Last Wednesday, we held our 15th West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force Meeting. Read about the low bridge, Reconnect West Seattle, and the big question: what’s happening next on the bridge?

Watch the full meeting by clicking this link


Our first order of business: Reconnect West Seattle. 

As part of our efforts to Reconnect West Seattle, we not only engage with the community to learn about their needs and on-the-ground experiences, but constantly look at all kinds of traffic data to inform decisions about traffic mitigation strategies. (You can too, on our public dashboard!) 

Some things we’ve seen lately: 

  • Trips across all bridges – the Spokane St Swing Bridge (low bridge), 1st Ave S Bridge, and South Park Bridge – have slightly decreased in recent months (though increased a little after Thanksgiving) after high traffic in summer and fall. We think these variations are due to the start of police enforcement on the low bridge, varying COVID restrictions, and the opening of the low bridge to all traffic from 9pm to 5am. 
  • Transit and water taxi ridership is staying relatively the same since March, and bike ridership on the Low Bridge is gradually falling during the colder months. 

We’ve also completed 22 Reconnect West Seattle projects and 190 traffic mobility improvements since the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge was closed. 

These projects help us reach our goals focused on addressing increased detour traffic in neighborhoods and communities, help people change the way they commute to the extent possible, and engage the community in planning and implementation through open feedback forums, neighborhood walks, and more. 

Don’t forget – with our regional partners, we’re here to help you use modes other than cars to commute to and from West Seattle.  

King County Metro is offering West Seattle commuters two free months of vanpooling right now, and Metro will also be adding service hours in March on specific bus routes to address crowding. Among other strategies, we’re planning for more transit service hours through the Seattle Transportation Benefit District, working with the University of Washington to develop strategies to manage freight travel, and continuing to update our West Seattle and Duwamish Valley Travel Options Portal with resources to help you get around safely and efficiently. Recently, we’ve added more resources to the “Stay Local” section

We’re sticking with it in 2021! 

With your help, we’ll implement dozens of projects this year focused on community-informed work like the South Park Home Zone project, transit spot improvements, and traffic mitigation measures. We’re also continuing our work on West Marginal Way with a temporary traffic signal and potential lane changes near the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center. We won’t stop there, though: we’ll also continue to collect input from the community for project ideas to construct in 2022. 


The low bridge is truly the little bridge that could. Its two lanes are working harder than ever to connect West Seattle to the rest of the region.  

Person biking across the low bridge.
Biking across the low bridge. Photo Credit: SDOT Flickr

In the meantime, we’re continuing important conversations with the Community Task Force (CTF) and Low Bridge Subcommittee  to make sure we’re maintaining access for emergency vehicles across the bridge while maximizing access for other urgent trips.   

Most recently: 

  • We’ve added members to the Low Bridge Subcommittee to represent important voices of those in healthcare.  
  • The Subcommittee has held 11 weekly meetings to-date to prepare for the transition from placards to automated photo enforcement, which began Monday, January 11
  • We don’t want you to get a ticket! Our public outreach campaign about photo enforcement began, and you’ll see it in seven different languages (plus English) through over 40 different multi-lingual media outlets, and on digital platforms such as social media, webpages, and even the screens you see while pumping gas.  
  • Preliminary data since photo enforcement began shows that fewer vehicles are using the bridge, but we need to wait several weeks before we can identify any real shifts in traffic volumes. 

What’s next? 

  • We will learn more about how the low bridge is used through frequent monitoring, and will manage access for vehicles depending on how it’s used.  
  • While we want to expand access to more users if possible, we are hoping to avoid restricting or revoking access for any groups. We’ll update our access list on a monthly basis. 
  • We will have a lot more trucks crossing the low bridge beginning this summer as Terminal 5 operations resume. We know we have higher volumes coming and we need to reserve access for that critical freight. 
  • The Subcommittee is focusing on how we can meet the needs of healthcare workers and patients traveling across the Duwamish for work or treatment. 

Wait, what’s actually happening with the bridge? Even though you might not see construction happening on the bridges right now, there is a lot of preparation and planning behind the scenes for big structural projects coming soon.  

We’re planning for repairs on both the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge (high bridge) and the low bridge soon.  

On the high bridge: 

  • Now, we’re onto the design phase of bridge repair, round two. During this time, we’ll continue to monitor the overall health of the bridge and stabilization work. Stay tuned for more high bridge updates. 

On the low bridge: 

As we all know, the low bridge is critical. You may not have known that it opens for maritime traffic about 1,500 times per year. To ensure it remains strong throughout the closure of the high bridge – and for the rest of its life – we’re planning several improvements soon.  

  • Structural Rehabilitation Project: Using carbon fiber wrapping and/or post-tensioning strands like we used on the High-Rise Bridge, we’ll make preventative improvements required to meet current commercial vehicle load standards. 
  • Controls Project: The controls system opens and closes the bridge to maritime traffic. We’d been planning an upgrade to the system before the High-Rise Bridge closure. This includes routing communications cables through a new conduit under the Duwamish Waterway . We will also upgrade communications lines between parts, and upgrade the computers that control the machinery that moves the spans and activates gates that prevent traffic and people from crossing when the bridge is open. 
  • Lift Cylinder Project: Two large hydraulic cylinders allow the Low Bridge to swing open for ships and boats. We replaced the west cylinder in 2018, and will replace the east cylinder in 2021.  

The CTF will  inform all of the above work as it proceeds. Our next CTF meeting will be February 11. In the meantime, please keep an eye on our blog and website for ongoing updates, and email us at WestSeattleBridge@seattle.gov with questions.