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Ballard Bridge Painting Project is Underway

Fifthteenth Ave NW Bridge under construction - July 1916 (Seattle Municipal Archives)

The Ballard Bridge was built in 1917, shortly after the Locks were built.  It is located at the west end of the Lake Washington Ship Canal at Salmon Bay and has a length of 2,854 feet. The bridge was designed by A.H. Dimock and is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

This year, the bridge celebrated its 94th birthday.  The residents of Seattle have supported our Bridge Painting Program and we have protected the steel from the harsh salt air coming off Elliott Bay and Shilshole Bay.  Also, we have moved away from lead based paint systems and now use the most environmentally safe polyurethane system available.  We also use a paint system that loves water.  The paint formula we use requires moisture for it to cure.   This is unlike many of the paints people use at home, where moisture is not recommended.  The new paint system, although slightly more expensive, will actually last 50% longer that our old system and will protect the steel bridge elements against corrosion and other weather deterioration.  This results in millions of dollars of savings to the City.  Aesthetically speaking, the fresh coat of paint will greatly enhance the appearance of the bridge.

The 2011 bridge painting project applies to the bascule portion of the bridge.  The north and south approaches (the raised roadways at each end of the bridge) were painted as part of the 2010 project.  The bascule is the main portion of the bridge where the roadway can be raised to allow passage for boats and ships. 

The contractor, Purcell Painting, will work alternately on each side of the bridge for up to six weeks at a time until the project is completed. Beginning along the east side of the bridge, the contractor will close the east sidewalk and one northbound lane of traffic every day for up to six weeks.  The contractor will close the west sidewalk and one southbound lane of traffic every day for up to six weeks when work moves to the west side of the bridge.  However, painting work will not happen on both sides of the bridge at the same time. The 2011 bridge painting project started November 21, 2011 and is scheduled to be completed by April 2012.

As with most road and bridge construction, some traffic lane closures will be necessary as well as motor vehicle, pedestrian and Bicycle Detours. Most work will be done between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m., with occasional nighttime and weekend work.

So what’s next for the Ballard Bridge after the painting is complete? SDOT will be doing a seismic retrofit. The retrofit design includes the following types of work in strategic locations:  partial column jacketing; reinforced concrete seat extensions, restrainers, plinth retrofits, pier bolsters, girder strengthening; steel longitudinal restrainers, longitudinal blocking,  knee bracing and deck joint restrainers.  Also included will be the replacement of street lighting along the bridge approaches.