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Seattle Releases Audit on Bridge Maintenance

Monday, September 21, 2020

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The City of Seattle released an audit of its Department of Transportation last week, which found that the agency’s bridge-maintenance spending is inadequate and says that money is one of the reasons why the condition of the city’s bridges has worsened over the last decade.

The audit comes at a time when the city is in the midst of emergency repairs on the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge, which had to close suddenly in March after cracks were found.

The Audit

SDOT’s bridge-maintenance spending clocks in at an average of $6.6 million a year, though the city’s transportation managers reportedly told auditors that bridge investment should be five times as high.

The five audit writers looked at data on 77 bridges, as well as listings in the National Bridge Inventory and interviews with SDOT and Federal Highway Administration officials.

chinaface / Getty Images

The City of Seattle released an audit of its Department of Transportation last week, which found that the agency’s bridge-maintenance spending is inadequate and says that money is one of the reasons why the condition of the city’s bridges has worsened over the last decade.

According to the report, 29% of Seattle’s bridges are considered in good condition, compared to 38% in 2010.

Moreover, The Seattle Times notes, the city operates a number of aging bridges, including three century-old drawbridges. The audit cited an estimate that says that $34 million a year should be budgeted solely for older bridges.

While SDOT agrees with the majority of the audit’s findings, there are disagreements on whether or not money has played a part in the West Seattle Bridge issues.

Alex Pedersen, head of the City Council’s Transportation and Utilities Committee, said that he hopes the audit is kept in mind for the 2021 budget.

“They need to look at the entire budget and get back to the basics. That includes bridges. The West Seattle Bridge is a wake-up call,” said Pedersen. “I think we need to move the needle in the right direction. We should be adding funds.”

SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe responded to the audit, however, and while he pledged to establish a better asset management program he also noted that the West Seattle Bridge closure “does not appear to be the result of any deficiency in our bridge maintenance program.”

West Seattle Bridge

The stabilization of the bridge is ongoing as SDOT still expects to release a plan on whether the structure will be formally repaired or replaced in October.

Last week, SDOT began issuing updated on the work, led by Kraemer North America, which includes carbon fiber wrapping weakened areas of the bridge, adding post-tensioning inside the girders and epoxy injecting cracks wider than 0.3 millimeters. The work is expected to continue for the next several months.

Last week, the contractor was expected to:

  • Complete the first phase of filling cracks with epoxy;
  • Begin the second phase of crack injection towards the middle of the bridge;
  • Continue to inspect cracks;
  • Place carbon fiber wrap around recently filled cracks; and
  • Continue installing the post tensioning system.

   

Tagged categories: Auditing; Bridges; Bridges; Government; Maintenance + Renovation; Maintenance programs; NA; North America

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