SEATTLE — Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan held a virtual community town hall Thursday evening focusing on West Seattle. She wasted no time addressing the biggest issue for residents: the high-rise portion of the West Seattle Bridge that closed on March 23 after rapidly growing cracks were discovered.
“We’re going to do everything we can to see if that bridge can be fixed, and if so, how quickly we can fix it,” said Mayor Durkan. "At the same time, we’re going to be working on how we can replace the bridge if we need to do that.”
The virtual town hall was the latest in a series put on by the mayor to offer and share resources available to residents during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Several community leaders, including Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold who represents the West Seattle-South Park district, were also on the call.
Mayor Durkan said the city is already making significant changes to try and help alleviate the impact the closing of the bridge has had on residents. She added the city is looking at all options such as increased King County Water Taxi service, or even more shuttle services.
“We know losing that bridge and not having the ability to use it has had a huge impact on West Seattle, even during this time of staying home,” she said.
The one area Mayor Durkan said the city cannot compromise is Spokane Street, which is the lower swing bridge. The lower bridge is currently reserved for emergency vehicles and buses.
“We just can’t allow or afford for it to get too congested, but also because it too has load restrictions,” she said.
An average of 100,000 vehicles used the high-rise bridge daily before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).
Although the purpose of the meeting was to discuss coronavirus, many of the questions asked by the public mirrored what was asked in a virtual town hall held in April specifically about the bridge.
“This is a crisis for west Seattleites and surrounding neighborhoods,” said Councilmember Herbold.
So far, Herbold said they’ve worked on repaving roads, changing signal timing, and adding a new signal all designed to help ease the traffic burden that will come as the state begins to reopen.
She said it will be important for the public to work with the city during this unique situation.
“A collaborative spirit on behalf of residents in this district on what things we can be doing to make travel better in the interim,” said Councilmember Herbold.
On Wednesday, the city announced it had a monitoring system in place throughout the West Seattle Bridge so officials can get real-time updates to monitor any changes in the bridge.
“We know that we gotta have that vital infrastructure back as quickly as possible,” said Mayor Durkan.
The high-rise section of the West Seattle Bridge will remain closed until at least 2022, SDOT officials said.