West Seattle now has to adjust to life without its bridge

VIDEO: Stress cracks endanger West Seattle Bridge

SEATTLE — The sudden closure of the West Seattle Bridge for what the city calls “at least several weeks” is a traffic calamity, eased only by the global pandemic keeping most people home.

"That's a nightmare, that's crazy," one driver said as the barriers went up Monday night.

With the lower Spokane Street Bridge reserved for buses, big trucks and emergency vehicles, traffic from the peninsula is funneled to the First Avenue South Bridge.

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Many cars will pass through an overloaded intersection in Highland Park.

"The intersection that our neighborhood has been advocating for change on since 1947 is basically a stop sign," said Gunner Scott, of the Highland Park Action Coalition.

There are four sections of cracks in the high-rise bridge that worry engineers.

City officials say they were discovered in 2013 and monitored for years.

SDOT officials say during a 2019 inspection, the cracks were remapped and were found to have grown significantly from the previous year.

Follow-up inspections in December, and again this month, showed the cracks had grown by a rate the city calls "exponentially."

Last night, citing safety, the city shut down the bridge, which normally carries 100,000 people daily.

"It's pretty shocking," said Dave Montoure, the owner of the West Seattle mainstay, West 5, that's now only doing takeout because of coronavirus.

He grew up in West Seattle and remembers when a ship ran into the old drawbridge in 1978, cutting off the neighborhood until the current bridge opened in 1984.

“West Seattle’s back down to two lanes in and out it’s pretty scary,” Montoure said.