Federal Dollars Sped Completion of Vital West Seattle Bridge Repair, Says Cantwell

A fully-functioning West Seattle bridge is really important to our nation's economy,” Sen. Cantwell said at ceremony celebrating Sunday’s reopening of bridge

SEATTLE, WA – Today, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined local leaders at the Port of Seattle to celebrate Sunday’s reopening of the West Seattle Bridge. Senator Cantwell noted that the bridge’s reopening will eliminate the detours and long commutes West Seattle residents experienced since the bridge’s March 2020 shutdown.

“Come this Sunday, the nightmare of this congestion is coming to an end,” said Senator Cantwell.

The Senator also noted that the impact of bridge’s closure was felt far beyond West Seattle. “We heard from people on (the) Vashon Island and Southworth ferries about how hard it was to get to their jobs and get to their medical appointments,” said Senator Cantwell. “Without the bridge, drivers lost their direct route and they had to really jam through the freight traffic of East Marginal Way. So not only did that slow down commuters but it also slowed down our freight and freight capacity. West Seattle felt the worst of the pain with its residents, but it also slowed down a supply chain that was critical to moving goods in the Northwest.”

As chair of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Sen. Cantwell was instrumental in securing the majority of funds needed to complete the West Seattle Bridge repair project. Of the project’s $66.94 million repair costs more than half – $37.65 million – came from federal funding sources.

"We wanted to make sure that the U.S. Department of Transportation knew how important the West Seattle Bridge was to our residents and to our economy,” said Senator Cantwell. “Not only did we ask Secretary Pete Buttigieg for help, but we convened meetings with the Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg to tour the bridge and East Marginal Way. … A fully-functioning West Seattle bridge is really important to our nation's economy."

One portion ($11,250,600) of federal funding came from the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) program, which was created by Sen. Cantwell in 2015. The program helps local communities pay for nationally and regionally significant freight projects just like the West Seattle Bridge.

Shortly after the West Seattle Bridge closed in March 2020 due to a crack in the concrete, Sen. Cantwell spoke with then-mayor Jenny Durkan multiple times about helping the city of Seattle secure federal grant funding to help pay for the project.

In March 2021, Sen. Cantwell sent a joint letter alongside Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Seattle) and Rep. Adam Smith (D-Seattle) to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg calling on the DOT to support the West Seattle Bridge’s application for an INFRA grant. While their advocacy was successful, helping the project secure an $11.25 million competitive INFRA grant, this was $10.3 million less than the city asked for, so Sen. Cantwell called on USDOT to help provide additional resources to the city.

“The stakes are high for both the traveling public and for the freight investments we are making at the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5. We need answers now from the U.S. Department of Transportation on real solutions for providing additional federal investment to fix the West Seattle Bridge,” Sen. Cantwell said in June 2021.

Sen. Cantwell worked with the city, federal, and regional leaders to ensure the West Seattle bridge received additional funding and helped secure an additional $26.4 million in funding from federal formula programs, nearly $10 million ($7.6 million) more than the city had original estimated the project would receive from other federal sources.

This advocacy effort culminated in Sen. Cantwell inviting Polly Trottenberg, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, to see the importance of the West Seattle Bridge and the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5 to both the region and the nation. In August 2021, the two of them took a tour of the bridge and Cantwell advocated for additional federal support to improve this critical transportation corridor. Three months later USDOT announced a $20 million RAISE grant for the East Marginal Way Corridor to improve access to the lower West Seattle Bridge and the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5.

The West Seattle Bridge closed on March 23, 2020 when city officials discovered that the cracks on the concrete main span were growing rapidly. The closure took Seattle’s busiest city-owned bridge out of use, forcing 84,000 average daily drivers and 25,000 average daily transit riders to find an alternative route.

Photos of Sen. Cantwell’s August 2021 tour of the West Seattle Bridge construction site alongside Deputy DOT Secretary Trottenberg can be found HERE.

A livestream of today’s event can be found HERE. A transcript of Senator Cantwell’s remarks can be found HERE.