Hey West Seattle residents, Thank you!

Photo by Courtney Hedger on Unsplash

It’s been over two weeks since we closed West Seattle High-Rise Bridge, and we’re incredibly grateful for how you’ve patiently navigated the closure and begun to adjust to this ongoing challenge. 

We know that the bridge closure is an inconvenience, especially for those driving who now must travel miles out of your way to get to essential jobs. We understand that the unexpected closure was frustrating, but we’re thankful that our close monitoring of the bridge helped us catch sudden changes in the cracks. 

“Even while many individuals are staying home, I know the closure of the West Seattle Bridge has led to significant impacts for the community,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan. “I’m grateful to the Seattle Department of Transportation for reacting quickly, and working around the clock to map the cracks, install additional stress monitors, and complete an initial shoring and repair plan. The safety of our community is our number one priority moving forward.” 

Many West Seattle residents have asked if we could open the West Seattle Low Bridge – also known as the Spokane Street Bridge – to more travelers beyond emergency vehicles, transit, and freight. Unfortunately, the answer remains “no” so we can keep traffic light enough for those driving ambulances, trucks, and buses. 

The West Seattle High-Rise Bridge carried 100,000 vehicles a day. If even a quarter of these cars tried to use the Low Bridge, there’d be bumper-to-bumper traffic on neighborhood streets from the Junction to I-5.  

The maps above show predicted backups at the Low Bridge if only 25% of drivers from the High Bridge on an average weekday attempted to use the Low Bridge. The chain effect of the gridlock would spill on to residential roads nearby and potentially block emergency responders.  

Especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic, we need to keep these roads clear for freight carrying essential supplies, transit, and emergency vehicles. We must avoid an approach that guarantees gridlock and delay for those transporting critically ill patients. 

“On behalf of the Seattle Fire Department, I would like to thank West Seattle residents for using the First Ave S Bridge and keeping the West Seattle Low Bridge clear for emergency vehicles,” said Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins. “Especially as we are in the midst of the COVID-19 public health crisis, it is critical that ambulances, fire engines, and other emergency vehicles have a clear route to get to and from West Seattle swiftly.”  

We acknowledge that doctors, nurses, and other essential healthcare workers who drive need to get to their jobs. However, people who live and work in West Seattle serve many kinds of essential functions. We can’t prioritize giving some essential workers driving access to the Low Bridge, while not giving that same access to all.  

If we gave everyone who is traveling for essential purpose (which should be everyone on our roads right now during the stay-at-home orders) access to the Low Bridge, streets would back up and limit access for emergency vehicles.  

Even though you can’t drive over the bridge yourself, the Low Bridge is open to everyone who takes a bus to their essential job or errand. 

We’ve placed detour signs to direct drivers toward the First Ave S Bridge and away from the Low Bridge before they reach it.  

Since the Low Bridge is only open to emergency vehicles, freight, and transit, we painted the lanes red and Seattle Police Department officers are stationed at either end of the bridge to enforce these restrictions and direct general-purpose traffic away from the bridge and towards the First Ave S Bridge.   

The First Ave S Bridge is better equipped to handle an increase of traffic.  

We set several alternative routes to direct people towards the First Ave S Bridge to avoid congestion as much as possible. We’re monitoring traffic patterns along these routes and will continue to adjust as needed.  

We installed a temporary traffic signal at the intersection of Highland Park Way SW and SW Holden St and will make other improvements as necessary.    

Sun is in the forecast all week!  

If you are able, try biking, walking, or rolling to your essential activities. The Low Bridge remains open to all pedestrians and bicyclists. 

“If you are looking for alternative ways to get to an essential job, do an essential errand, or some socially distance exercise, this would be a great time to try it by bike,” shared West Seattle Bike Connection. “The low bridge has a nice wide pedestrian and bike path fully separated from the heavy truck traffic and connects to several good bike routes.” 

Unsure about what bike route you would take? West Seattle Bike Connections is offering custom bike maps for new riders.  Bike share also remains an option and Jump is even offering free rides for people getting to essential jobs. 

Stay up-to-date with our latest information on the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge. 

Visit our West Seattle High-Rise Bridge website to view the reports, see frequently asked questions and answers, stay up-to-date on our latest bridge information, and sign up for project update emails.