CLARIFICATION: Here’s who can use the low bridge and who can’t – right now

(SDOT camera image, this afternoon)

4:34 PM: With SPD enforcement starting on the low bridge this week, there’s been some confusion over who’s allowed to use that bridge and who isn’t. SDOT had said right after the March 23 high-bridge closure that the low bridge was available for “Harbor Island access.” But that has changed, with one exception. We asked SDOT today to spell out the current official policy; spokesperson Ethan Bergerson responded with this:

At this time, the Low Bridge remains closed to people driving general purpose vehicles to keep essential and life-safety services moving. Considering the current public health emergency, our top priority is emergency access to hospitals and protecting the supply chain, so we are reserving access to emergency vehicles, freight, and transit, and working with our partners at the Seattle Police Department, the Seattle Fire Department, the Port of Seattle, and Metro to determine the extent of the access limitations.   

There is one exception for freight community employees. Longshore Workers Union employees who are driving westbound from the Union hall at the start of their shift to Terminal 5 may use the Low Bridge. This is for westbound trips only.

We understand the inconvenience the closure of the High Bridge poses to the community. SDOT did not make this decision lightly, but ultimately, we prioritize safety above all else. We are monitoring traffic on the Low Bridge and as new traffic patterns develop, we may be able to adjust access.

Our next report on what’s up with the high bridge, meantime, is coming up this evening.

6:51 PM: We checked out the eastbound approach to the low bridge around 5 pm. Overhead signage has now been altered:

And two officers were in the lanes directing/monitoring traffic:

49 Replies to "CLARIFICATION: Here's who can use the low bridge and who can't - right now"

  • Mj April 8, 2020 (4:43 pm)

    Opening the bridge to motorcyclists would make sense and is easy to implement.And as things settle down critical highly trained health care personel should also be able to get access with appropriate vehicle decal information provided.

    • Huh April 8, 2020 (6:04 pm)

      Oh, you only have a master’s degree? Back of the line, pleb. 

    • Rumbles April 8, 2020 (6:58 pm)

      This has been covered ad nauseam.  Pick a new topic, they aren’t going to change their restrictions.  

  • Karen April 8, 2020 (5:11 pm)

    With the nicer weather I encourage people to give the bike commute a try if you were considering it.   With the lack of car traffic the bicycle commute across the lower bridge is much easier these days … plenty of space.

  • Brian April 8, 2020 (5:42 pm)

    They could  consider a modified road construction model for the use of general purpose traffic flow. For example allow 25 westbound cars across, then allow 25 eastbound cars across. This would leave one lane open for emergency vehicles at all times. Crossing volumes could be based on traffic demands on either side of the bridge. Traffic enforcement posted out there now could help facilitate this.

    • Sixbuck April 8, 2020 (7:00 pm)

      Won’t work. The backups would stretch forever and emergency vehicles would be stuck in traffic. 

    • Ken April 8, 2020 (7:23 pm)

      This actually makes a lot of sense. Either try 25 cars at a time, or perhaps 90 seconds each direction.  They could setup one of those mobile traffic light systems that are often used in rural highway construction zones.   

  • flimflam April 8, 2020 (7:12 pm)

    they should stop using the word “essential”, even if they don’t mean what the state has deemed “essential businesses”, in my opinion.

  • Vicente Barraza April 8, 2020 (7:14 pm)

    Utterly absurd to limit access. One more reason to hate living in Seattle 

    • Banana April 8, 2020 (9:11 pm)

      You are welcome to leave at any time. 

      • heartless April 8, 2020 (10:13 pm)

        (Just don’t use the Low Bridge when you go!)

      • Tanya April 9, 2020 (4:06 pm)

        Those  who say “Leave Seattle” are the reason the city is unable to keep a bridge open. They refuse to hold local government to a standard above: incompetent. If anyone dares criticize their beloved city they shoot venom. How bout Seattle citizens demand more of local government rather than telling people to leave?  Or did I now make the leave list too?

    • Elton April 8, 2020 (10:57 pm)

      Yeah, limiting access to a bridge under a bridge that’s closed for structural reasons – pretty insane. What, is the high bridge at risk of collapse or something? Oh wait.. 

  • junctioneer April 8, 2020 (7:28 pm)

    Being driven in a personal car to the emergency room for emergency care, such as pregnancy, falls under which category? 

    • KBear April 8, 2020 (7:55 pm)

      If it’s a real emergency, you can summon an emergency vehicle. 

      • Your Mother April 8, 2020 (9:42 pm)

        Hi KBear. Women who are popping their pinafores know that they need to get to the hospital pronto when the fortuitous moment has presented itself. But this is not thought of as an emergency! Crazy, right? Being the badasses that pregnant women are (they are LITERALLY sustaining another life INSIDE of their body! Wha??? Definition of badassery, me thinks) they tend to not “summon” an emergency vehicle. Why? It’s crazy expensive, the badasses baby is gonna need diapers and a thousand other things like eyelash extensions and rose gold pop sockets and it goes against what you’re told to do and expect. I was literally told to NOT go to the hospital until contractions were closer than 10 minutes or some such insanity that that is. Does this surprise you? Welcome to female town! After all, what’s a pregnancy story without the sheer terror of the possibility of having a baby on the side of a road or while waiting for a sailboat to go by in the back seat of your never again clean car OR while your husband drives like a bat out of hell over a hotly contested and dare I say congested draw bridge. 

      • Calires April 8, 2020 (10:46 pm)

        Yeah, good luck convincing your insurance carrier to pay for an ambulance for something like a broken bone which requires an emergency room visit, but definitely does not require an ambulance.  They are not going to care whatsoever about your neighborhood bridge being out of commission, and you are going to end up with a huge bill to pay on top of whatever the out of pocket is for your medical treatment.

    • Just pretend the low bridge doesn’t exist April 8, 2020 (11:09 pm)

      Just guessing, that if someone was driving themselves or a loved one to the hospital for a truly urgent medical need, and used the lower bridge, most would understand and if pulled over the cop would waive them on. We’re talking about a very very small number of exceptions though.  Again, just my guess.

      And hopefully in this rare situation, people would take into account the time of day and likelihood of traffic on the bridge when deciding if it would be best to drive themselves or call an ambulance… the sirens might be helpful. 

      99.99999999999% of the time it is not okay for anyone other than authorized vehicles to be on the low bridge. Just pretend the low bridge doesn’t exist.

      But for goodness sake people, use your common sense, if you’re being chased out of West Seattle by a herd of zombies, just take the friggin low bridge.

  • ARPigeonPoint April 8, 2020 (7:40 pm)

    Lol at “inconvenience”

  • CL in Gatewood April 8, 2020 (7:56 pm)

    I was out walking yesterday and passed a car that had a yellow placard on it’s dashboard saying that the vehicle had permission to use the low bridge.  Is this legitimate?  Is SDOT issuing these to qualified West Seattle drivers?

  • Don Brubeck April 8, 2020 (7:56 pm)

    If you don’t normally use this bridge, you have no idea how crowded it gets when ships are in port and drayage trucks are using the bridge to get containers to and from port terminals.  Now, with buses re-routed to the low bridge, and subject to delays from trains and bridge openings, there’s just not going to be room for cars once the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. We need the fire department to be able to  be able to get to Harborview from West Seattle, and respond from Station 14 in SODO for marine and heavy rescue. There’s no way to add capacity. It’s not possible to police the use by real vs. fake health care workers, or whatever your favored category of car drivers is, without completely bogging it down  like a border crossing.

  • jay dudek April 8, 2020 (8:49 pm)

    Why don’t they just have emergency vehicles use the main bridge, if it cant handle an ambulance on it as it stands,  then wow! Tare it down today!…. this is ridiculous to let it come to this SDOT.

    • MrsT April 8, 2020 (9:28 pm)

      I was going to say the same thing. Logic.

    • Pdx77 April 8, 2020 (11:28 pm)

      Regardless on how safe it would be to allow emergency vehicles on the high bridge they would still have to stop and temporary move the baricades and put them back each time an ambulance or emergency vehicle crosses the bridge. Sure, you could remove the baricades  and just have signs up but you know other people will just ignore those signs and drive on it like they do for theower bridge.From what it sounds like the bridge is falling apart even with no traffic on it, and that’s a risk the city doesn’t want to take.There really is no good ideal solution and it’s something we need to accept and make adjustments.

      • Don April 9, 2020 (3:05 am)

        Does anyone see the irony of the city spending millions to replace the99 viaduct with a tunnel out of fear of the viaduct collapsing and then the WSB, the most traveled section of highway, stats to collapse.Maybe someone should dust off “big Bertha” and put in the West Seattle tunnel.

        • KM April 9, 2020 (7:22 am)

          No, because the Highway 99 is a state project and the WS bridge is city.

        • AMD April 9, 2020 (7:23 am)

          No, because the tunnel was a state project; the city didn’t replace it.

        • Mike Lindblomm April 10, 2020 (10:32 am)

          Bertha’s unavailable. Nearly the entire disc-shaped cutter head was melted and recycled right next door at Nucor Steel Mill – supporting West Seattle jobs (and likely a few flatbed truckloads of rebar that crossed the highrise bridge).

    • John April 9, 2020 (3:37 pm)

      Brilliant solution!  Way too logical for SDOT however.

  • Dunno April 8, 2020 (9:03 pm)

    How about SDOT taking over the railroad bridge.  Should have posted April 1st.  It’s been 7 years since the cracking problem started.   Hard to believe worst case senario wasn’t planned for.   Can you imagine taking that long to do something about the Covid Virus?   SDOT is good at road diets, bus lanes, bike lanes, ect… Time to bring in the big boy’s to do whatever it takes!  Army Corp, WSDOT, Private Industry!

    • Mark47n April 9, 2020 (8:05 am)

      So, you’d have SDOT seize a bridge owned by a private entity to satisfy your own private convenience?  A bridge that is only wide enough for one vehicle no less. A bridge that would have to be heavily modified for cars and trucks.I know that the closing of the high span is inconvenient for those of us that live over here but there are still more ways out of WS than just this particular bridge. So this may slow you down as it forces a huge number of vehicles onto surface streets but it’s temporary…we all hope, so perhaps it’s time to quit whining about it and demanding ridiculous self-serving solutions and just getting on with it. 

  • Doug April 8, 2020 (9:24 pm)

    Can we get the FEMA workers from the hospital and apply them to the pending West Seattle traffic pandemic? 

  • eggo April 8, 2020 (9:47 pm)

    I just don’t get it. It’s not like HI workers are clogging up bridge traffic. Enforcement is relatively straightforward – have workers display waivers in their window. The only turnoff to HI is immediately over the bridge. Have a cop or two stationed there. If someone doesn’t make the turn, pull them over. Same goes for westbound cars, just in reverse. I hope there’s a valid reason for cutting off access that I’m not thinking of. Right now my inkling is that some people made enforcement too much of a headache. Now HI workers who opt out of biking are going to further clog the alternate routes. 

    • ACG April 8, 2020 (10:56 pm)

      Eggo- This is WAAAY too much of a good, smart idea, therefore it will never be implemented. Sigh…

  • Mj April 8, 2020 (10:00 pm)

    The low bridge has capacity to serve more than just trucks, busses and emergency vehicles.  Pushing all other traffic to the south to go north makes the bad alternative even worse for everyone. Opening the low level bridge to other motorists helps everyone.  Allowing motorcyclists is easy.  What other group makes sense, I have suggested highly trained medical personell numerous times (I am not in this group).  I like others need to go south to go north, but if a portion of other WS residents could use the low level bridge this would reduce the demand on the alternative routing for those of us that need to use it.

    • alki_2008 April 22, 2020 (10:14 am)

      +1 about motorcycles.Started commuting downtown on a vespa scooter, before the shutdown. Employer provides free parking for 2-wheelers. It also gets excellent mileage, so great for the environment compared to a car, but detouring down Marginal or Delridge increases the danger factor considerably. Almost been run down a couple times by fast cars.

  • psps April 8, 2020 (10:59 pm)

    If there has to be restrictions (something zimbabwe loves to do,) it should apply to Harbor Island workers too. Let them go through White Center along with the rest of us, who are now under zimbabwe’s thumb. They’re no more “special” than those who work, say, 100 yards to the east of Harbor Island.

  • Bus rider April 8, 2020 (11:17 pm)

    Indirectly related to the lower bridge: the First Avenue ramp to the WS bridge is now a bus lane.  Buses will take the Harbor Island exit and not have to deal with the RR tracks.

  • CS April 9, 2020 (7:51 am)

    I don’t agree with the Spokane St Bridge being a 24/7 bus lane. Especially right now with wide spread bus reductions or route closures, it seems unnecessary for mobility. I rode my bike across the bridge at 7:30am and 2pm yesterday, never saw a bus or a back-up. I had to drive to my essential job at 5am Tuesday, I drove around, but in previous days before enforcement there were neither buses or anyone really at that time. Why make essential workers in West Seattle suffer more? This feels a bit like the counter productive 99 N bus lane, just a metric for SDOTs bus lane construction indicator instead of a sound transit strategy.

    • WS Transit Rider April 10, 2020 (10:12 am)

      You go to work at 5:00 a.m. When I was taking lower level bridge today at 6:30 a.m., there were plenty of freight and buses going over the bridge.

  • Rico April 9, 2020 (8:34 am)

    What qualifies as “freight?”   Is this just tractor- trailer or small pickup trucks hauling goods?

    • WSB April 9, 2020 (11:04 am)

      We have reported that multiple times before. Tractor-trailers.

  • Ms. P April 9, 2020 (10:23 am)

    Has the City and State met to discuss rerouting the ferries from Southworth/Vashon to the Colman dock?Traffic from these ferries increased dramatically in the past 25 years and the increase was probably not factored in when they built the bridge. Most ferry commuters drive straight through WS to jobs in Seattle anyway. 

  • wetone April 9, 2020 (10:42 am)

     “There is one exception for freight community employees. Longshore Workers Union employees who are driving westbound from the Union hall at the start of their shift to Terminal 5 may use the Low Bridge. This is for westbound trips only. ”
    Why is this ?  treat all people same if their driving personal vehicles.  Many others living very close to bridge working on Harbor Island have to drive around. Why can’t they adapt or adjust like everyone else…

  • Babs April 9, 2020 (10:43 pm)

    Time to vote our mayor out of office!my partner works downtown as a nurse on 12 hour shifts. He is front line with C – virus patients. Why can’t he show his badge – wearing scrubs – take the lower bridge? Why? The stress he deals with – add this mess. Why? 

  • Chelsea April 13, 2020 (9:05 am)

    He needs a yellow placard on his card. I am an RN downtown too, and the SPD today me this today as they tried not to let me through.

  • Dan S. April 17, 2020 (10:51 am)

    Why not convert the lower bridge to HOV?Allow 2+ passengers and motorcycles. that would provide SOME relief anyway. encourage carpooling too!

  • Upset April 28, 2020 (9:57 am)

    Hey SDOT where is all our vehicle licensing tax money going?!? I paid over $700 in 2019 for vehicle tabs and I know a lot of other citizens paid that and more. What are you doing with all the tax money?!?! 

    • WSB April 29, 2020 (10:27 pm)

      A fraction of that is collected by the city, and it mostly goes to buy more bus service.

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