Seattle considers replacing cracked bridge with tunnel

June 10, 2020 GMT

SEATTLE (AP) — City leaders have discussed replacing the West Seattle Bridge with a tunnel or more traditional bridge options after engineers discovered growing infrastructure cracks in March.

The Seattle Department of Transportation announced it may also put $2 million in federal money toward initial planning for the project instead of funding downtown programs, such as improved transit apps and commute-reduction incentives, The Seattle Times reported.

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The moves came after the city announced last week that it is soliciting engineering companies to compete for up to $150 million for a construction contract to design and supervise a bridge replacement project, if one is needed.

The city has yet to determine whether to replace or repair the cracked bridge.

The 36-year-old bridge was closed in March after photos from the department revealed expanding cracks that lengthened 5 feet (1.5 meters) since August, including 2 feet (0.6 meters) of growth from March 6 to March 23.

Seattle historian Bob Ortblad introduced the tunnel idea after previously suggesting tunnels to carry traffic under the Columbia River between Portland and Vancouver, and between Bainbridge Island and Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood, officials said.

“You have very significant elevation changes that alone would be challenging,” Port of Seattle Commissioner Peter Steinbrueck said. Steinbrueck is on a community task force that is expected to evaluate early bridge replacement and traffic control options.