Bridge not SDOT. However, it is part of the SR-520 replacement and repair cycle

2

In the meantime, open up the West Seattle Bridge to bikes, pedestrians, outdoor dining, and performance art!

3

The important thing is that we getting more bike lanes!

4

Susan Collins Honorary Bridges

5

I thought it was going to be infrastructure week one of these weeks? Maybe the states could just get all of the gas tax revenue the Feds take and use for.... whatever they use it for.

6

How is the Fairview Ave N bridge (which goes over the east side of Lake Union) on this list? It's been closed for more than a year for a rebuild.

https://www.seattle.gov/transportation/projects-and-programs/programs/bridges-stairs-and-other-structures/bridges/fairview-ave-n-bridge-replacement

7

The Fourth Ave South bridge (south of Costco) has been down to one lane northbound for years now.

8

The $930,000,000 Move levy, passed in 2015, was supposed to address the Magnolia Bridge situation, but... the money has been spent on other needs. That bridge is marginally acceptable--safe enough for a few more years but comparatively rickety and needing to be replaced. But that will cost about $430,000,000, so now there's... occasional discussion but no consensus about a plan. And, obviously, the University and other bridges in the city need to be repaired or replaced. Another levy--exclusively focused on bridge repair and replacement--would seem to be the next logical step. The money will have to come from somewhere, and just now the city's budgetary situation is shaky. Three cheers to anyone who can articulate a practical, cost-effective plan to address these issues. Just imagine if there's an earthquake, and you're on the Magnolia Bridge... Yes, we'll have to address this issue, and finding consensus will not be easy.

9

Keep this in mind the next time some cheap grifter tries to tell you we can maintain our infrastructure on $30 car tabs.

10

If only we had a local trillion-dollar company we could tax.

11

I like @2 response, as well as @9 response

12

The last decade has been one of unprecedented prosperity in Seattle. When SDOT is properly funded, it does wonders. For example, the Airport Way Bridge, over the rail yards in Georgetown, was fully restored, on-budget and ahead of schedule. (https://sdotblog.seattle.gov/2013/02/01/now-open-the-new-old-airport-way-south-bridge-2/)

Anything even vaguely resembling competent political leadership would have already identified the issues in this report, and assembled taxes to pay for all necessary maintenance and improvements. This is basic "grunt work" of local or municipal government. Instead, we get kayak-tivists yelling ineffectually at oil companies, poseurs endlessly virtue-signaling on meaningless kerfuffles du jour, and actual admirers of Bolshevik tyranny (!) attempting to overthrow global capitalism.

Thus, the moment any project requires the tiniest amount of political leadership in Seattle of any kind whatsoever, the result is blockage, chaos, delay, and decay-unto-collapse. After then-Gov. Gregoire finally demonstrated excellent leadership in declaring a tunnel to replace the cracking, crumbling Alaskan Way Viaduct, Seattle's then-Mayor McGinn did everything he possibly could to keep the swaying concrete eyesore blocking waterfront views -- and, far more importantly, threatening anyone who got near it with sudden painful death. (Incredibly, McGinn was actively rejecting STATE money to create a tunnel which primarily benefits Seattle.) After voters kicked his stupid idea -- followed, shortly thereafter, by his stupid ass -- to the curb, we got a state-of-the-art tunnel built for us by WSDOT. This was the most important infrastructure decision made in downtown Seattle for fifty years on either side, voters had repeatedly approved it (and/or rejected alternatives), and yet, Seattle's political establishment did everything it possibly could to block it. (McGinn, meanwhile, wasted the rest of his rapidly-dwindling time in office getting himself publicly humiliated by his failed attempt to steal a basketball team from Sacramento. Priorities, that.)

On this topic, The Stranger has done everything it could to hamper progress. It backed McGinn until long after his political demise, eagerly participated in the nasty smearing of his replacement until that mayor was hounded out of office, and even shamelessly wallowed in class-warfare rhetoric AGAINST replacing the Magnolia Bridge. Finally, their last candidate for mayor had been yet another opponent of the SR-99 tunnel! The Stranger's political coverage has been a fungus on Seattle since their last competent political writers fled in the late aughts.

Good luck finding any answers, before Pier 58 begins to look like a nice Sunday picnic by comparison.

13

Funding things like infrastructure is evil socialism. We need that money for tear gas and riot gear and overtime because the pigs arent content to murder and assault people within their standard working hours.

14

@10

If only we had city council members who understood the two most important reasons for having city government is providing public safety and maintaining infrastructure.

We've channeled hundreds of millions of dollars to SHARE/WHEEL and other "non-profit" agencies to address vagrancy (with no metrics of what success looks like) but haven't spent any money maintaining vital infrastructure.

And surprise years later we have more vagrants and crumbling bridges.

Who could have predicted that?

15

@12

Well said.

16

The best option is to pay for all roads via a gas tax. I believe the state legislature would have to give us authority to do this, and we would have to pass an initiative to do so. But a gas tax package focused on maintenance would likely pass easily.

17

No ribbon cutting ceremonies for politicians just doing their jobs and taking care of basic maintenance. So they don’t do it. Much better to buy useless new streetcars that they can take pictures with (and then neglect their maintenance so they will be forced to buy new one for another photo op)

18

@12 -- The SR 99 tunnel was one of the biggest boondoggles ever built in the area. Yes, it was built on time, and under budget. Oh wait, it wasn't. That misses the point though. It was, and is, a stupid waste of money. It would have been much better if we had spent the money on transit, improving I-5 as well as Alaskan Way (the so called "surface option"). That would have allowed a ton of money on maintenance projects, while moving way more people.

Oh, and the voters did not want the tunnel. Of the three options, none got a majority, but rebuilding the viaduct got a plurality.

As for replacing the Magnolia Bridge, that is another stupid, wasteful project. There should be a new (much smaller, much cheaper) bridge, but spending hundreds of millions on a bridge that carries so few people is nuts.

19

"Staffing issues are to blame, at least in part; the report estimates that 20 percent of bridge maintenance staff are pulled off of bridge work and assigned to other city departments' tasks. Why is that? Because SDOT doesn’t have enough money to pay for the staff themselves, so they have to reassign their workers so that other city departments will reimburse them."

A bigger problem is that the City of Seattle consistently fails in project delivery. They're repeatedly late and over budget, and worse yet the council rarely has an accurate picture of where major projects are in the delivery cycle. The four divisions within the City government who have capital programs (SDOT, SPU, City Light, and Finance and Administrative Services) all follow different reporting and tracking processes, and they're all lacking.

So yeah, there's a budget problem - but it's not because we don't give SDOT enough, it's because they can't properly manage what they're given. I'm no "all government is inefficient" conservative, by the way, but I am an engineer and I manage construction projects across the state. SDOT is among the worst at project and program delivery.

20

By the way, I'm not sure that the public is fully aware yet of how far behind schedule and over budget the convention center expansion is. Not a City-owned project, but another one with no oversight and absolutely piss-poor management.

21

@16 - a Vehicle Miles Traveled tax would be more equitable and sustainable than Gas Tax given the ongoing evolution of vehicle technology. It could even be applied to ride-share scooters and bikes.

22

Instead of taxing multi-billion dollar corporations and having the money lost in the black hole of the city budget, propose an Adopt a Bridge program with naming rights. The Amazon Bridge could give Prime Members exclusive access during certain times of the day. Xfinity could throttle traffic based on individual usage of their bridge and so on. Bezos could have his own bridge and only allow himself to use it.

23

The problem with SDOT is not the maintenance workers, or shortage thereof. It’s all the Bright Young Things they have employed to figure out ways to mess up traffic.

City layoffs are coming soon (I have nothing to back that up, other than having been through it before. I can read the writing on the wall). The first department they should take a hatchet to the non-represented employees at SDOT.

24

none of our local "leaders" seem very interested in basic infrastructure...not nearly edgy enough.

26

@7: "The Fourth Ave South bridge (south of Costco) has been down to one lane northbound for years now."

And heavy vehicles are restricted from the right-hand southbound lane, as well. From a capacity point of view, it's 3/4 of a bridge - for a major truck arterial! Again, priorities.

27

@21 that would subsidize the pollution-creating large vehicles like trucks.
.
Better to have both a GVW tax and a miles traveled tax.

Use the GVW tax to pay for bridge replacement and the miles traveled tax to pay for transit and bike lanes.

28

@23: "The problem with SDOT is not the maintenance workers, or shortage thereof. It’s all the Bright Young Things they have employed to figure out ways to mess up traffic."

Mrs. Catalina dear, both the Auditor's Report and this headline post are very, very clear that our bridge problem is very, very much a shortage of maintenance workers:

"Currently the city is spending $6.6 million per year on bridge maintenance, but SDOT estimates they need $34 million a year to keep them in good shape."

The Bright Young Things with their fancy PowerPoint animated gizmos and their hashtags and whutnot are not the problem, dear. The problem is a very old-fashioned one: money. Years of unprecedented prosperity have been completely squandered by our incompetent political leadership. Now we're broke, with bills to pay.

29

Tensor dear, that's my point: Too much money is being spent on too many Bright Young Things, which leads to not enough money being spent on workers to maintain the dull old things (like bridges and roads).

That's why I am so irritated by the bike lanes: I'm not anti-bike, nor am I anti-bike lanes, but you shouldn't do that stuff until you have the stuff you already have in good working condition. Here's a non-bike example: Several years back, the city spent a lot of money to light the underside of the Jose Rizal bridge. The lights were quite well done and attractive, but the bridge didn't need that to maintain structural integrity. And then some professional hand wringers got worked up over the energy usage or light pollution or something, so they turned the lights off.

And let's talk for a moment about S-DOT's travel expenses. The Bright Young Things were - before Covid - quite the world travelers. If one wants to know what they are doing about traffic in Norway, the can always just call Norway. They don't have to go there to "experience" Norway.

Here's an interesting tidbit: The city headcount has exploded in recent years. When the City purchased that white elephant we call the SMT in 1195-ish (in one of the most shocking examples of corporate welfare in the history of the city), the idea was that all the city offices would be consolidated there, with extra space to lease out for revenue.

Now, almost twenty-five years later, the city has filled that building up, and is leasing parts of the Columbia Tower, the 901 Building, the Central Building, and the old Bank of America building to the north of the SMT (and those are just the places I know about) but they haven't increased the number of blue collar workers by any significant amount, even in the revenue generating departments despite all the lip service about creating good-paying union jobs.

30

Dear Mrs. Catalina @29, I could not agree more: "Too much money is being spent on too many Bright Young Things, which leads to not enough money being spent on workers to maintain the dull old things (like bridges and roads)."

"That's why I am so irritated by the bike lanes: I'm not anti-bike, nor am I anti-bike lanes, but you shouldn't do that stuff until you have the stuff you already have in good working condition."

It's not an either/or. Traffic-safety improvements (which is what bike lanes should be) should always be underway. Your example of lighting the bridge is something which needed to be killed in the conceptual phase, and the funds spent on - gasp! - maintaining the actual bridge.

'If one wants to know what they are doing about traffic in Norway, the can always just call Norway. They don't have to go there to "experience" Norway.'

There can be value in "going and seeing for oneself," but reading the studies and applying test cases here should take precedence, I agree.

I don't know anything about the city's headcount, but I've lived here for thirty years, and I can't believe we have added enough stuff to the city to justify that many white-collar workers. So I'll defer to you on that one.

As I've written, above, it's a question of priorities, and our leadership has been pursuing mostly the wrong ones for at least a decade. Hence the results you and I both bemoan.

31

Tensor dear, another part of the problem is the Seattle Process. Departments are forced to do "public outreach". These usually consist of every nutcase, dreamer and whackadoodle in town showing up to dreary "open houses" promoting their ideas and agendas ("Light the underneath of the Jose Rizal bridge!") and then the project planning and prioritization is based on that.

It sounds like a nice idea, but it has been hijacked by "neighborhood activists" who have an axe to grind. Whoever screams the loudest and longest get the attention, and a lot of them are very skilled at intimidation of the normal people who wander into these events.

I've staffed these events. I've been told that I'm a war criminal, a corporate tool and that I gave someone diarrhea (That was my favorite one). I once attended a Sound Transit open house for the Beacon Hill light rail station where a woman demanded to know how the ST staffer was going to "protect her personal safety while standing on a platform at 2 am" (he replied that the system wouldn't be operating that late so she shouldn't be on the platform. The crowd snickered, and she blew up. Totally lost it. Had to be escorted out of the room. It was epic.