Followup: What went wrong with the low bridge last night

July 2, 2014 at 2:46 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 4 Comments

Toward the end of the peak pm commute on Tuesday evening, the “low bridge” malfunctioned, second time in two weeks. We asked SDOT today what happened. From spokesperson Marybeth Turner:

When the bridge operator was opening the bridge to allow a vessel to pass through at 6:20 p.m., the gate on the west side that stops vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians experienced a mechanical failure. A shear pin in the internal linkage had broken.

The bridge control system is designed to always fail in a safe mode, which prevented the operator from opening the bridge. The vessels, bicycles, pedestrian and vehicles were delayed until the operator was able to make the repairs himself. The delay was approximately 67 minutes.

On June 18th we had another control system safety shut down related to the sensors that monitor the location of the bridge. This caused a 2 ½ hour delay that likely affected many of the same commuters.

We continue to look for ways to engineer more reliable systems associated with bridge openings. A delay of this length, although rare, has severe impacts on the traveling public. Detour routes for bicycles and pedestrians are not convenient.
The Spokane Street Bridge opens over 1,500 times per year with very few incidents that delay traffic due to malfunction of the bridge.


  1. We should be thankful to have a bridge instead of having to ford the Duwamish! In convenient to have a malfunction, but this of how many times it DOES work properly.

    Comment by Lindsey — 3:16 pm July 2, 2014 #

  2. While not the end of the world, there is no reason why SDOT has such poor communication. From the bungled interns running the traffic operations, to the lack of information to the traveling public at this location, there is a lot of room for improvement.

    Comment by sgg — 6:02 pm July 2, 2014 #

  3. I love that the bridge operator himself went and fixed it! Somebody give that guy a raise.

    Comment by Delridge Denizen — 8:48 pm July 2, 2014 #

  4. Poor communication is definetly a problem. While there is a reader sign on 1st ave that said the bridge was closed for repairs, there is no such information if you are in a car waiting at the bridge! Last time I waited for a long time only to figure out there was a problem.

    Comment by Aaron — 11:49 pm July 2, 2014 #

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