West Seattle Bridge Update; COVID-19 Update; SPD Crime Dashboard; March Constituent Email Report

West Seattle Bridge Update

With the length of the bridge closure uncertain, but not short, ensuring good access to fire and EMS services in West Seattle is of vital importance.

My office inquired with Fire Chief Scoggins about Fire and EMS response in West Seattle during the closure of the West Seattle Bridge. Chief Scoggins noted in an update,

The Seattle Fire Department is currently conducting a comprehensive GIS analysis of the impacts on fire and EMS response times due to the closure of the West Seattle Bridge. We expect that analysis to be completed by April 17.

The analysis includes a review of response times before and after the bridge closure, how often and when the lower bridge opens for marine traffic as well as the delays caused by rail traffic.

During the Spokane Street Viaduct construction project another ladder truck was added in West Seattle with funding provided by the Seattle Department of Transportation. This deployment model is just one of several options we will be considering.

In response to the observations of many District 1 residents of inadequate signage at the lower bridge about the restrictions on the use of the bridge and enforcement of those restrictions, SDOT has added new signage to emphasize that access to the bridge is limited to emergency vehicles, transit, and freight. The Seattle Police Department began enforcement earlier this week. I appreciate these steps.

Some restrictions are clearly understandable and necessary. In the days after the closure of the West Seattle Bridge, emergency response vehicles were stuck in traffic.  The upper bridge handled around 100,000 vehicle trips daily, and the estimated capacity of the lower bridge is a maximum of 20,000 trips. So there’s no way all the trips can fit, or even come close to fitting.

That said, I will continue to lift up the voices of West Seattle residents in advocating for traffic management improvements during the bridge closure.  I hope SDOT will re-evaluate the decision they are announcing today that they do not intend to relax restrictions, if the new signage and enforcement result in significantly lesser volumes of people using the bridge, especially during times of day when use is lower, but some people work (e.g. overnight), and for health care workers during the COVID-19 emergency).

That said, there’s a necessary note of caution: once traffic patterns resume normal levels, additional use of the lower bridge will be more difficult. SDOT estimates citywide vehicle traffic is currently 40% of normal, and King County Metro has curtailed service, with reduced ridership 72%.

Two of the buses that are rerouted on to the lower bridge are the C Line and Route 120; both are among Metro’s top 10 routes for ridership; both have some trips cancelled currently.

SDOT Traffic Reports indicate the other east/west access points to the peninsula, Highland Park Way SW, combine for an average of 50,000 daily trips (19,400 for Highland Park, 31,400 for Olson).

Councilmember Pedersen, Chair of the Transportation and Utilities Committee and I have convened biweekly meetings with SDOT to review progress.

SDOT has released inspection reports for the West Seattle Bridge from 2013 to 2020. You can access them at the project webpage or an SDOT blog post.

The Seattle City Council Insight website did a review of the reports, with an explanation of some of the technical terminology.

The March 20, 2020 report is sobering, noting “Since our initial recommendation, our biggest concern has become the extent and rate of cracking near the quarter points of the main span could lead to collapse in the near future if strengthening is not implemented quickly.” The February 21, 2020 report had recommended reducing use of the bridge to two lanes in each direction.

It’s clear the City Council should have been informed about these issues earlier.

One report I’ll be requesting additional information about is the 2014 consultant report, which raised the possibility of a permanent remedy to cracking (based on information known at that time). If you have questions about the reports, please let me know.

The Seattle Times reports that a report on collapse risk should be available in a few weeks.

The Council requested reports on the West Seattle Bridge, regarding congestion management, in both 2015 and 2016.

In 2015 former Councilmember Rasmussen commissioned a West Seattle Bridge/Duwamish Waterway Corridor Whitepaper, and obtained funded for studying the recommendations in the 2016 budget. This led to a May 27, 2016 Progress Report.

Later in 2016 I sponsored  funding in the 2017 budget for studying additional recommendations in the Whitepaper, one of which touches on the challenges at the 5-way intersection underneath the bridge. This led to a March 2017 Congestion Management study.

Neither the 2016 Progress Report nor the 2017 Congestion Management study mention issues related to cracking in the bridge.

To report current conditions on roads and traffic, ask questions, or make recommendations to SDOT, please e-mail 684-ROAD@seattle.gov or call 206-684-ROAD. I’m happy to pass on question and suggestions as well.

At the March 31st City Council Briefing meeting, SDOT indicated an estimate on costs and length of closure was 3-4 weeks away. SDOT has indicated that the bridge must be shored up as a first step, before repairs can proceed, and design for shoring the bridge is currently being worked on.

Below are questions SDOT has sent replies about; the Council hasn’t yet received a report assessing overall condition of bridges in Seattle.

What is the role of the state and federal government as it relates to the WSHB?

Our bridge inspection program is supervised by the WSDOT Local Programs group.  This group is part of the WSDOT Bridge Preservation Office (BPO).  At the federal level, every state DOT is assigned an FHWA Division Bridge Engineer for Washington. At this point their responsibility is to monitor how we handle the situation and comment if they think we need to do something differently.

The reference to pile-driving nearby (Terminal 5 as I recall) as a possible cause or factor in the cracking problem raises the issue of the need for forensic engineering work. I realize the primary engineering task before us is to stabilize and repair the structure. At the same time, it seems that some analysis to figure out what action(s) caused or contributed to the problem would be in order. Is SDOT contemplating or doing such work?

SDOT and the Port of Seattle are confident that impact on the WSHB by pile driving operations at T5 is extremely unlikely.  This is because any vibrations caused by the pile driving activity at T5 attenuate to a negligible amount before reaching the nearest part of the WSHB foundation system which is nearly 1800 feet away.  Moreover, if vibrations from the pile driving at T5 were significant enough to have affected the WSHB, we would have seen significant damage at other building/facilities between T5 and the WSHB.  We are not aware of any such damage.

Questions re: technology used in monitoring

We will be deploying instrumentation on the bridge to measure the distribution of stress throughout the bridge and for movement of specific bridge components. These instrumentation techniques are far more accurate and useful than video instrumentation, since range of visibility from the video instrumentation is limited by comparison.

COVID-19 Update: Small Business Assistance, Hygiene Access, Rent Assistance, More Parks Closures

Looking for help for a small business? 

Seattle’s Office of Economic Development (OED) has created a detailed list of resources and relief available to small businesses from the city, state and federal governments.  Please share this resource widely.

OED also holds a weekly call for small businesses to share new information and answer questions, every Wednesday from 11am – Noon.  Sign up for the next call.

On Monday, Council will discuss and vote on my legislation to help small businesses and nonprofits weathering coronavirus-related hardships.  CB 119766, co-sponsored by Councilmember Tammy Morales, will restrict increases in rents for small businesses and nonprofits during the public health emergency, and require payment plans that will allow such tenants to pay rent due over a longer period of time.  A coalition of small business owners recommended rent payment plans as a way to help their businesses survive the drop in revenue.

I know that many landlords are going above and beyond to help their small business and nonprofit tenants stay alive during this crisis, and I am grateful for their proactive work, especially as they, too, are likely feeling a financial burden.  Unfortunately, we are also seeing some landlords refuse to work with tenants right now – even some who clearly have the ability, but refuse to be flexible during this unprecedented crisis, as highlighted in this Danny Westneat Seattle Times article.  Unless we act now, more of Seattle’s beloved small businesses and essential nonprofits will be forced to close their doors.  We can’t let that happen.

Limited hygiene access for people living unsheltered

From the earliest days of the coronavirus, we have been told that the best way to stay healthy is to wash your hands – frequently and with soap and water.  Yet for the almost 6,000 Seattleites struggling without homes, washing their hands or otherwise staying clean and healthy is increasingly out of reach.  With most businesses and community centers, and all libraries shut down, it is distressingly difficult to find an available toilet or sink stocked with soap.

At Wednesday’s Select Committee on Homelessness, which I Vice Chair, we heard from service providers sharing the fear and desperation their clients feel at not being able to clean their hands or relieve themselves during this public health emergency.  Other West Coast cities have been able to quickly add dozens and even hundreds of hygiene facilities as the Covid19 crisis hit, but so far, Seattle has added only 14 toilets and 6 handwashing stations for the thousands of people living unsheltered.

I have long pushed for increased investments in public hygiene facilities, including leading the Council in adding $1.3M in the 2020 budget to purchase and operate 4-5 mobile pit stops.  On Wednesday, I asked the Mayor’s Office to join the Council in addressing this problem with a sense of creativity, urgency and determination.  Seattle’s response to coronavirus has been singled out nationally for our effectiveness in “flattening the curve,” but in this instance, our support for those who are struggling the most lags far behind.  We can do better.

New Rental assistance available through United Way of King County

If your household has lost income due to coronavirus, you may be eligible for rental assistance.  This new program will help King County residents who are late on their rent, have experienced a significant reduction in wages as a result of the public health crisis, and whose income is at or below 50% of Area Median Income (AMI).  $5 million is available, including $1 million from the City, and is expected to help up to 2,000 families stay in their homes.  To apply, call 211 or fill out this online application.

Parking Enforcement Changes

SDOT has announced changes to parking during the COVID-19 epidemic. Payment is not required to park on streets, and hourly time limits are not being enforced outside of Residential Parking Zones.

The City earlier suspended enforcement of 72-hour parking, and added temporary restaurant loading zones.

Information on the parking policies, as well as a parking program for healthcare and human services working is available at the SDOT COVID-19 Parking page.

More Parks Closures

The Mayor has announced the weekend closure of Seattle’s 15 largest parks and beaches: Alki, Arboretum, Cal Anderson, Carkeek, Discovery, Gas Works, Green Lake, Golden Gardens, Kubota Garden, Lincoln, Magnuson, Seward, Volunteer, West Seattle Stadium, Woodland.

We must continue our collective effort to promote physical distancing and prevent what has been on-going gatherings in major parks.  Other cities across the nation, like Austin and Los Angeles are also closing major parks for the weekend. The change is effective Friday, April 10th at 11pm and parks will reopen on Monday, April 12 at 4:30 am.

Over the weekend, Seattle will have Seattle Police Department and Seattle Parks and Recreation Ambassadors in those parks to remind individuals to comply.   If you see people gathering in Parks that are closed this weekend, you are encouraged to:

SPD Crime Dashboard

The Seattle Police Department Crime Dashboard is now again fully online.

It now allows for searches at the precinct level (e.g. SW Precinct), then at the level of micro community policing plan neighborhood areas (MCPP).

SPD also has a Calls for Service Dashboard.

March Constituent Email Report

Constituent correspondence is a very important task in my office. My staff and I spend time every day helping you improve our community, whether that’s by getting you help from a city department with our constituent case management services or giving you information about legislation that the Council is considering. The unshaded categories and numbers are problem-solving emails answered in March, what I refer to above as “case management services.” The shaded categories and numbers are emails answered in March related to policy or legislation that the Council is considering.  Please note the new COVID-19 row highlighted in yellow.  These are a mix of case management services to get individuals the help they need in this crisis as well as emails answered in response to constituents contacting my office about Emergency Orders and emergency legislation related to COVID-19 response.  I have a debt of gratitude to the work being done by my team to respond urgently to people in crisis in this difficult time.

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