After more than two years, the West Seattle Bridge reopens

In Seattle’s storied history, March 23, 2020, was the beginning of traffic trauma for hundreds of thousands of drivers.

The problems started during a routine inspection when crews discovered large-scale cracks in the West Seattle Bridge’s surface.

What followed was several months of work to keep the bridge from collapsing, then two years of repair work to fix all the cracks that had formed.

“The design process of taking an old bridge and retrofitting it to current day standards so that we can rely on its safety and stability has been a big challenge for us,” Marx noted.

Thirty months later, the bridge reopened Saturday night.

While the bridge looks the same, the Seattle Department of Transportation insisted it’s far from the structure drivers had used since the 1980s.

Going forward, they told KIRO 7 that the biggest difference will be on the inside of the bridge, where inspection platforms will make it easier to scope out any problems in the future.

“The platforms are going to allow our inspectors to look eye-to-eye with the wall, to make sure everything is going to how we expect,” said Marx.

In West Seattle, talk of the bridge’s imminent reopening was a cause for celebration.

“It’ll probably cut an hour of commute out of my day,” said one resident.

SDOT said 100,000 people take the West Seattle Bridge every single day.

“It’s like the moment you’ve been waiting for for two years,” said Chris Porter, who lives in West Seattle and owns A la Mode Pies.

“We used to have a line out the door every Friday and Saturday night because we’re just a hop, skip and a jump from Capitol Hill and Beacon Hill and a lot of those neighborhoods that love pie, and all that dried up (when the bridge closed),” he said.

On Friday, elected officials held a celebration on Harbor Island Friday ahead of the scheduled opening.

The celebration included Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash, who told KIRO 7 earlier this week in Washington, D.C. about cobbling together federal money for the repairs.

“We fought very hard, (with) I think more than 50% of the funding comes from the federal government,” Cantwell said.

The West Seattle Bridge first opened in 1984 - not that long ago for a bridge.

The bridge wasn’t considered a big concern until the cracks were discovered in 2020 and then-Mayor Jenny Durkan ordered it shut down for safety reasons.

“On this, we had to listen to the engineers,” Durkan said after she attended Friday’s reopening celebration.

Durkan eventually decided to repair the bridge instead of replacing it.