SEATTLE -- A fix for the West Seattle Bridge can’t wait for a pandemic to slow down.
Seattle’s busiest street was closed in March after inspectors determined it was too dangerous for vehicles to traverse the structure.
City leaders are now scrambling to come up with temporary plans while engaging with federal lawmakers about funding for repairs or replacement.
The earliest the road could reopen won’t happen until at least 2022. Businesses struggling to survive during stay-at-home orders worry the closure could mean tough times will continue even longer than the pandemic.
“The bridge closure is another blow on top of another uncertainty,” said Andrew Trujillo, owner of Ounces Taproom & Beer Garden which is barely a stone’s throw from the bridge.
He’s already offering delivery and pick-up for customers but now that the main artery in and out of the area is closed, Trujillo worries if his business can even survive.
“We may be at a dead-end street that used to have 20,000 cars come by,” he said.
“It could have been a lot worse, a lot worse,” said Kristy Whitney who lives in West Seattle.
Whitney says she has been working from home during the pandemic. Before, her commute to SoDo took around ten minutes.
“Timing is interesting because we’re learning how to have a smaller footprint,” she said.
Cracks in the bridge forced its closure back in March. Seattle’s department of transportation had been patching them since 2013 but they had grown dangerously large last month. It’s possible the bridge may have to be torn down.
Mayor Jenny Durkan told Q13 News she had been in touch with federal lawmakers highlighting the need for funding for either repairs or a replacement for the bridge.
“We'll know soon if engineers will know if the shoring is successful and we can repair the bridge.
“It’s a lot to take in,” said Michael Taylor-Judd from the West Seattle Transportation Coalition.
The group has been advocating city leaders for better connectivity for years. Once our state’s stay at home order is lifted and people get back into their routines, he says city leaders have to quickly come up with ways to keep West Seattle connected.
“We need radical ideas,” he said, suggesting stronger transit options including more buses and water taxis.
Durkan says she has been speaking with county and state transit agencies to come up with options for commuters.
For now, all traffic is banned on the bridge including the lower portion except for transit and first responders.