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West Seattle Bridge reopens after 2.5 years

The West Seattle Bridge closed in March 2020 after cracks in the bridge support structure — originally discovered in 2013 — had "rapidly accelerated.”

SEATTLE — To much anticipation, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) reopened the West Seattle Bridge Saturday night marking an end to its 2 1/2 year closure.

The West Seattle Bridge was expected to open Sunday after it passed its final safety test on Thursday, but SDOT announced that the bridge was finally open just before 9:15 p.m. Saturday.

Drivers took to social media to share images and videos of the bridge's reopening Saturday night. One Seattleite even woke up early Sunday just to drive across the bridge to get donuts, they told KING 5. 

"West Seattle Bridge is open baby," screamed one excited driver as he turned to drive over the bridge. 

Car parades, honking and cheers of triumph could be heard on Fauntleroy Way South West. 

“We live in North Admiral, and it’s been ugly," said locals Sarah and Ron. 

They said the entire neighborhood knew when those last barriers were taken down Saturday night, “Boy we heard it last night when we heard people go woo! They took off in their car and it was like really? It’s 10 p.m. at night!”

The excitement was hard to hold back for drivers like Ruth.

“We’re just really excited we can be reconnected with the rest of you," she said. 

Ruth said the commute has been challenging and reopening comes with the promise of reduced time in the car.

That first drive for many was a symbolic gesture. While others are waiting for the start of work on Monday to test it out. 

“We went over to the overpass down there and looked at it. It’s real, it’s good! Tomorrow will tell the truth though,” said Sarah.

The West Seattle Bridge closed in March 2020 after cracks in the bridge support structure — originally discovered in 2013 — had "rapidly accelerated.”

On Tuesday, SDOT conducted the "live load testing" by driving specialized trucks over the bridge and measuring how the bridge responds. Each truck weighed up to 80,000 pounds. About a dozen were driven across the bridge, according to SDOT. That's 960,000 pounds or 275 sedans traveling across the bridge. 

The final testing follows months of repair work that includes injecting epoxy into structural cracks and applying nearly 60 miles of steel "tensioned" cables across the bridge's structure.

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SDOT said it is confident that the repaired bridge will stand strong for decades to come, fulfilling its original intended lifespan of 80 years. SDOT said the bridge will need to be fully replaced around 2060. SDOT had already released its plans for the replacement and hopes to have it finished in time. The bridge was originally built in 1984.

Elected city and state officials gathered at Terminal 18 Park on Harbor Island Friday to celebrate ahead of the bridge's reopening.

“West Seattle is ready to reopen! On top of so many challenges over the past two and a half years, neighbors have demonstrated resilience and a commitment to their community – weathering difficulties posed by the bridge’s closure including tougher commutes, longer traffic lines, and the struggle of feeling disconnected from the rest of Seattle," said Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell.

The approximately 1,300-foot-long bridge is historically the city's most used roadway, with more than 100,000 vehicles and 25,000 transit riders using the roadway every day before the closure, according to SDOT.

Commuter gas savings

For some West Seattle residents, the bridge reopening will not only save them time but money. 

For example, if you commute from the Alki Beach neighborhood to downtown Seattle, the trip takes 20 minutes over 7 miles when the bridge is open. However, that trip became 11.6 miles and more than an hour during rush hour traffic when the bridge was closed. 

Commuters could also save more than $7 per week in gas money.

The average cost of gas in Washington was $4.65 as of Sept. 12. Two of the most popular cars in Washington – the 2021 Toyota Camry and the 2022 Subaru Crosstrek – get 33.5 miles per gallon and 29 miles per gallon, respectively. 

If commuters make that drive from Alki to downtown five days a week, they will save $6.51 per week in the Camry and $7.44 per week in the Crosstrek. That works out to more than $26 per month in the Camry and nearly $30 per month in the Crosstrek.

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