(WSB video, 6 am today)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The new South Park Bridge is now officially in service, opened to regular traffic minutes ago.
(Motorcyclist Charles, center, was first in line; that’s bridge project manager Tim Lane at right)
This comes on the morning after an all-day-and-into-the-night celebration. And it comes exactly four years to the day following the closure of the bridge’s 80-year-old predecessor with a wake both boisterous and bitter.
On June 30, 2010, the crowd chanted, “We need a bridge”:
That night, June 30, 2010, it was by no means certain they would get another one. The bridge’s drawspan was raised one last time, and there it stood.
Sunday, there was no chanting. But there were fireworks:
As our clip shows, they were ceremonially “lit” by bridge-project manager Tim Lane and a group of political and community leaders jubilant over a promise kept – a promise that King County Executive Dow Constantine had put in writing, as commemorated by this framed photo:
“They said it couldn’t be done,” Constantine recalled. But it was. The big banner on the bridge deck gave credit to the various agencies that had contributed to and participated in construction of the new bridge, shown here in an aerial photo by Long Bach Nguyen just before the party started:
And they were celebrated in a round of speeches that preceded the first opportunity for citizens to walk all the way across the bridge, more than four hours into the daylong party. Here’s our video showing most of the speakers (up until Muckleshoot tribal members requested that cameras stop rolling for the blessing and prayers they offered):
After taking the podium from King County Transportation Director Harold Taniguchi, who emceed …
… Constantine recalled the difficult history that is now, so to speak water under the bridge – the decision to close the old bridge without the certainty of a new one, and the anguish that caused South Park residents and business owners. And he hailed the “partnership” of all who helped make the new one happen, not just the agencies that had contributed funding. That included South Park community leaders, especially SP Neighborhood Association past president Dagmar Cronn, photographed with City Councilmember Sally Clark (who proclaimed the bridge “un puente magnifico”):
Clark was one of the councilmembers who came to the old bridge for its 2010 wake. On Sunday, dedication invitees also included many others who had been there that day – we spotted now-former councilmember Jan Drago, wearing a pink-feather boa as she had on shutdown day.
So much of what happened on Sunday evoked memories of 2010, providing a sense of closure, even as the celebration hailed a new start, and a reconnection. U.S. Senator Patty Murray spoke of her South Park tour after the bridge closure in 2010, and how the concerns she heard spurred her to push harder for what became a $34 million federal contribution, close to a quarter of the bridge’s cost.
“And now,” she said, “we’re here.” The federal contribution was also a point of pride for U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, who recalled joining in the groundbreaking for the now-open bridge.
Some speeches looked ahead in addition to looking back – Councilmember Clark noted that the city needs to “move on” with annexing the remaining unincorporated parts of South Park; Port Commissioner Bill Bryant reiterated the need for the state Legislature to make a transportation package happen, since there are so many more needs remaining unaddressed:
Transportation is vital to industry, as underscored by the Boeing representation at the event – including a spirited speech by Larry Brown of the South Park-headquartered IAM Local 751, who declared, “Is this a great day or what?”
But the greatest part of it was yet to come. Four years ago, people didn’t want to leave the old bridge’s deck as the announced moment of closure arrived, and on Sunday, they couldn’t wait to get onto the new one, so after that celebratory banner was gathered up …
… hundreds strolled on:
And then they took a break for the parade we mentioned earlier:
A parade that even celebrated those who built it:
(Full parade coverage on our partner site The South Park News)
And as one more bookend to the four bridgeless years, the classic Metro Employees Historical Vehicle Association buses that traveled the bridge on June 30th, 2010, closed out the grand-opening parade:
Starting today, you can travel the new South Park Bridge on a regular-service Metro bus again – when the bridge went into service, Route 60 went back to using it.
Whether you travel it by bus, bike, car, truck, or on foot, one thing is for certain – today the new bridge reconnects South Park to the other side of the river, after four years that in one way seemed to last forever, and in another, seemed to be gone in an instant, with Sunday’s crackle of fireworks and ring of blessing bells.
P.S. Our crew at the bridge this morning was told that only two of its four vehicle lanes will be open for the next week or so, as crews continue with finishing touches – note the cones:
New in the area and haven’t yet been to South Park? It’s just minutes east of West Seattle; its restaurants and other businesses are featured here. Meantime, for more views of Sunday’s bridge celebration – including art, music, and Lucha Libre wrestling – here’s our report on TheSouthParkNews.com; get a behind-the-scenes look at the bridge here.