'It's a huge relief to get those first pours'; Work resumes on West Seattle Bridge, despite strike

After months of striking, crews are pouring concrete on one of the biggest projects left on the back burner: the West Seattle Bridge.

It’s the first step in getting repairs underway after the bridge was closed in March 2020 due to cracks in its concrete, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).

Getting to work, school, doctors' appointments, or even just downtown Seattle has been a long winding detour for three years.

Today was a huge first step, for the critical infrastructure.

Mayor Bruce Harrell released a statement in part saying:

"Reopening the West Seattle Bridge is the top transportation priority for my team and getting concrete today is an encouraging step that brings us closer to that goal. Throughout this strike, I’m continuing to have intense discussions with both sides to urge a fair resolution to this contract dispute.

I want to again thank the Teamsters for taking the extraordinary, good-faith action of returning to work with three concrete companies. Despite those companies having no existing agreement with our contractor to work on the bridge, my administration immediately engaged to identify which business could meet our specific needs and worked relentlessly to help facilitate concrete delivery. Thank you to Cadman for their willingness to assist and help expedite a solution."

Todd Parker, 50, was the first concrete mixer driver back on the bridge today.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Concrete again being poured at West Seattle Bridge

"It feels good to be fixing the bridge, I know people really wanted that done," Parker said.

His day started at 4:15 a.m. Tuesday as he helped pour the first concrete needed to help repair the bridge.

He is one of several concrete mixer drivers who returned to work a few weeks ago.

RELATED: Striking concrete drivers return to 2 companies, union says strike not over

Construction on the bridge started in November, but it came to halt when more than 200 concrete workers started marching up and down six major concrete companies. Workers demanded better wages, pensions and medical benefits.

"We returned for, pretty much, the community to get the West Seattle bridge fixed, some of the light rail fixed and get people back to work," Parker said.

It is a sign of good faith, to get negotiations underway and help boost our economy, he believes.

SDOT and West Seattle city councilwoman Lisa Herbold are thankful for Teamsters 174 and their willingness to help get this project on track.

"It's a huge relief to get those first pours," said Heather Marx, director of the West Seattle Bridge Safety Program.

"The finish line is in sight, but you can't… we still can't quite gauge how far away it is," Herbold said.

Before it failed, it carried hundreds, if not thousands of travelers every day, connecting the West Seattle peninsula and the Duwamish Valley to the rest of the city.

"I visualize it with buses and cars on it," Herbold said.

However, there are concerns if the strike will continue to affect the reopening of the bridge.

"It might," Marx said. "I still have great hope, [I'm] cautiously optimistic that we'll still be able to open up in mid-2022. But it definitely will be later than June 30."

Negotiations between Teamsters 174, which represents the concrete workers, continue Wednesday with the six major concrete companies.

Parker says they’re hoping for a fair outcome, but if things don’t pan out, the few who have returned to work will see the bridge reopen and are trying to meet the deadline, while other concrete workers continue picketing outside.

"I look forward to seeing ongoing progress on the West Seattle Bridge. I am thankful to our contractor and construction teams for continuing to work tirelessly on the bridge even with the uncertainty surrounding the strike. These first concrete deliveries on the West Seattle Bridge provide a path forward for other projects across the region that still await concrete deliveries, and I’ll continue to stay engaged and provide my support for all parties ready to find common ground," said Mayor Harrell.

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