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.