NEWS GLEAMS | Free Transit Passes for Youth, Updates on West Seattle Bridge, & More

A round-up of news and announcements we don’t want to get lost in the fast-churning news cycle!

curated by Vee Hua 華婷婷

A light-hearted News Gleams for this scorching week! We cover free transit passes for youth and major updates on West Seattle Bridge which put it closer to reopening — plus The Seattle Public Library’s head librarian wants to hear from you!

—Vee Hua 華婷婷, interim managing editor of the South Seattle Emerald

P.S. Check out our Voting Guide for the Aug. 2 Primary Elections, and don’t forget to vote! It’s part of our recently launched series of South End Guides.

✨Gleaming This Week✨

Photo depicting the interior of a reading room inside the Seattle Public Library's Central Branch.
The Downtown branch of the Seattle Public Library. Photo is attributed to Eric Hunt (under a Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0 license).

Help Seattle Public Library Plan Their Future

Tom Fay, Seattle’s newest chief librarian, will host a series of Community Conversations with Library patrons discussing how the pandemic has impacted their experiences, in anticipation of creating the strategic plan for The Seattle Public Library (SPL).

The first will take place at the meeting room at the High Point Branch (3411 S.W. Raymond St.) from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 4; the second will be held from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 24, at the Rainier Beach Branch (9125 Rainier Ave S).

Additional conversations will be held at other locations until 2023 and will be added to the Community Conversations page of the Library’s website as their dates and times are determined. Patrons can also leave feedback online if they can’t make it in person.

Photo depicting the Metro's 8 Bus in the Central District. A purple mural adorns the wall next to the bus.
(Photo: Jeanne Clark, from SDOT Photos and under a Creative Commons, CC BY-NC 2.0 license)

Free Youth Transit Passes Soon to Be Available Across King County

The King County Council has passed legislation that will grant young people free year-round public transit. Dubbed the Free Youth Transit Pass, the measure passed unanimously earlier this afternoon and will now allow all King County residents under the age of 19 to ride for free starting later this summer.

The new system will replace a current fare structure that charges $1.50 for non-discounted youth ages 6–18. Under the state’s recently adopted Move Ahead Washington package, King County Metro is now eligible for an estimated $31.7 million in grant funding. This revenue far exceeds the roughly $10 million in annual fares collected from youth under age 19.

Metro will now begin developing a program to distribute ORCA cards across King County and will launch an information campaign based on school and community outreach. Any youth, including students, who currently have an ORCA card can hold onto it and begin using it in the fall as their Free Youth Transit Pass. Any expiration date on the card will be extended.

West Seattle Bridge on Track to Open in the Fall

Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has recently announced a major construction milestone on the West Seattle Bridge, which included tightening of steel post-tensioning cables inside the bridge. “Post-tensioning steel cables reinforce the bridge structure and help prevent it from cracking. Post-tensioning also helps the bridge better support itself and respond to environmental factors such as weather, vehicle loads, and other external forces,” their press release writes.

Photos are available on their blog, which includes a video on how the post-tensioning system works. Additional footage is available in SDOT’s most recent progress update video and on aYouTube playlist, for those who are especially curious about the construction of the bridge.

With post-tensioning complete, the remaining tasks to reopen the West Seattle Bridge are:

  • Complete final epoxy injections and carbon-fiber wrapping.
  • Complete cure time for the carbon-fiber wrapping.
  • Remove work platforms.
  • Load test and inspect the repairs.
  • Restore the pavement on the bridge deck.
  • Remove construction equipment and get the bridge ready for the public.

West Seattle Bridge unexpectedly closed in March 2020. In 2020, South Seattle Emerald reprinted an article from West Seattle Blog, which reported the reasons former Mayor Jenny Durkan did not replace the bridge but opted for a temporary solution. “While the alternative — replacing its damaged midsection with a shiny new steel span — was appealing, she and SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe acknowledged in a pre-announcement media briefing that covering its cost and achieving a ‘rapid replacement’ timeline seemed out of reach.”

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