The case of the missing bridge signs

Been wondering whether the city will replace the signs on southbound Highway 99 that marked the neighboring exits for the westbound high bridge and Harbor Island? You’re not alone. Several people asked us about it earlier this month, including DJ, who provided the image you see above. He got an answer from SDOT before we did, and shared it with us. Elliot Helmbrecht, Levy Outreach & Accountability Manager in the SDOT director’s office, told DJ that this has been in the works for months:

After work order #551160 was created for a new sign in October and SDOT previously corresponded with you, we realized that this was an irregular sign that would have to be ordered and produced by an outside company, rather than in-house. Because this raises the cost significantly, SDOT staff made the prudent decision to package it with a larger sign order, somewhat delaying the procurement of this particular sign. In the meantime, a windstorm further damaged the sign and the additional sign next to it. Due to the damage from the windstorm, SDOT crews removed both signs. These events have led to some confusion, and for that we do apologize.

Going forward, SDOT has placed the order for the two new signs you mentioned on the West Seattle Bridge and they will be installed as soon as they arrive. Based on information we received from the sign company, we believe we can have the signs installed in the next few weeks.

A few outstanding issues that may delay installation from happening on the timeline mentioned above include a delay with the sign manufacturer or work that the crews will have to do to rebuild the cross-beams to match the new types of signs (the original were wood and the new ones will be metal). Also, we may not know about additional damage until the crews are in the air.

Want to report a broken sign (etc.) to SDOT? Here’s how. (And if you HAVE reported it and nothing’s happened – as DJ said was the case here, until now – let us know!)

12 Replies to "The case of the missing bridge signs"

  • bolo January 28, 2018 (11:19 pm)

    Too bad that they couldn’t somehow modify the “irregular” sign to make more “regular” and hence save the extra cost of having to farm it out to a private company.

    • DJ January 29, 2018 (1:43 pm)

      All of these signs are created and produced by inmates at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.  I’m not sure where the “extra cost” is coming from.

  • Matt S. January 29, 2018 (6:57 am)

    Why is SDOT replacing these signs? Isn’t WSDOT responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of Hwy 99? Either way this is a safety issue for drivers who are unfamiliar with the area and might have the impression that the far right exit is for the W. Seattle Bridge. I’ve seen several drivers make this mistake (signs or no signs) only to make a hasty and last second correction just before the exit ramp separates into two.

    • Jon Wright January 29, 2018 (8:36 am)

      It’s a confusing exit even with signs!

  • Scott A January 29, 2018 (7:18 am)

    Reminds me of small towns that don’t want so many people coming in from a nearby highway so citizens have removed signs.  In this case its the city which is amusing and must be really confusing for some drivers.   

  • Jaylaw January 29, 2018 (7:44 am)

    Thank you for the update.  I’ve wondered about this every time I take the exit but always forgot to ask!

  • KB January 29, 2018 (7:49 am)

    Thank you DJ and WSB! I had been wondering for a while and I’m grateful the signs will make it back sooner rather than later.

  • sam-c January 29, 2018 (8:13 am)

    I’ve actually been surprised at how long these signs have been missing…….

  • cjboffoli January 29, 2018 (10:00 am)

    Speaking of missing signs, I’ve always wondered why there is no sign for I-5 north on the eastbound West Seattle Bridge that warns traffic that they need to move left BEFORE they get to the merge.  I mean, I’m sure that many of the people who are jumping the line and cutting in illegally know exactly what they’re doing. But it is reasonable to expect that at least some of the people crossing the double white line (and cutting into the long line of cars that have been waiting in the left lane) are doing so because the only sign is at the far east end of the bridge.  There seems to be an empty space for a sign just after the 99 overpass.  

    Maybe after that mystery is resolved someone could also explain why the drains on the Spokane St. Viaduct (last renovated in 2012) are so inadequate that large, hydroplane-worthy puddles form in even light rain in both directions.  Those puddles seem to be contributing to the premature erosion of the roadbed and causing the deep potholes that they’ve been repairing recently.
  • Trickycoolj January 29, 2018 (11:54 am)

    It would be nice if they could put something temporary. I’ve been cut off by so many people at night who jump over from Harbor Island. I also continue to wonder why theres still wooden signs up anyway. I realize up on the viaduct those only need to last another year but why are they not working to age out some of the other wooden and completely faded hand painted signs from the 60s? After seeing half of this sign down after the windstorm they are so lucky it didn’t land in someone’s windshield!!

  • Jeff B. January 29, 2018 (3:27 pm)

    Cities with a population greater than 25,000 are responsible for maintenance of state highways (non-freeways) within their jurisdiction.  

  • David J January 29, 2018 (6:50 pm)

    Thanks for publishing the info. It took me about four months of research to get these responses. 

    Its just nice to know I wasn’t the only one mystified. 

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