City raising speed limit for Spokane Street Viaduct on east end of West Seattle Bridge

(WSB photo, taken – from the passenger seat – midday Friday)
One year after the city officially marked the end of the Spokane Street Viaduct Widening Project, a speed-limit change has just been announced by SDOT:

This weekend the speed limit on the Spokane Street Viaduct is increasing to 40 miles per hour (mph) between I-5 and First Avenue South. While the speed limit was 35 mph based on the structure’s original design, the Spokane Street Viaduct Project widened the roadway, which allows for a 40 mph speed. The project officially concluded last December, but the lower speed limit remained in place while the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) monitored operations. SDOT has concluded the Spokane Street Viaduct is functioning well and that the speed limit can be safely increased.

Last weekend SDOT replaced aging and worn overhead signs on the structure. The new signs are made of a reflective material that works so well the electric lighting associated with overhead signs is not needed. The Washington State Department of Transportation currently uses this material and we are taking this opportunity to review its use in Seattle.

The Spokane Street Viaduct Project doubled the viaduct’s width, and refurbished and seismically reinforced the older portion. The additional width allowed for wider travel lanes, shoulders and deceleration and merge lanes to be installed. The project also added a new eastbound off-ramp at Fourth Avenue S and fully reconstructed the lower S Spokane Street in concrete, including a sidewalk on the south side and multi-use trail on the north side. Finally, artwork was added to enliven the area below the viaduct with color and images that recollect the natural and cultural history of the location.

23 Replies to "City raising speed limit for Spokane Street Viaduct on east end of West Seattle Bridge"

  • JK December 13, 2013 (9:45 am)

    45mph would be more realistic.

  • RJ December 13, 2013 (9:53 am)

    Can I get a refund for the ridiculous ticket I got? :(

  • sven December 13, 2013 (9:53 am)

    Should be consistent with the west end at 45mph since everyone’s going to be driving that speed anyway… though merging on from 1st can get a little hairy at that speed.

  • RJ December 13, 2013 (9:54 am)

    And yes, 45 mph would be more realistic.

  • Dan December 13, 2013 (9:56 am)

    Nice to hear they’re replacing the signs…now what about those on 99 advertising the bridge and Harbor Island? Those are the old non-reflective plywood kind, most of the lights are burnt out, and they’re literally falling apart.

    Much like every sign on the southern Ballard Bridge interchange – woe betide anyone unfamiliar with the area trying to figure out which way to go.

  • Mike December 13, 2013 (9:57 am)

    Does this mean that cops will slow down to 40 mph? Prevailing speed on this roadway is well over 35, and 40.

  • Sheila December 13, 2013 (10:02 am)

    I am surprised considering how much money the city is making on tickets. And it should 45 like the rest of the bridge

  • iamseriodotus December 13, 2013 (10:03 am)

    So does that mean we can go 70MPH now?

  • bada-bing December 13, 2013 (10:06 am)

    Yeah, RJ! There should be no consequences for violating the law! (snark)

  • JAT December 13, 2013 (10:15 am)

    45 would be a more realistic estimate of how fast people already drive here is what i think you meant, JK

    And Good Question, RJ. How fast were you (allegedly) going? I’d be willing to bet faster than the new higher speed limit…

    Everybody speeds here; I speed less than most and am astounded at the general scofflaw-ry on this road.

  • Rumbles December 13, 2013 (10:47 am)

    Is that 40 mph still good when they double-down on deicer?! ;-)

  • Michael Waldo December 13, 2013 (11:06 am)

    It’s nice the city sends out a press release about the speed limit and adds how wonderful the project is. No one mentions what a horrible paving job was done. Last night, in the dark and the rain, I couldn’t tell the line between lanes from the large truck tire tracks on the bridge.

  • wsn00b December 13, 2013 (11:19 am)

    Grump**s’ fun and safe guide to driving the SS Viaduct and bridge.

    1) Do whatever(30-55) on the main part of the Spokane St Viaduct. Get as fast as possible over the bumpy deck designed by a shock absorber company that wants to wear down your car as much as possible. Faster speeds make the bumps more bearable. Do watch for bad drainage/puddles where the I-5S off ramp meets the viaduct before you take off on the viaduct and generally on the fast lane’s edge near the median where drainage backs up.

    2) Then, especially, if the weather is bad, slow down to 30-40 as you reach the part under 99. The road surface is incompetently shoddy there with crossing ruts, puddles, etc; unless you want to polish your hydroplaning skills.

    3) Maintain consistent speed 40-50 (I’m looking at you hyper-milers) climbing up to the bridge crest but slow down to 30 and be prepared to brake as visibility for stopped/slow cars is bad at the crest. Parabolic bridge crests are pretty [idiotic].

    4) 40-60 down the bridge and climbing up to the logs area.

    5) Slow down before the turn to 30. The curve at the logs is again badly engineered with a dip right in the middle of the curve and insufficient banking. This is why you see toppled old trucks atleast once a year when their suspensions can’t handle that bad curve.

    6) 20-30 approaching 35th/Fauntleroy after that. The blind curve with all the welcome-to-beautiful-West-Seattle weed farm makes for bad corner visibility.


    Ardent admirer of SDOTs quality of construction.

  • JVP December 13, 2013 (11:43 am)

    When is the last time anyone actually drove under 45 on this section? ‘Bout time they raised up the limit.
    +1 on what everyone is saying about the crappy pavement. The company that laid the concrete should be banned from ever working in Seattle again. Make them repave it, but do all the work between 11pm and 5am.
    There are chunks literally falling apart under your wheels, and this was paved just a year ago??? Can’t wait to see what it’s like in 5 more years.

    • WSB December 13, 2013 (11:50 am)

      Re: the pavement problem, we did ask SDOT about that recently re: another comment discussion and I published the reply in either a comment or a daily traffic update. Here it is again: “SDOT is aware of the spot pavement issues on the old structure’s deck – the markings are from our inspection of it. This problem is isolated to the thin concrete overlay, which can be challenging to install on older structures, that our contractor applied to the deck. (The pothole appears to have been caused by some part of a heavy vehicle striking the deck’s surface.) As we want to deliver a high quality product, we are evaluating the overlay’s condition and working on the means to repair it. We will share our timeline with you once that is established.”
      (added) If you recall, the southern side of the SSV is the “old structure” – it was widened by building a new structure on the north side.

  • Average Seattle Driver December 13, 2013 (1:49 pm)

    What’s a ‘speed limit?’

  • Think Harder December 13, 2013 (2:11 pm)

    Great, this will only serve to cause habitual drivers to continue their ego driven entitlement behavior. “The city made the speed limit too low on that road, ergo the limits on all roads are too low, so I can justify my reckless selfish behavior”.
    Good job seattle.

  • Tony S December 13, 2013 (3:33 pm)

    Driving 45 mph is “reckless, selfish behavior” and “ego driven entitlement behavior”.

    Maybe dialing down the hyperbolic rhetoric a bit is called for here…

  • Azimuth December 13, 2013 (3:42 pm)

    SDOT’s comments on the road surface made for a hearty Friday chuckle. Thanks, I needed it!
    Seriously, the road surface both directions is awful, considering its age. I can only assume the project manager got a promotion.
    As for the speed limit, 40 is probably right because 35 felt too slow and most people drive 5 over the limit anyway so that puts the flow of traffic at the road’s natural speed limit of 45.

  • J December 13, 2013 (4:19 pm)

    I just hope they enforce it, so those of us who follow the law can do so safely.

  • Rumbles December 13, 2013 (5:03 pm)

    Seriously, in discussing the roadway surface, how about the areas where they scrubbed off the old temporary lane markings?! Some are so deep that they puddle up and end up looking like the actual road stripes at night in the rain. Some if which angle towards the guard rails! Someone set the scrub depth too deep on those! How do you fix something like that?!

  • Jeffrey December 13, 2013 (9:03 pm)

    Alas, this is what you folks have collectively voted for.

    The folly of humans does not cease in yielding abundant amusement.

  • seaviewer December 14, 2013 (2:23 pm)

    Good. Now they just need to raise the ridiculous 30 mile per hour limit on the Admiral hill climb.

    Hard Thinker: Do you realize that when limits are too low they make the road less safe? It’s true. A speed limit should feel too fast for the typical driver. When the limits are too low, there’s additional conflict on the road between people going the artificially low limit and people driving at a reasonable speed. 35 on Spokane is unreasonably slow. So you have conflict with people passing around eachother.

    This video is from Canada, but it’s a good primer on this issue.

    Idiots that go 80 on the bridge are going to be idiots regardless of what the limit is. But the rest of us should be allowed to drive a reasonable speed.

Sorry, comment time is over.