Bridge, traffic problems starting to shape West Seattle’s housing market

VIDEO: People putting up West Seattle homes for sale as bridge issues continue

City leaders are still trying to decide the future of the West Seattle bridge - whether to repair it or replace it. In the meantime, the traffic mess has prompted some people to put their homes up for sale.

Engineers are currently working to stabilize the bridge by wrapping carbon fiber around the cracked areas. SDOT says that work must happen whether the bridge is replaced or torn down.

But now, there’s a new option – engineers could potentially strengthen the bridge enough to bring cars back on the higher bridge as early as 2022. Other scenarios involving replacement say the traffic woes could persist until 2026, or even later.

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Either way – Zillow says the commute challenges has some people moving out of West Seattle.

“Absolutely, that is absolutely an impact for people in West Seattle right now,” said Jeff Tucker, an economist for Zillow.

Tucker said the housing inventory in the Seattle metro area has plummeted this summer by double digits, making it a seller’s market. The trend is driven by rock-bottom mortgage rates and a flood of millennial homebuyers.

“We are seeing a huge shortfall in inventory,” Tucker said. “There are just a surprising number of buyers flocking in and trying to buy that first home right now,” he said.

But he said West Seattle is not seeing that trend. In fact, multiple neighbors in West Seattle’s Benchview neighborhood agreed it seems like there are a lot more “for sale” signs around this summer.

Sean Crawford of West Seattle just sold his house but said he was very worried how the bridge closure and commute would impact the housing market.

“It’s a pain,” Crawford said. “Why would people want to move to West Seattle if you can’t get in the easy way?” he said.

The upside is – demand is still strong enough that people are not having trouble selling their homes.

Crawford’s house sold in two weeks, at asking price.

“We were pleasantly surprised. It was much quicker than we thought. The bridge outage didn’t really affect what we thought it would,” he said.

SDOT said during a task force meeting on Wednesday that crews are working on the bridge six days a week, and that an in-depth cost-benefit, plus risk analysis had to be completed before the city could make a decision on whether the path forward would be repair, or replace.

A repair could bring an additional 15 to 40 years of life to the West Seattle bridge, but an SDOT spokesperson said that even 15 years is not a guarantee. Exactly what would be done to complete potential repairs are still being determined.

Many in West Seattle are hoping whatever the solution, the sooner it comes, the better.

“Businesses are hurting,” Crawford said. “We all need things back to normal as quickly as we can after 2020. If that’s fixing it versus replacing it, then we need to have that done,” he said.

The city will make a decision on the future of the bridge in October.

The task force Wednesday also extensively discussed who gets to use the lower bridge and SDOT said automatic enforcement might be something you see coming soon, in addition to patrols.