New signs for the West Seattle Bridge: Will ‘zones’ help problems clear faster?

(UPDATED 4:26 PM with information we requested on project’s cost)


1:12 PM: If you got into trouble somewhere on the West Seattle Bridge – would you be able to clearly describe your location to a 911 dispatcher? SDOT is about to install signs that it hopes will help more people answer “yes,” resulting in most incidents clearing more quickly: The bridge will be broken into nine “zones,” each with signage that will be installed this weekend. Read the full announcement ahead:

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) will install new “zone” marker signs on the West Seattle Bridge and the Spokane Street Viaduct corridor to help drivers identify their location in the event of an emergency where assistance is required on the bridge.

· Work will begin at 12 a.m. this Saturday night, June 4, until 12 p.m. on Sunday, June 5.

· No portion of the bridge will be closed, but SDOT crews will conduct a rolling slowdown in one lane at a time as the sign installation progresses.

· Crews will install signs in both the eastbound and westbound directions, one direction at a time.

When people involved in a collision on the bridge call for help, it can be challenging to quickly and accurately describe their location. Now they will be able to refer to “zone” signs to tell emergency responders – such as SDOT or WSDOT Incident Response Teams, towing companies, Seattle Fire or Seattle Police – where they are.

The “zones” will also make it easier for emergency personnel to report the location to other responders, helping additional crews to avoid missing the on-ramp or exit that would access the scene the fastest. Zone markers will help save time and reduce the duration of an incident on the bridge.

The West Seattle Bridge and the Spokane Street Viaduct corridor will be signed every 500 feet on both the center barrier and the outside barrier in both directions. There will be five zones on the westbound side and four zones on the eastbound side, with new signs marking a total of nine zones.

For ultimate visibility, SDOT will install the signs onto the concrete barriers facing the roadway, instead of oncoming traffic, so as not to distract everyday drivers. The signs will still be visible by drivers should they need the zone location. Mounting the signs to the face of the barriers also allows for sign consistency, faster installation and ease of cleaning.

The new zone signs will look like the example shown and will be approximately 18” x 18” to fit the face of the concrete barrier.

SDOT is coordinating with other dispatching agencies including the Seattle Police Department, Seattle Fire Department, Lincoln Towing, and the Washington State Department of Transportation, on this project.

The announcement doesn’t mention a price for the project so we have an inquiry out with SDOT.

4:26 PM UPDATE: SDOT’s Sue Romero says making and installing the 80 signs will cost $25,000.

46 Replies to "New signs for the West Seattle Bridge: Will 'zones' help problems clear faster?"

  • WS Taxpayer May 31, 2016 (2:30 pm)

    Great – does anyone else think this is completely pointless.  I’m on the West Seattle bridge, between X & Y – If you don’t see me, keep going, its only a mile…jeeze I wonder how much money we are spending for these superfluous signs.  

  • me on 28th Ave SW May 31, 2016 (2:49 pm)

    That is a great idea.  They may consider adding a WB or EB next to the signs because people may “freeze up” and not remember.  

    • Bill May 31, 2016 (3:18 pm)

      Now you know how much our city betters think of our intelligence – they’d better save the money so they can pay for bands for street dances at block watch parties —

  • Jeannie May 31, 2016 (3:21 pm)

    If this has indeed been a problem, I’m all for adding those signs. But if it’s a non-issue, then, sure, it’s a waste of money.

  • Wendell May 31, 2016 (3:26 pm)

    May as well put a bikini latte stand on the bridge… makes the same amount of sense.

  • smokeycretin9 May 31, 2016 (3:32 pm)

    Easy to remember rules.

    1.  If it steers, it clears   –  If you get in a fender bender, take photos and move it to the side safely.  You do not need police for small fender benders, unless the other party fails to produce a valid licence or insurance or you suspect they are impaired.

  • Rick May 31, 2016 (3:46 pm)

    I commuted across the old single drawbridge to Kirkland in 1977-78 during “rush” hour with no problem.  35-40 minutes.  Love the “West Seattle hasn’t grown that much”  faction.

  • Les May 31, 2016 (4:04 pm)

     Speaking of SDOT is there any update on the investigation of crooked Kubly  and the cities purchase of the  Pronto bike share program.

  • Wes C. Addle May 31, 2016 (4:11 pm)

    I agree with WS Taxpayer on this one!

  • Craig May 31, 2016 (4:46 pm)

    “How’d you get in the wreck?” I was distracted by trying to read all the signs. I know what zone I’m in, what the official name of the bridge is, where the fire department plug is, where to exit and so much more – expect with all that sign reading I was  doing I didn’t actually watch the traffic in front of me and got in a wreck. 

  • Mark schletty May 31, 2016 (5:10 pm)

    Another example of the no-nothing-except- bicycles (if even that) stupidity of Kubly and the SDOT. $25000 wasted.

  • Mark May 31, 2016 (5:11 pm)

    SDOT spends $ without regard to taxpayers.   SDOT could learn from Burien and King County both Agencies that have learned to prioritize and spend $ wisely!

  • Gene May 31, 2016 (5:22 pm)

    SDOT- run by folks who have forgotten how to think- common sense escapes them- but the $$ just keeps coming in from taxpayers- to fund nonsense like this . 

  • westSeattleSteve May 31, 2016 (5:54 pm)

    This is pretty common practice. I’ve seen it on other bridges and tunnels. I think you can see zones on the I-90 floating bridge and tunnel. I can’t imagine the cost is that high.

    A few years ago I called 911 about a fire in the railroad yard along 99, and the operator wanted a better location, she said there was already a crew on sight looking for the fire, but they couldn’t locate it.

  • CanDo May 31, 2016 (5:58 pm)

     Are the responders spending inordinate amounts of time driving back and forth, trying to find stalled vehicles or accidents?  Really?

    • WSB May 31, 2016 (5:59 pm)

      Yes, actually, if you listen to the scanner, you’ll hear a fair amount of trouble when responders try to find reported crashes. One alternative to this new plan might be covering more of the bridge with cameras – but that would certainly cost a lot more money.

  • Justme May 31, 2016 (6:48 pm)

    This sounds like a great idea. Frankly, I don’t understand a lot of the comments here. People complain about traffic when there’s an accident, wsdot listens, comes up with a decent short term solution, and then people complain more about the cost of that. 25k is peanuts compared to the value of 1000s of commuters time. People just like to complain it seems.

  • Jon Wright May 31, 2016 (7:26 pm)

    I trust people who’s job it is to keep traffic moving a lot more than I do the armchair traffic engineers here.

  • Community Member May 31, 2016 (7:56 pm)

    Of course the police & fire will be able to respond more quickly if they know where the accident is.  Duh.  Come up Delridge instead of 35th? How to decide?

  • Mark May 31, 2016 (8:00 pm)

    just me – you are correct $25k is peanuts for SDoT and this spending is certainly better than the red painted bus lane!

  • NW May 31, 2016 (8:11 pm)

    Great idea. This will also benefit the new comers flocking here who haven’t a clue where they are. Have you ever heard of the west seattle bridge? Have you ever heard of the spokane st vieaduct? How about fauntleroy way? West seattle freeway? By the way this stretch is not a freeway and a lot of this 2 mile stretch is best driven at 25 to 35 mph max with the volumes that use it. 

    • datamuse May 31, 2016 (9:00 pm)

      I was thinking this. I have a friend who was coming to visit me one day and got completely turned around in that tangle of streets underneath the bridge. She wound up on Alki. I live near White Center.

  • KT May 31, 2016 (8:43 pm)

    Seriously?  A bridge that is what, one mile?   You have to pin point where you are in that one mile to be found?  Is this transportation levy money?  Isn’t the role of a police/fire dispatcher to locate the call?   People can’t tell them where they are on the bridge?  Wow.    

  • wsn00b May 31, 2016 (8:52 pm)

    Zone #  –  Alternate Description

    Zone 1 & 9 – The section with the really bumpy road that got worse after 2 years of repairs and where everybody does 60mph.

    Zone 2 – The part under Hwy 99

    Zone 3 & 8 – The part of the bridge where it has a highrise OR where they have the red carpet painted for VIPs to drive around regular traffic.

    Zone 4 & 7 -The part where it is fun to speed uphill/downhill.

    Zone 5 – The part with the creepy kid statues , potholes, weeds and garbage

    Zone 6 – Convenient dumping ground where you can hide garbage amongst the weeds.

  • Trickycoolj May 31, 2016 (8:54 pm)

    A lot of first responders aren’t as familiar with the sights of our bridge as we are. If I tell the 911 operator I’m stalled and immobile next to the steel mill but before Delridge is the operator going to be able to quickly tell the responders where to respond if they’ve never seen this stretch before? No. If a fire truck from outside of WS has to respond because the others are busy, or SPD from a different precinct do they know what “I’m next to walking on logs” means? Doubt it. Also I doubt City Light will understand when I put in a service request for the street lights not functioning all weekend between the steel mill and walking on logs either. This is a great move. 

  • Kc May 31, 2016 (9:13 pm)

    It would seem that should an incident happen, one could take a  Quick look around if you enter the bridge at 35th if you are before the delridge on ramp…. You simply tell the dispatch / operator you are between those points should you be after delridge and 1st Ave…. You simply tell them that. 

    It would apply for west bound as well between I- 5 and 4th between 4th and 1st, 1st and the top off the bridge And so on

    seems a health price for lack of drivers ability to know where they are at edit could apply that money to snow removal then it won’t matter what zone we are in

    but God help us if they paint the house on the corner my family could not find their way home either

    • Trickycoolj June 1, 2016 (8:18 am)

      How fantastic that you have the exits memorized. All the visitors flocking to Alki this summer don’t even know where they’re supposed to get off to go to the beach. Don’t think they’ll be able to tell dispatch where their low rider blew a gasket and got stuck cresting the bridge. 

    • Chris June 7, 2016 (6:34 am)

      You assume everyone calling 911 from the bridge during an incident is from/familiar with West Seattle.

      I’ve listened to the scanner – four or five calls come in, each with a different description. (One of them was my accurate description.) Operators and dispatchers have no way of knowing that my description was accurate and the others were too vague.

      If operators can get two callers to say the words “Zone 7” then suddenly they don’t have a fire engine driving all the way down to first then back to Avalon because they hopped on the Delridge on-ramp.

  • dsa May 31, 2016 (9:24 pm)

    It’s interesting how zone 1 is closest to city hall.  If this was drawn from WS, counting would likely have started from the WS side regardless of where the first responders are from.  It is good to see the directions are different zones.  It never fails to amaze me how often people get their compass directions confused.

  • Kc May 31, 2016 (10:42 pm)

    All of SFD vicheles have gps guided maps similar to what you have for your navigation in your newer cars trucks from outside of west seattle will find their way just fine

    and many of the personal are routinely on the the same trucks

    911 operators are trained to extract the info needed to get the 1st responders where they need to go

    $25,000 could bey a few gallons of lane striping paint to help prevent an incident

  • Chuck and Sally's Van Man May 31, 2016 (10:54 pm)

    SDOT assists drivers? 

  • Jeannie June 1, 2016 (1:39 am)

    Thumbs up for WSNOOB’s explanation of the zones!

  • Roxy June 1, 2016 (8:02 am)

    WOw, lots of snark here. If you are so worried about a few $K, go figure out how much it cost to change DPD’s name to SDCI. $25k is nothing.

  • canton June 1, 2016 (8:24 am)

    @les, look under the rug. Same rug the admiral clear cutters are hiding. SDOT should change their name to SDOP, all they can do is paint.

  • Joan June 1, 2016 (8:40 am)

    80  signs seems like overkill.

  • Mickymse June 1, 2016 (8:52 am)

    It is so amazing me to me how often the average citizen seems to thinks everything about transportation should just be “common sense”… when, in fact, it’s NOT. How about you quit complaining and actually trust our First Responders when they have repeatedly said that this is a problem for them and the signs will help? Of COURSE an ambulance could drive the full length of the Bridge to find someone, but don’t you think if it was a member of YOUR FAMILY who needed help and precious seconds can mean the difference between life and death that getting help to you as quickly as possible would be a good thing?

  • Neighbor June 1, 2016 (9:19 am)

    Can they add signage for Alki to this? Its ridiculous that there is none. People have no idea which exit to take or what turn to make. It’s not only frustrating for drivers but it’s really frustrating for residents. Drivers end up in neighborhoods driving furious and lost, endangering our kids with reckless speeds all the while looking at their cells. 

    • GladIGotOut June 1, 2016 (9:37 pm)

      It’s so hard to get to Alki from the bridge? I mean, even if you take the bridge to California, you just turn right? I don’t understand why it’s hard.

  • KBear June 1, 2016 (9:40 am)

    Actually, it DOES matter which “zone” an incident occurs in, so that responders will know where to get on the bridge in order to reach it.  (Think about where the nearest fire station is and how they would get there.) So it’s not just a silly waste of money, but it sure was a silly waste of snarky comments.

    • GladIGotOut June 1, 2016 (9:36 pm)

      Zones aren’t the problem. Lack of a proper GPS locator at 911 respondent centers is. This is basic infrastructure that we keep ignoring and is going to percolate widespread gridlock and result in non-responsive, unreliable systems that we NEED to update. $25k should go to replacing our outdated 911 system!

      • WSB June 1, 2016 (9:39 pm)

        They are working on it, according to our conversation with the 911 center commander, related to the followups I linked in a comment above. I asked about text 911 and he said the problem is that they have to have other departments around King County able to handle it and until they all upgrade, it can’t be piecemeal. Needs a better followup, I know.

  • Craig June 1, 2016 (11:24 am)

    A sign to Alki would really be a good idea. 

  • metrognome June 1, 2016 (8:51 pm)

     let’s imagine a little scenario … you’re a little late leaving for work because you too the time to check the bridge back-up on WSBlog.  Traffic isn’t bad, so you’re on auto-drive since you have driven the bridge a million times or so.  You hear a horn behind you and check the rearview mirror in time to see a massive silver bulldog just before the dump truck it adorns turns your car into a pancake.  You wake up to the sound of sirens and see fire trucks and a Medic unit screaming up the Delridge on-ramp 500 feet in front of you.  By the time the first responders get rerouted to you, it’s too late.  An internal city review showed that the first 911 callers incorrectly state that the accident was east of the Delridge on-ramp and that the fatality likely could have been prevented had first responders entered the bridge from 35th.

    let’s imagine a little different scenario … you’re a little late leaving for work because you too the time to post a snark on WSBlog about the cost and uselessness of the zone identification signage SDOT installed the week before.  Traffic isn’t bad, so you’re on auto-drive since you have driven the bridge a million times or so.   You hear a horn behind you and check the rearview mirror in time to see a massive silver bulldog just before the dump truck it adorns turns your car into a pancake.  You wake up to the sound of sirens and see fire trucks and a Medic unit screaming up from behind you.  Within seconds, you are on your way to Harborview with life-threatening injuries.  Media reports indicate that units were on the way to the wrong location until several 911 callers pinpointed your exact location thanks to the zone signs.  When you get out of the hospital, you write a check to SDOT for $25,000.

     Zone markers like this are quite common in tunnels and on bridges with limited access and egress.  When seconds count, lives can be saved with ‘stupid’ ideas like this one.  I’m betting that within the first year, an accident or vehicle fire or possible jumper situation will more than justify the tenth of a penny of your tax money that was spent on this project.

  • GladIGotOut June 1, 2016 (9:35 pm)

    The $25k would be better spent on a better 911 system. *headdesk* We’re so good at throwing money at non-problems, aren’t we.

  • GAnative June 6, 2016 (11:26 am)

    Noticed the new signs on the way to Costco yesterday.  I had pictured them being attached so that they stick up out of the top of the median and outside walls and thought that was an awful lot of signs.  But being stuck to the inside of the median and opposite outside wall they are unobtrusive and I can see why they needed so many.  Now I just hope that they work as planned and are worth the effort and money.


  • WSB June 6, 2016 (11:44 am)

    Thanks for the update. We hadn’t had time to travel the bridge yesterday to see for ourselves but are heading out on an errand this afternoon and I should be able to get pix from the passenger seat. The unobtrusive installation was described in the original announcement above.  – TR

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