TRAFFIC/TRANSIT: Wednesday watch, second week of West Seattle Bridge closure

5:40 AM: The high-rise West Seattle Bridge remains closed.

The low bridge is reserved for transit, freight, emergency response, and Harbor Island access – the city hopes you’ll honor that without the threat of police enforcement.

The main alternative across the Duwamish River is the 1st Avenue South Bridge (map) – that’s also the main route to I-5.

You also can cross on the South Park Bridge (map).

Check the @SDOTBridges Twitter feed to see if a bridge is opening for marine traffic.


SDOT’s traffic map
Our traffic-cams page
Metro‘s canceled trips as the Reduced Schedule continues
Sound Transit Route 560’s Reduced Schedule
West Seattle Water Taxi schedule

Let us know what you’re seeing on your alternate commute – comment, or text (not while at the wheel!) 206-293-6302.

60 Replies to "TRAFFIC/TRANSIT: Wednesday watch, second week of West Seattle Bridge closure"

  • drM April 1, 2020 (6:59 am)

     low bridge is reserved for transit, freight, emergency response”

    There are perhaps hundreds of Doctors, Nurses and support staff from the northern West Seattle, who, each day, “go to the the front” and put their lives on the line, to fight for us in city hospitals.. I think the very least we can do is to allow them to use that lower bridge so that their lives are a little easier.

    • DP April 1, 2020 (9:42 am)

      Perhaps SPD/SDOT can produce some lower bridge exemption placards medical professionals can hang from their rear view mirrors…? 

      • WSB April 1, 2020 (10:41 am)

        The point here is that police have more urgent things to do than hang out on the low bridge because some drivers don’t want to follow the rules. Even before the pandemic threw new challenges at thmm, our precinct’s staff was already the smallest in the city, as reported here multiple times. While at last report the SW Precinct wasn’t reporting any COVID-19 cases in their ranks, if it’s hit elsewhere in the city, staffing might need to be redirected. Etc. As Heather Marx noted during our interview last week – a refrain repeated from Viadoom – “your commuting decision is a community decision.” Here’s hoping that with these unusual circumstances, some also can start planning for time-shifting when/if they have to go back to offices – TR

    • Blbl April 1, 2020 (9:50 am)

      They can; they can take the bus.  While I’m all for supporting our front line medical providers (I’m married to one), they aren’t more important than the grocery store employees, utility crews, sanitation workers, or any other people going to their essential work. 

  • sf April 1, 2020 (7:43 am)

    DMR you are right.  They are on the front lines.  Sadly, so are all the staff at every grocery store and hardware store.  At least the staff in the hospitals, generally know where the isolation patients are and have some access to PPE.  How’s about we keep the rules as they are (and adhere to them): Freight (which keeps those who are able to stay at home closer to home), Emergency Vehicles (to assist the sick or injured) and Transit (to assist all those who are still deemed essential).

    • Anne April 1, 2020 (9:46 am)

      Hey—how’s about we DO include individual first responders trying to get to police & fire stations & those awesome tireless health care workers who are trying to get to hospitals to start another who knows how long shift of trying to save lives -who need not just SOME access to PPE’S. Who come into contact with people  who are sick – but not yet in isolation. I am in no way minimizing the work of those  hardworking folks in our grocery & hardware stores -whose jobs are essential as well. Am so thankful for them & it must be scary to not be able to stay inside.  Yes-would love  & hope to include them -but if a line has to be drawn-I would draw it after first responders & health care workers . 

      • Are the asking for it? April 1, 2020 (3:59 pm)

        Anne, do you actually know any first responders who are calling for this? None of the first responders or healthcare workers I know think they should get to use the lower bridge. In fact, the ones I know think it’s kind of silly that so many people are insisting on it. They are happy to leave the bridge open for emergency vehicles, mass transit, freight. It seems like most of the comments I’m seeing suggesting we give frontline workers an exception are from people who aren’t actually frontline workers. Just seems odd to me.

  • flimflam April 1, 2020 (7:50 am)

    i can’t even imagine what a mess this would be during “normal” times when everyone is working.

    • Joe Z April 1, 2020 (9:13 am)

      We’re going to find out in a few months

    • tsurly April 1, 2020 (9:51 am)

      I drove the detour from Admiral yesterday around 5 PM. The entire way I was just thinking to myself “No effin’ way” this is even remotely going to work. People are going to have to change their habits, there is no choice.

  • YES2WS April 1, 2020 (8:45 am)

    I agree. Seems a bit insensitive to allow freight trucks but not essential workers.

    • WSJ April 1, 2020 (5:17 pm)

      This has a lot to do with the fact that freight traffic is not well suited to the mostly residential routes that the detours represent. “Sensitivity” has to take a back seat to practicality. 

  • Mj April 1, 2020 (8:56 am)

    drM agreed and the low level bridge has capacity to serve these critical personel.

  • Jort April 1, 2020 (9:38 am)

    I’m a “solution-minded” person, so I view the bridge closure differently than others, and I can not emphasize this enough: if the bridge is out for more than 3 months, it is going to force a dramatic change in the way West Seattle residents approach personal transportation. Flatly: there won’t be room on the lower bridge for everybody who used to drive the high bridge. That’s not a political position, it’s a mathematical one. There simply isn’t enough space. So, let’s talk solutions: If the bridge is closed for a long time, we’ll need to consider drastic alternatives, such as quadrupling the number of buses and high-frequency bus routes throughout the peninsula, or perhaps giving every commuter a free e-bike. Everyone will think they are the ones who should be allowed to continue their drive on the low bridge, but that’s not going to happen. I strongly, strongly encourage people to begin thinking of ways to adapt, now. Those adaptations simply and definitively will not involve you driving on the low bridge, anymore, no matter how important you think you are. 

    • Joe Z April 1, 2020 (10:19 am)

      Yes. They need to think about the routes that people drive and replace them with buses. We will desperately need an express bus route that goes through the 99 tunnel and stops in SLU, Fremont, etc. We also need an express bus that takes people directly to the light rail via the SODO busway. And several others I’m sure. Agreed with e-bikes as well—there needs to be a few SPD-guarded bike checkpoints along the express bus lines where people can leave their bikes in West Seattle, especially for those that live in Alki or Admiral. 

      • Jort April 1, 2020 (10:42 am)

        Absolutely. We’ll probably want to consider outright closing down some minor aterials and making them bus-only. Beach Drive, for example, or 35th Ave SW. We’ll want to deploy every spare bus we have and invent some new temporary routes to serve areas like Bellevue, First Hill and north Seattle. Routes should run every 5-10 minutes. We can also get e-bikes into the hands of everybody who wants one. This, ironically, is probably one of the most quickest, space-efficient and cheapest options we could do, though, in fairness I also fully recognize that it would have a substantial psychological cost for those whose brains are hard-wired to pathologically abhor cyclists. I understand this would be a significant, perhaps insurmountable psychological challenge for many.

        • Joe Z April 1, 2020 (12:20 pm)

          That’s a little extreme but they should paint the right lane of eastbound Spokane red that leads to the low bridge. This should have been done years ago because the 21 always gets stuck there in AM rush hour. I would also just label all of the low bridge access points bus-only as well, with a tiny asterisk for emergency vehicles.

      • wendell April 1, 2020 (10:57 am)

        Can I have a free unicorn instead of a free e-bike?

        • Jort April 1, 2020 (11:12 am)

          A free e-bike is one of the most cost-efficient, space-efficient and timely ways to get this resolved for the vast majority of people. It requires zero additional infrastructure, does not require planning or engineering, and it allows great flexibility in getting people from various locations around the peninsula to downtown quicker than almost any other option. Feel free to make fun of it all you want, but it is the easiest and quickest way to solve this for most people. The city should seriously look into it as an option.

          • KM April 1, 2020 (12:17 pm)

            We’ll be buying ebikes, at least for the one of us who has to commute downtown. However, we can afford to, and many cannot, especially in this scary economic time.  Having at least some sort of subsidy program would be great. We already subsidize drivers far more than other modes of transportation, it’s not that far fetched. Those who need to continue to drive will benefit with less other drivers on the road. Win/win.

        • The King April 1, 2020 (12:22 pm)

          Lol, since we are going all Bernie with the freebies, how about they give us all free kayaks. Specifically a Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 17T model. Ahem, so I can save the earth. 

          • Um, No! April 1, 2020 (1:22 pm)

            I will 2nd this idea.   :)

          • Jort April 1, 2020 (1:31 pm)

            If you can use a kayak instead of driving to get downtown, then yes, why not? The thing is: people are not going to be driving downtown.  The need for creativity in solutions is an understatement. And if you think getting a free e-bike is a Bernie-style freebie, just wait until you find out how much the government subsidizes infrastructure for automobile drivers.

          • The King April 1, 2020 (3:50 pm)

            Nope….gas prices are the lowest we’ve seen in years. When things get back to normal there will be cars lined up from the first ave bridge to the admiral Safeway. Welcome to the ultimate road diet, aren’t we all much safer now. 

    • drm15515 April 1, 2020 (11:21 am)

      Thanks for your astute comments.  I live in West Seattle and work in Kitsap County, so my normal commute is across the Bridge, north on 99 to Colman Dock.  I’ve been home for 3 weeks, so I have no idea what a nightmare the trek to the 1st Ave Bridge is, or might be when we all get back to work.  It looks untenable to me.  My alternatives are to commute via the Fauntleroy/Southworth ferry, which includes a 40 mile drive from Southworth to North Kitsap, OR I can take the Water Taxi to Colman Dock, and then eithe walk on the Bainbridge ferry, or take the Kitsap fast ferry up to Kingston.  Commuting without my car will involve short bus rides after getting off either ferry.None of this is great, but we will all have to find solutions to this problem.  Remember how inadequate the single span low bridge while the high bridge was being built?  I do.  It was a nightmare.  Today there is so much more traffic, and the current low bridge can’t handle it.  Please get creative, everyone!

    • Janelle April 2, 2020 (1:41 pm)

      I like your idea for subsidized e-bikes!

      For those who have considered bike commuting but are worried it would be too hard, take too long, be dangerous, etc… I urge you to give it consideration.  Bike infrastructure has improved in the city (more bike lanes and lights) and with fewer cars on the road, right now might be a good time to give it a try. 

      It’s also economical, fun and good exercise, and you will be making a choice that benefits the roadways for those who can’t bike to work.

      I’m also pretty sure bike shops would appreciate the business right now!

  • Beau K April 1, 2020 (9:57 am)

    Yes this is going to be a challenge to all of us, but they can’t just allow certain folks access when denying others…. We can’t even keep folks out of the Bus Only Lanes the way it is… Only Emergency Vehicles, Transit, and Freight. No exceptions. 

  • Social distancing April 1, 2020 (10:56 am)

    Hospital workers as a rule are not using public transportation as is advised by their employers. They are in high risk environments and do not want to spread illness to others on the bus and do not want to catch illness from others on the bus on their way to see patients. Just clarifying that public transportation is not an option right now for many workers. With that said, most are taking the long way around like everyone else without complaint. But remember that this is not the time for packed public transportation.

  • Jake Botswana April 1, 2020 (11:15 am)

    This is the end of Durkan, Herbold, and Zimbabwe.  There will be state and federal investigations  into how this happened and who was responsible.

    • Will Rhodesia April 1, 2020 (1:22 pm)

      I certainly hope so. 

    • tsurly April 1, 2020 (2:01 pm)

      Federal and state investigations looking into how they followed national bridge inspections standards, found a problem, and shut it down before a single accident/loss of life occurred as a result of the problem? Keep thumping your chest if it makes you feel better. Engineering design practices have evolved over the decades with better science, and old stuff can break, that is life.

      • Catey April 2, 2020 (5:35 am)

        If you actually believe that this problem wasn’t there to find much earlier, I have another bridge in Brooklyn to sell you for cheap!

  • Bryan April 1, 2020 (11:50 am)

    Unclear to me right now why sw Holden is down to one lane for construction. Also these construction folks are not distancing well.

  • Lisa April 1, 2020 (12:16 pm)

    I agree with others that healthcare workers should fall under a special category and should be allowed to use the low bridge. Given the number of hours they must be working and the amount of stress involved, I imagine the last thing they want is an additional 40-60 minute commute each day. Hopefully they are banding together to petition whoever has the authority to overturn this decision.

  • Spencer April 1, 2020 (1:21 pm)

    Subjectivley, i feel strongly Health care workers should be included and I will stand by that. However, if not it wont hurt anybody to wake up a little earlier to go around or take the bus. Suck it up and obey the law 

  • miws April 1, 2020 (1:30 pm)

    One data point, FWIW, which might be of interest, that I don’t recall seeing in any of the damaged bridge-related traffic comparisons of 40 years ago vs. now; the old “twin” bascule bridges were four lanes each, so when westbound traffic was diverted to share on the eastbound span, there were two lanes in each direction, as opposed to one lane in each direction on the current swing bridge. Also, some were lobbying for the replacement low bridge to be four lanes. I may not be remembering accurately, but I think the Port was one entity against four lanes. I *do* recall that they were against just refurbishing the remaining bascule bridge, as they wanted the shipping channel to be deepened and/or widened. —Mike

    • West Seattle since 1979 April 1, 2020 (4:12 pm)

      Also we have a lot more people in West Seattle now than we did 40 years ago.

  • Brice Lenz April 1, 2020 (2:06 pm)

    I moved to Alki 7 months ago because the commute was only 9 minutes to harbor island, I plan on riding my bike when it warms up but what about winter? All you “get a bike and suck it up” guys out there aren’t thinking about when it downpours and when it’s 20 degrees outside, and all you people that say take the bus, yeah right, a rolling germ factory, no thanks! I wouldn’t ride the bus even before the Rona, and I’m just a dumb Longshoreman, you want healthcare workers riding the bus, sitting next to the infected homeless people on the bus? Not for me! Peace out! I’m moving downtown when my lease is up, that way if I want to go visit Alki, I can just hop the passenger ferry and go be a douchey tourist like everyone else!

    • tsurly April 1, 2020 (4:09 pm)

      “All you “get a bike and suck it up” guys out there aren’t thinking about when it downpours and when it’s 20 degrees outside”There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad choice of clothing. It must not be that bad if many of us do it year round. Enjoy paying to park downtown when you move.

    • Michael Freeman April 1, 2020 (9:13 pm)

      Love it!

  • SD April 1, 2020 (2:14 pm)

    Looking at the images of the traffic cams it doesn’t appear that “non-essential” folks are abiding to the rules.  : -| 

    • Jort April 1, 2020 (2:42 pm)

      Maybe you missed it, but I believe each of those people said, “I know this is against the law, but it’s OK if I do it, because I am important and special.”

  • TJ April 1, 2020 (2:38 pm)

    There won’t be enough money to subsidize everything, unless our local goverment does the unthinkable and cuts non essential programs. Doubtful 

    • Jort April 1, 2020 (10:10 pm)

      Can you really call it “our” local government when you’re deliberately choosing to criminally evade local taxes by illegally registering your cars in Spokane?

  • Mr E April 1, 2020 (2:42 pm)

    This afternoon I did what I was told by the city and I used Marginal Way to connect to 1st Ave South. There were a number of private vehicles that chose to use the lower bridge, despite the restrictions we’ve all been asked to adhere to. This is greatly upsetting as the city will task police officers to babysit the lower bridge because people are so incredibly selfish to do their part as a neighbor and resident of West Seattle. Even during a global pandemic, people will show you who they really are. It’s such disgraceful behavior.

  • Eddie April 1, 2020 (2:50 pm)

    Has anyone considered or discussed creating a large parking area east of the low bridge where West Seattle residents could park their vehicles that they use to travel beyond the closed bridge? if there were such a “park and ride” (or maybe it should be “ride and park”) facility available, using transit or biking/walking across the low bridge, to their parked car, might be a reasonable, emergency solution until the bridge is repaired or replaced. After work (or recreation or whyever you you leave the pennisula), you return your parked car to the lot, hop on a waiting bus, grab your bike, or walk across the bridge and go home.Of course it would have to be safe, and have reasonable access to I-5 and 99, excellent transit connections and it wouldn’t hurt if they had bike lockers too.Just sayin’

    • MikeC April 1, 2020 (5:27 pm)

      Eddie, I have been considering doing this as an individual. I haven’t found a good place to park my car, but I think the free market will help me out (for better or for worse).  An organized effort would be better.  I don’t see any other tenable solutions if you have to commute by car to get to work. 

    • Matt P April 1, 2020 (5:56 pm)

      It would require 24/7 security, but tasking a few police officers to this while the bridge is fixed seems reasonable to me.

      • Tsurly April 1, 2020 (8:25 pm)

        I assume car owners are willing to pay for this? The off duty uniformed police officers you see doing traffic control for construction around the city run about $60/hr. Or do you expect the rest of us who don’t drive to subsidize your fantasy (never going to happen anyway) parking lot?

  • WS Transit Rider April 1, 2020 (5:59 pm)

    Current view on the 21 from lower level bridge. Been sitting here at least 10 minutes. No one obeying the SDOT order. What happens when more people go back to work?! 

  • Aaron April 1, 2020 (6:24 pm)

    High bridge repair budget is super easy. Just send a ticket in the mail to every license plate crossing the low bridge right now. Put those out of work school zone cameras back to service!

    • East Coast Cynic April 1, 2020 (8:21 pm)

      Yes, put a camera down there, photograph the plates of the low bridge cheaters and send a $200 ticket in the mail to them.  Just as I received one after a camera photo showed me exceeding the speed limit in a school zone (by just 5 mph).  Do it:).

  • Leelee April 1, 2020 (6:49 pm)

    I would encourage anyone interested in bike commuting to use this time to try out routes downtown/to their jobs— it’s the perfect time to test out what will work for you, and it’ll be fun, too!

  • BridgelessInSeattle April 1, 2020 (7:07 pm)

    I had to go to Bellevue this afternoon around 2 p.m. to sign closing papers (which should have been available to sign virtually, but that’s another rant) and I’d estimate that >80% of personal vehicles were using the low bridge instead of the diversion down Marginal to 99.  On my way back, I was surprised to only see one electronic sign saying the bridge was closed and to “take alternate routes” when you’re about to come off of I-90 west to I-5 south.  Other than that, no detour signs, nothing.  If you’re not familiar with the diversion route back to West Seattle, put your trip in GPS before you get in the car because there is no direction whatsoever.  

  • SK April 1, 2020 (7:08 pm)

    I’m a healthcare worker.  I live in Admiral and take the long way around like everyone else.  It takes me at least twice as long both ways.  I agree with many above that I’m not a special exception.  I just leave my house earlier now and accept that going home will take longer.  — Yes, public transportation is an option.  However, do you really want me, a person at high-risk for exposure with a 3+ day asymptomatic, yet infectious period spreading the virus around to everyone on the water taxi? — The emergency responder exception should be for those on active duty only (i.e. driving in their ambulance, fire truck, or police cruise), not those going home or going to work.  A healthcare worker exception should be for those on-call and responding to an urgent/emergent need to come into the hospital (as I did just the other night–and I took the low bridge because it’s faster).

  • Dan Riley April 1, 2020 (8:41 pm)

    As an Uber driver I’ve been taking all my riders into town via the 1st ave S bridge. Today I had a rider say other Uber drivers are using the lower bridge and he gave me crap for using the Marginal Way route.  Does anyone know the correct protocol for Uber rides?

  • AK April 1, 2020 (9:24 pm)

    Hate to say it but the clog in the system is not the low bridge it is the 5 way light on the West Seattle side of the bridge.  Commuting via West Marginal way clogs up this intersection just as much as taking the low bridge. Just look at it now. The lines are backed up at the light not on the bridge. Right now it doesn’t matter what route you take as there is very little traffic. However, once people head back to work this intersection will be so backed up that no busses, emergency vehicles or anything else will be able to navigate this area low bridge restrictions or not. 

    • K. Davis April 1, 2020 (10:13 pm)

      Absolutely true.  The light timing at this location has to be looked at – and that’s true even for after the high bridge reopens.  The congestion caused by this intersection for both westbound and eastbound traffic is significant.  The anti-car crusaders want to use this particular crisis to try and shove draconian decisions (I saw the dumb comment above about closing some W. Seattle streets to cars completely).  Sanity will prevail … and in time, the bridge will reopen.  In the meantime, we’ll survive this hassle.

      • Jort April 2, 2020 (9:55 am)

        It is not “sanity” to expect the same number of cars that used the high bridge to just transfer down to the low bridge. That’s a mathematical impossibility. “Signal timing” is one of the all-time great phantom panaceas that people think will magically solve congestion. It’s never, ever been proven to relieve congestion and “tweaking” the light cycle at the five-way isn’t going to magically solve the geometric limitation of available space vs. the size of personal vehicles. It is time to get actually creative, and to force cars off the road in favor of alternatives for everybody, including you.

    • sam-c April 2, 2020 (10:25 am)

      AK has a really good point.  The Delridge/ WS access to the low bridge will be blocked  waiting for the light to change so they can access W Marginal.  And yes, some portions of that light totally get skipped during a light cycle.  Can’t remember which ones/ ways but I know I’ve sat there watching traffic cross thru the intersection two X before ever getting a green.

Sorry, comment time is over.