Safely Painting the Fremont Bridge

Every 10-15 years the steel structure of the Fremont Bridge gets repainted to preserve the steel structure from the elements. This is no simple undertaking as the bascule bridge not only has lots of nooks and crannies to clean and prep and prime and paint, but the vast majority of the structure has to rotate from a horizontal position to a steeply inclined one to allow marine traffic to pass underneath.

Imagine painting the underside of your car with someone jacking the back end ten feet off the ground every so often. Now imagine you aren’t laying on the ground but hanging from the car. Now imagine the car is about 30’ over the water. You might be more than a little concerned about safety. Now imagine it isn’t your car, but somebody else’s, and it isn’t a car, but a vital roadway with thousands of people crossing it every day in cars, buses, bikes and on foot. You need to paint where they travel, and above where they travel, so you worry about their safety too. And you need to interfere with their travel as little as possible.

The underside of the Fremont Bridge

One of the many sides of the Fremont Bridge that needs painting.

But now the tricky part. You can’t drop anything. Not tools, rust, paint flakes or drops of paint. Not onto the trail or roadway or parking lots below, not onto the passing boats and definitely not into the water. Safety is for the fish, as well as the folks, in Fremont.

Preparations are underway to make all this possible even as we speak. Our contractor plans to begin closure of the northbound curbside lane weekdays, between 7 AM and 3 PM, the week of August 11. The adjacent (east side) walkway will also be closed during these hours to bicycle riders and pedestrians – which means the other walkway will be more congested with two-way traffic than usual.

As the painters move, so will the lane (and adjacent walkway) closures. Please email art.brochet@seattle.gov to get on an email list for advance notice of the changes. The project is expected to be complete late this year.

There will also be some wee morning hour weekend closures to all traffic across the bridge in September; 3 AM – 6 AM Saturday mornings and midnight – 6 AM Sunday, though probably not more than two weekends.