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Replace or rebuild: SDOT considers every option for West Seattle Bridge

The Seattle Department of Transportation is considering every option when it comes to the West Seattle Bridge -- even an underground tunnel. Nothing is definitive.

SEATTLE — The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) said it's considering all options when it comes to the West Seattle Bridge, and recently expanded the search to include plans for a tunnel. 

The bridge was shut down at the end of March when cracks were found, making it unsafe for vehicle traffic. Among the uncertainty, the city is calling for any and all plans. 

Opening the project to bids from construction firms and allocating $50 million to $150 million for the project. Initially, they asked for bridge plans this week, and "request for qualifications" was changed to include the word "tunnel." 

RELATED: Engineers sought for West Seattle Bridge replacement design if it can't be repaired

“It gives it some legitimacy that the city is recognizing that this is an option,” said retired civil engineer Bob Ortblad.

“This bridge lasted what, 36 years [old]? It was supposed to last 75. The new bridge they’re talking about 75 years but they design these tunnels for 150. So it’s a long term investment, let’s do it right. Let’s not rush it,” he continued. 

Months ago, Ortblad posted an op-ed on westsideseattle.com that outlines his plan for an underwater tunnel that would replace the West Seattle Bridge. 

It would carry six lanes for vehicle traffic and two for public transit.

“There’s 200 feet of fairly soft soil, so it’s a really difficult place to build an earthquake-proof bridge. It can be done, but it’s going to be very expensive," Ortblad said.

SDOT will spend the next several weeks accepting plans from firms across the country, calling for bridges, tunnels, and anything else that could connect West Seattle to downtown.

RELATED: Seattle seeks federal help for West Seattle bridge costs