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New short-term pain coming for West Seattle commuters with a long-term fix next year

KIRO Seattle logo KIRO Seattle 3/11/2021 Graham Johnson, KIRO 7 News Staff
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With the West Seattle Bridge closed for nearly a year because of cracks, Isaac Stairs’ commute to Capitol Hill grew from 30 minutes to sometimes 90 minutes.

“It has nothing been a pain. Having to go around it has made traffic worse on all the side streets,” Stairs said.

Much of the traffic is detoured onto the First Avenue South Bridge, which also has problems.

The state reported it needs to repair worn bearings under the southbound lanes.

“If we were to let this go for another year or two, we could get into a position where we would need to do a major closure of the bridge that could take days, weeks, months,” said Tom Pearce of WSDOT.

Instead, starting Wednesday night, two southbound lanes will be closed for a few days, with full overnight closures the next two weekends.

That means the Thursday and Friday afternoon commutes could be among the toughest for people returning home to West Seattle.

The closures and lane reductions are as follows:

  • All southbound lanes of the First Ave S Bridge will be closed from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. on the nights of Friday, March 5 and Saturday, March 6
  • Two of four southbound lanes will be closed continuously from 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 10, to noon on Monday, March 15
  • All southbound lanes will be closed from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. on the nights of Sunday, March 14 and Monday, March 15

During the overnight closures on the nights of March 5, 6, 14, and 15, the Spokane Street Swing Bridge, also known as the low bridge, will be open to all traffic from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. instead of the usual 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Other current low bridge restrictions will remain in place.

The southbound First Avenue South Bridge carries about 50,000 cars a day.

WSDOT is urging drivers to take other routes, especially during the busy afternoon hours. Options include East Marginal Way, I-5, Tukwila International Boulevard and the South Park Bridge.

Traffic Anchor Tracy Taylor explains what to expect in the video below.

There was also some good news on Wednesday for the neighborhood.

The city announced it will soon hire a contractor to fix the cracked high bridge and that things are on track for traffic to return in the middle of 2022.

The city stated the next round of repairs to the high bridge will cost about $58 million.

The lower Spokane Street Bridge also needs $14 million worth of work, but that is not expected to cause major traffic closures.

Reopening the bridge a little more than two years following an emergency closure for serious structural problems is a quick timeline in the world of construction.

But for drivers, it doesn’t feel that way.

“I don’t know if I can hang out in West Seattle that long. I might be looking to relocate if that’s going to be the case because it has been nothing but trouble,” Stairs said.

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