Behind the Scenes with a SDOT Bridge Operator

Recently, a SDOT Bridge Operator, Barbara Abelhauser was featured on NPR in a segment of StoryCorps on Morning Edition. In the story, Barbara says when she first took first bridge operator job, she thought she’d only stay for a year – but ended up staying for 8 years on the job in Jacksonville, Florida. Then in 2014, Barbara moved to Seattle and joined SDOT – and has been operating the University Bridge ever since.

University Bridge2

Barbara Abelhauser

When asked what her favorite part about being a bridge operator is, Barbara said, “I love this job now more than ever. All the Bridge Operators in SDOT are very professional and a delight to work with. I was very honored to be featured on Morning Edition. I’m also excited to be in the upcoming anthology, because I really do love my job and I’m proud of what I do.”

University Bridge

The new anthology is Callingsa StoryCorps book that explores the lives of those who love what they do.

SDOT operates and maintains over 149 bridges throughout Seattle, including four movable bridges. Three of SDOT’s movable bridges are draw bridges, known as bascule bridges. These are the Ballard Bridge, Fremont Bridge and University Bridge. The fourth movable bridge is the Spokane Street Bridge, which is a swing bridge. Here’s our Bridges and Roadway Structures main page.

Here are some cool facts about the University Bridge:

The University Bridge spans Portage Bay, linking the University District with the Eastlake and Capitol Hill communities. It is the second of the four Lake Washington Ship Canal Bridges. The University Bridge was originally built in 1919 and remodeled in 1933. President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the bridge on April 7, 1933. On that opening day, 37,794 automobiles crossed the bridge. The addition of the I-5 bridge has decreased traffic over the University Bridge in recent years. A 1983 traffic count recorded 27,735 vehicles using the bridge daily.

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New Safe Routes to School Beacon Hill Trail is Finished

After breaking ground in January with SDOT Director Scott Kubly and Mayor Ed Murray, SDOT crews have completed a new 2000-foot paved trail on Beacon Hill that gives schoolchildren a safer place to walk and bike, while traveling to and from Mercer Middle School.

The new trail is part of the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) project, a national movement to make it easier and safer for students to walk and bike to school. This the first 2016 Safe Routes to Schools project in the Beacon Hill neighborhood.


The new paved trail runs parallel to Jefferson Park and connects 16th Ave South at South Spokane Street to the north and South Dakota Street.

Benefits of the new trail:

  • Improves safety on walking and biking route to school
  • Offers a more comfortable, off-street option for people biking and walking to school
  • Provides safety education so kids have the skills they need to safely walk and bike to school
  • Encourages more kids to walk and bike to school, which will reduce congestion at the school
Beacon Hill trail 1

Trail improvements included replacing the existing gravel path and planting vegetation.

Locally, the Mercer Middle School Safe Routes to School Program is a partnership between SDOT, Seattle Public Utilities and Seattle Parks Department. The project also includes education and encouragement programs to get more kids walking and biking safely to school.

The Mercer Middle School program is one of four SRTS projects in Seattle Public Schools this year that also include: Greenwood Elementary, Wedgwood Elementary, and South Shore PK-8.


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April is Earth Month: Transportation Choices to Help You Do Your Part

April is Earth Month. 


Courtesy NASA

Using transit is one of the best ways to move around an urban environment and proclaim your environmental stewardship. Coupling a bike trip with your choice of transit turns a smart commute into an unbeatable combination.


ORCA cards work on regional transit including Community Transit, King County Metro and Sound Transit.

The City of Seattle is now experiencing unprecedented growth, and transit agencies and planners are working hard to meet the demand with expanded bus and light rail service, additional miles of bike lanes, new car sharing services, and a host of infrastructure and technology improvements Citywide.

It is this quantity of mobility that will be key to helping us maintain the quality of life – the clean air and majestic views from mountains to Sound – that originally attracted all us to live here.

Choose rail, bus, bike or walk, and know you are doing your part to make Seattle one of the most progressive cities in the nation.

Seattle Streetcar

Seattle Streetcar First Hill line.

For more information about ORCA cards, go here.

To see other ways the City of Seattle celebrates Earth Month, go here.



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Pike Street Pedestrian Pilot Update

DSCF4573In August 2015, SDOT’s Street Use Division collaborated with the Seattle Office of Economic Development (OED), Seattle Police Department (SPD), Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, and Capitol Hill Eco District to pilot a series of temporary, pedestrian-only closures of Pike Street on Capitol Hill. The closures, aimed at making the streets more vibrant and ped-friendly, were held on three consecutive Saturday nights between Broadway and 12th Ave. In addition to making the streets pedestrian-only for a few hours, on-street programming such as live music, yoga classes, and dancing was also provided.

Yoga class on Pike Street

Yoga class on Pike Street

To help us determine whether the closures were successful, and to gauge whether they should occur again in the future, we conducted a rigorous study that included pedestrian counts, interviews and surveys, and site observations. The results of our study have now been analyzed and some of the major findings include:

    • 25,000-30,000 people walked through the closure area on an average night
    • Sidewalk locations that are normally pedestrian chokepoints saw significantly decreased congestion during the closure nights
    • 82% of visitors to the closure area were from Seattle, 86% didn’t drive alone, and 72% went to multiple locations or participated in multiple activities throughout the night
    • ​In post-pilot surveys, 66% of all respondents said that they’d like to see future closures

If you would like to read our full report of findings and recommendations, please view our newly released Pike St. Pedestrian Pilots Data and Recommendation Report.


SDOT and OED will be also be hosting community workshops in Spring 2016 to discuss the results from our pilot study, and to explore options for future programming. The exact times and locations will be announced shortly – so please stay tuned!

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Levy to Move Seattle: Before and After Safety Improvement

In the first 100 days of 2016, SDOT has completed more than three dozen safety, maintenance and repair, and congestion relief projects, all funded by the $930 million Levy to Move Seattle.

The completed projects include new bike parking spaces, transit improvements for a Rapid Ride line and repairs to two pedestrian stairways. Photos of the stairway rehabilitation project at South Park at 12th Ave S and S Trenton St highlight just one of the many transportation improvements being made around the city.

Move Seattle BeforeAfter Stairway

Pedestrian stairway project at 12th Ave S and S Trenton St. The photo on the left was taken last July. The photo on the right was taken April 6, 2016.

The levy was approved by voters in November 2015 and provides funding to improve safety for all travelers, maintain streets and bridges, and invest in reliable, affordable travel options for our growing city.

See a list of completed projects using Levy to Move Seattle dollars here.

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SDOT Hosts North Seattle Walking Tour With Newly-Elected Councilmember Debora Juarez

SDOT recently led a tour of several Council District 5 transportation projects with newly-elected Councilmember Debora Juarez. The purpose of the trip was to familiarize Councilmember Juarez with a selection of SDOT projects and to learn about her priorities for the district.

The tour started along the recently-completed Olympic Hills / 27th Ave NE Neighborhood Greenway. Greenways improve safety for all ages and abilities by reducing speeds on neighborhood streets to make it more comfortable for people walking to share the street with people driving. The tour continued to the Olympic Hills Safe Routes to School project. In 2015, the program installed a new sidewalk on NE 130th St on the walking route to Olympic Hills Elementary. The voter-approved Levy to Move Seattle allows us to build 9 -12 Safe Routes to School projects every year, helping more kids and families safely walk and bike to school.


Councilmember Juarez discusses sidewalk options with SDOT’s Safe Routes to Schools coordinator, Brian Dougherty.

Next, the SDOT tour took Councilmember Juarez to a site near John Rogers Elementary, where a new sidewalk was built using stamped asphalt instead of concrete – resulting in significant cost savings that allow us to build more sidewalks where they’re needed most. With funds from the Levy to Move Seattle, SDOT plans to build 250 blocks of new sidewalks over the next 9 years – both lower-cost and traditional – for the same price as 150 blocks of concrete sidewalks.

After walking the sidewalk and discussing drainage issues in many North Seattle neighborhoods, the tour stopped at the site of the future Link light rail station at Northgate. SDOT plans to build a new pedestrian and bicycle bridge over I-5 to improve connections within the Northgate community. The stop was near Councilmember Juarez’s district office at North Seattle College.


Councilmember Juarez with SDOT’s Amanda Tse and Bill LeBorde, point to the future site of the Northgate pedestrian bridge over I-5

The tour wrapped with several stops along Linden Ave N to look at and discuss the Complete Street project completed in 2014. The project makes this neighborhood street easier and safer for everyone to get around, whether they are driving, walking, or riding a bike. The project also built a safe connection to the popular Interurban Trail making it more accessible for everyone, especially residents in the many senior retirement homes nearby.


Councilmember Juarez going over a Complete Streets plan with Deputy Director Mike Terrell and Connie Zimmerman.

The morning tour offered SDOT staff and Councilmember Juarez a chance to talk about emerging transportation issues facing District 5 and the unique needs of neighborhoods in North Seattle.

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Seattle Welcomes BMW ReachNow Car Share!

The City of  Seattle was represented at BMW’s ReachNow car share service launch event in Capitol Hill today. The car share is the second free floating car share service in Seattle. ReachNow has been issued permits for a fleet of  370 vehicles  that are made up of BMW 3 Series, Mini Cooper or the electric i3 cars that can use on-street paid parking and zone parking spots in Seattle.

In January 2015, the Seattle City Council expanded the free-floating car share program. Based on data from a 2015 annual free-floating car share survey, car share vehicles have been shown to take up a relatively small amount of business district on-street parking and the vehicles typically turn over more frequently, allowing other uses of and consistent customer and visitor access to the curb space.

BMWs lined up


SDOT Director Scott Kubly (left) listens as Deputy Mayor Joncas chats with the audience.

BMW Board member Peter Schwarzenbauer thanked Deputy Mayor Kate Joncas, SDOT Director Scott Kubly and Council member Mike O’Brien, who chairs the Transportation Committee, for their work in bringing this new transportation option to Seattle.

SDOT Director Scott Kubly,  Deputy Mayor Kate Joncas and BMW's Peter Schwarzenbauer.

SDOT Director Scott Kubly, Deputy Mayor Kate Joncas and BMW’s Peter Schwarzenbauer.

Car share services are just one way to get around the city. For more information on car share services, go here.

Seattle has a lot of other options for getting around – walking, biking, transit, driving and ridesharing. Check out some of the tools available in our Way To Go Program and find out how to get where you’re going!

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Making old new again: The Rehabilitation of the Yesler Way Bridge

Built in 1910, the Yesler Way Bridge is one of the oldest permanent steel roadway bridges in Seattle. It plays a key role in connecting residents, commuters, workers, and businesses to Pioneer Square, the Chinatown/International District, and Downtown.

Throwback of the Yesler Bridge

Yesler Way Bridge over 4th Ave S under construction in 1910

To improve safety and reliability, while maintaining its historical significance, we spent the last two years working with the Pioneer Square Preservation Board and the community on a plan and design to rehabilitate the bridge. Now we are ready to start construction (as soon as next month)! Construction will continue through fall 2017. During construction, the Yesler Way Bridge will be closed to all vehicle, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic.

To prepare the community for construction, we’ll be hosting an open house on Tuesday, April 12, 2016, from 4-6:30 PM at Yesler Community Center (917 E Yesler Way). It’ll be a great way to learn about construction impacts, detours routes, and talk with project staff.

Map of Yesler Bridge

Planned closures during Yesler Bridge construction

For the latest information on the Yesler Bridge Rehabilitation Project, check out our factsheet or visit our website. If you have any questions, get in touch with us at or (206) 684-8684.


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Planting a PBL

Our 2nd Ave protected bike lane (PBL) is a work in progress, and tonight we’ll be adding a new feature – 158 new planter boxes! They’ll help further separate the bike lanes and the travel/parking lanes. And they look a lot nicer than the plastic delineators.

Check out these photos and many more on our Flickr page:

Empty Planters

Empty planters lined up and ready to be filled


Filling the Planters

It takes 33 cubic yards (at 2,000 lbs. per cubic yard!) of dirt to fill these up



More Plants for the Planters

Plants on the SDOT truck

Installation will be phased in over April with the goal of being done in time for May (bike month!). After we install these planters we’ll continue to monitor the health of the plants and replace them as needed. The planters are self-watering and our alley-flushing truck will fill the planters May through September.

Plants on Truck

In addition to adding these awesome planters, we’re extending the project north into Belltown. Learn more at



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Pavement to Parks Project Now Open Along the 17th Ave NW Greenway!


SDOT crews have recently finished work on the Pavement to Parks project at the intersection of 17th Ave NW and NW Dock Pl in Ballard. The project repurposes excess intersection space to
improve safety for users of the 17th Ave NW Greenway while also providing a new public open space for the Ballard community.

SDOT worked with Groundswell NW and local residents on a community-driven process to determine how this intersection would be improved with a short-term, adaptable treatment. The Pavement to Parks space includes planters, large boulders for play and seating, and a kiosk that will feature project information and local artwork. Like all Pavement to Parks projects, the 17th Ave NW & NW Dock Pl space is an “interim” improvement testing the use of open space before longer-term street modifications can be made. Groundswell NW has been awarded an $86,000 Neighborhood Park and Street Fund (NPSF) grant to bring additional amenities and more permanent treatments to this space. In the meantime, SDOT will be evaluating the project to see how it’s being used and how it’s serving the adjacent greenway.

Pavement to Parks projects are a part of SDOT’s new Adaptive Streets Program, which uses low-cost, quick, and adaptable treatments to enhance streets and public spaces before permanent changes are made. Four more Pavement to Parks projects are slated for completion this year, along with 15 other “tactical projects” to improve pedestrian safety using similar treatments.

To learn more about the Adaptive Streets Program, visit or email

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