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Seattle needs to spend more money on bridge upkeep, audit finds

A 2020 Bridge Audit, triggered by the West Seattle Bridge Closure, set the changes in motion

SEATTLE — On Tuesday, the Seattle Department of Transportation provided Seattle City Council's Transportation and Seattle Public Utilities committee with a progress update on its 2020 Bridge Audit.

RELATED: Seattle Department of Transportation: Strategic Approach to Vehicle Bridge Maintenance is Warranted

The audit came to be because of the West Seattle Bridge Closure. Cracks found under the bridge, rapidly growing, caused SDOT to close the bridge from March 2020 to November 2022. 

RELATED: West Seattle Bridge reopens after 2.5 years

There were three big takeaways from the audit: 

  • SDOT's bridge conditions are similar to other cities, but this is not good news.
  • SDOT meets bridge maintenance expenditure targets, but the amount budgeted is far below what is needed
  • Accurate estimates of need and several other issues need to be addressed for SDOT to establish a strategic bridge preservation program

77 bridges were analyzed in the audit. Fifty were considered to be in fair condition; 22 were in fair condition; five in poor condition. The detailed audit can be found at this link.

At Tuesday's update meeting, 10 recommendations that came from the audit were talked about. At this time, only one has been implemented:

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) should reduce the share of the department's bridge maintenance workload that is currently dedicated to reimbursable projects unrelated to SDOT bridge maintenance. Such a change could be done incrementally.

Recommendations 1 and 3-10 are pending in various stages of completion. They can be found by going to this link and scrolling down to the transportation section.

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