If you watched the local news last night, you probably heard the stories about the University Bridge closure due to the extreme temperatures. Anticipating that the bridges would expand in the record-breaking heat, our SDOT bridge engineers had been carefully monitoring Seattle’s bridges all week. All our other moveable bridges expanded, but not enough to compromise their ability to open. The University Bridge, however, reached the point where the bridge leaves were touching. We couldn’t open the bridge without damage. Even if we had been able to open it, it wouldn’t have been possible to close it. The bridge provides a critical emergency response route across the ship canal so we closed the bridge to marine traffic on Wednesday night.
Thursday morning, our SDOT Bridge Maintenance crews came up with a low-tech, low-cost and creative solution to combat more expansion: wet burlap sacks across significant portions of the bridge to keep it cool. We watched the mercury climb with bated breath all day yesterday, but are happy to report that the sacks were a success and there were no impacts to maritime travel yesterday. Many thanks to the Bridge Maintenance crews for their work and creativity this week. Check out the pictures below and after the jump to see the burlap in action.