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City develops emergency plan in case the West Seattle Bridge falls

Map showing the bridge fall zone.
From SDOT.

The city of course hopes it never comes to this, but they are planning for a worst case scenario in which the bridge becomes so unstable it could collapse.

After studying the extensive cracking on the West Seattle High Bridge that prompted its emergency closure in late March, SDOT has installed monitoring devices to alert them of further movement. And they are preparing a plan to evacuate nearby areas and close the lower swing bridge that is now a lifeline for the neighborhood, providing a walking, biking, transit, freight and emergency vehicle connection.

“[T]here are currently no indications that we will need to put our emergency response plan into action,” SDOT wrote in a blog post describing the new plan. The plan includes three potential responses based on possible emergency circumstances:


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  • Immediate evacuation to be used if the daily in-person inspections indicates enough of a change to warrant the immediate evacuation of a small number of properties (details shared below), though we could have hours or days before actual bridge failure.
  • One to five days notice to be used if the new remote monitoring instrumentation, which will be fully functioning in mid May, indicates enough of a change to warrant execution of evacuation plans within one to five days. If failure is anticipated, but not immediate, SFD and SPD will clearly communicate, via direct site visits and other platforms, when evacuation must occur.
  • Controlled demolition to be used if the change in the condition of the high bridge indicates the need for execution of an evacuation plan followed by a controlled demolition.

Here’s what the emergency road closures would look like:

Map of road closures.Let’s hope it doesn’t come to this. But the fact that SDOT has even created this plan gives you an idea of how bad the damage is.

If you want to make sure you are alerted if the plan goes into effect, sign up for AlertSeattle text messages. You should also make sure Wireless Emergency Alerts (the service that sends Amber Alerts) are enabled on your phone.


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One response to “City develops emergency plan in case the West Seattle Bridge falls”

  1. westseattlebikeconnections

    Today at the east approach to the Spokane St Bridge while doing a test ride of alternate routes, we met a Seattle fire fighter and a paramedic on bikes, returning home to West Seattle from their shifts. They carry all the gear they need on their e-assist cargo bikes. More than 100 Seattle fire fighters live in West Seattle. Many are turning to biking for the most reliable way to get to their stations. Likewise, over the past couple of weeks, West Seattle Bike Connections has given medical personnel custom bike routes to get from their homes to UW Medical Center, Pac Med, the VA Hospital and Swedish Cherry Hill medical center. Bike sales are through the roof at local shops.

    As part of contingency planning, we need the City to implement key bike safety improvements now for safe, efficient routes to the 1st Ave S Bridge and South Park Bridge. Duwamish Valley Safe Streets, West Seattle Bike Connections, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways and Cascade Bicycle Club sent a memo to SDOT proposing strategies and actions. Sam Zimbabwe has promised a response.

    The proposals include making the narrow, bumpy asphalt path on Highland Park Way a wider, smoother multi-use path; spot improvements and wayfinding signage on the Duwmamish Trail and Route; improvements to east-west routes on Roxbury and from High Point to Highland Park on Sylvan, Orchard and neighborhood streets to connect to Highland Park Way. We need a defined, safe route from the 1st Ave S Bridge north to S Spokane St. Keeping on schedule with the East Marginal Way Corridor Project, Georgetown-South Park Trail, and Delridge Rapid Ride Project are essential for safety for all the new riders.

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