Restrict low-bridge openings at rush hour? New “voluntary” plan

(March 2010 photo taken during bridge tour, courtesy City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen)
Three weeks ago, we brought you the letter the city sent to the Coast Guard asking again for restrictions on opening the “low bridge” – this time, because its vehicle usage is about to increase dramatically, especially in the afternoon, with the May 17th closure of the 1st Avenue South onramp to the westbound high-rise West Seattle Bridge. (Here’s the detour map.) At last night’s Delridge Neighborhoods District Council meeting, Pigeon Point rep Pete Spalding asked about the status of the request, and SDOT’s Stuart Goldsmith indicated they’d gotten word it wouldn’t be granted. That’s just been confirmed today by SDOT communications manager Rick Sheridan, but he says there’s a “voluntary” plan:

Though we have not received official written notification, the US Coast Guard (USCG) has indicated that it will not support a suspension of peak hour openings of the lower Spokane Street Swing Bridge. In order to minimize traffic disruptions after the First Avenue S on-ramp closure, the parties involved in the decision agreed to a voluntary system for minimizing p.m. rush hour openings of the bridge. Waterway users, the Port of Seattle, the USCG and SDOT have jointly agreed to this. SDOT will monitor the impacts of bridge openings on traffic during this phase of construction and, should a sustained pattern of traffic disruptions occur, the Coast Guard is committed to working with the city to address the issue.

Looking ahead to increased traffic on the low bridge as the Spokane Street and Alaskan Way Viaducts’ construction projects approached, the city asked in 2008 for the peak-hour restrictions, and was turned down (WSB coverage here) without any “voluntary” attempts to make it happen. Meantime, if you’re tracking all the effects of various construction projects in the metro area, including the two viaducts, here’s the latest update from SDOT.

8 Replies to "Restrict low-bridge openings at rush hour? New "voluntary" plan"

  • marco April 22, 2010 (8:52 pm)

    My backup plan was to ride my bike. But after my last 30min “break” at the lower bridge, I’m not sure that is still viable.

  • I. Nertia April 22, 2010 (9:05 pm)

    If the bridge is open and that is your only route for car or bike, then bike is way better, because when the bridge opens you will be on your way. In a car you may be behind 50-100 other cars waiting to cross the bridge.

  • rob April 22, 2010 (9:10 pm)

    marco: you can get across the 1st ave s bridge on bike too. its out of the way depending where you’re going but not too far. i work down by the baseball field and alternate between the two sometimes for the fun of it. i live in arbor heights tho, so its really no further for me one way or the other. i suppose if you live in admiral or something 1st ave s might seem a long way out of the way.

  • nmb April 22, 2010 (11:49 pm)

    Marco, you must be talking about when the bridge had a malfunction a couple weeks ago. I’ve been riding my bike over that bridge twice a day, everyday, for the past 9 years, and the longest I’ve ever had to wait is 10-15 minutes. Besides, I enjoy the “break”. It gives me a chance to catch my breath before heading up the Admiral hill.

  • chas redmond April 23, 2010 (12:10 am)

    What this really calls to our attention, however, is the complete lack of representation in Washington, DC, Seattle has. Where are our Senators? Where are our Representatives? Apparently missing in action. It’s curious that our city has such little to non-existent clout in Olympia and Washington, DC, both. Is it us? Or are those there performing deeds against Seattle and its citizens? Perhaps a simple request for an Environmental Impact Statement on the costs versus the benefits of this approach. I’m not sure who the Coast Guard is serving here.

  • flynlo April 23, 2010 (10:04 am)

    I’m not sure that it’s “complete lack of representation in Washington, DC” tho it may be. It’s my belief that SDOT and the City of Seattle just don’t CARE! Consider that there are permanent opening restrictions (during rush hour for anything less than 1000 gross tons) on the three low level bridges that cross the Ship Canal. And that from 11:00PM until 7:00AM there is only 1 bridge operator for those three bridges, so the Coast Guard CAN work with the city if the city so desires! What is the projected rush hour auto traffic density over the low level Spokane Street bridge during the construction period compared to the existing traffic density over the Ship Canal Bridges which already have opening restrictions? The City knows the current traffic flows on all of the major streets but only publishes that information on a 24 hour basis.

  • McBride April 23, 2010 (11:17 am)

    Is it the Coast Guard or the ACoE that owns the bridges/waterway access? Either way, SDOT claims them:

    My suspicion is that this is “just business”. Of the four moveable bridges, only one (Spokane Street) serves primarily commercial interests. On the other hand, commercial interests would be impacted by traffic restrictions during peak hours on the other three. If the question is whether to idle citizens in traffic or negatively impact commerce…well…

    I’d like to ponder the South Park Bridge for a moment. There’s only three current crossings of the Duwamish at the street level. Shutting down the South Park Bridge is suddenly of major concern to greater W Seattle. Consider:
    1) There’s no surface street access to the W Seattle Bridge for 1.5 years, and
    2) The 1st Ave S Bridge is projected to be overwhelmed by traffic diverted from a closed South Park Bridge (

    Removing Any option at this juncture just seems like an outstandingly bad idea.

  • WS Steve April 23, 2010 (2:49 pm)

    I think I’ll get a jetpack. Life is going to seriously suck for WS commuters for the next half-decade.

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