SEATTLE — To repair or replace, that's the question the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is working to answer about the West Seattle Bridge.
Wednesday, the West Seattle Bridge Advisory Task Force met via video conference to receive an update.
The bridge has been closed since March 23 because of cracks on the underside of it. There is some restricted access allowed on the lower bridge.
Some of the questions now include, how much would it cost to repair? How long would repairs take? Is it a better investment to just replace it altogether?
During Wednesday's meeting, John Persak with the Georgetown Community Council made it clear that no access to the bridge is having a big impact on the community.
"We have a lot of dangerous drivers coming through, lots of speeding, lots of road rage," Persak said.
As tensions and traffic volumes rise, the city needs to figure out the best course for the future.
"Just to be clear, I'm not saying that we should repair it and then go and replace it many years from now, all I am saying is through all of our investigation work, we haven't found anything in terms of a specific structural detail or defect that says we can not repair the bridge," said Matt Donahue, SDOT Bridge Group Supervisor.
While the cracks have slowed, they have not stopped growing. SDOT knows that because they have installed an intelligent monitoring system to track movement. Work is underway to analyze the structural stability of the bridge.
The city also has a Technical Advisory Panel, or TAP, working to figure out the cost-benefit analysis, and the tradeoff between repairs compared to replacement options.
Barbara Moffat is a TAP Co-Chair, and she pointed out that it is also important to find the root cause of the cracks in the bridge. During the meeting, the topic of a tunnel did come up.
"We are data gathering right now, and so to go down a path and say let's look at the specifics of a tunnel is already making that decision point," said Moffat. "The decision is, is it being repaired or is it being replaced?"
"I really understand, I think, that people are frustrated and they want to see things move quickly," Donahue said.
Access to the low bridge was also a focus of the meeting. Currently, there is restricted access, allowing vehicles like buses and ambulances. The task force is looking at the safety threshold for the low bridge, and if more access could be granted in an equitable way.
The next West Seattle Bridge Advisory Task Force meeting is on July 8.