WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE: Revisit its history

(Seattle Municipal Archives photo, West Seattle Bridge construction, 1981)

The 36-year-old West Seattle Bridge’s future is uncertain, as revealed Wednesday, 3+ weeks into its safety shutdown. That’s given rise to questions about its history. If you’re curious, you might be interested in this announcement from the Southwest Seattle Historical Society:

The Southwest Seattle Historical Society has revised and re-released their 2014 “Bridging the Gap” exhibit in a format you can experience from the comfort of your home! The West Seattle bridge closure is on everyone’s mind as we wait to see what the future of peninsula transportation will look like. This is a timely moment to explore the history of how we have commuted across the water — from ferries, to the Mosquito Fleet, to multiple iterations of bridges. The online exhibit consists of a history of transportation to and from the peninsula, historic photos, and a video!

You can see it now, here.

This Seattle Now and Then post from the bridge’s 30th-anniversary summer in 2014 might be of interest, too.

26 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE: Revisit its history"

  • HS April 16, 2020 (11:29 am)

    Both of those sources were great to read. I especially enjoyed all the old photographs and site plans. I’d love to see the trolley return and it was cool to see one pictured in the old photos.

  • Chris April 16, 2020 (11:31 am)

    In the late 1970s, they (we) mounted a petition to secede from Seattle. They (we) hoped to procure funds as a separate municipality to build a new bridge. “

    • Chris April 16, 2020 (12:06 pm)

      Benefits of being separate municipality –  separate, manageable school district, separate police force, control over zoning and permits, control over business taxes and revenue…cons – (having trouble with this one) Why do we want to be a part of Seattle, when it feels like Seattle doesn’t want us? Is it possible to get this on the ballot? 

      • AMD April 16, 2020 (1:49 pm)

        Taxes would be through the roof.  Yes, believe it or not.  West Seattle schools are heavily subsidized by denser neighborhoods with fewer kids.  Roads subsidized by denser neighborhoods where people drive less.  Unincorporated King County’s tax rate is quite a bit steeper than ours for this reason (smaller tax base).  They also considered incorporating themselves, but couldn’t afford it.  If you want to see all the other cons to being outside of city limits, hop over the the White Center site and read the discussions about annexation.  Related to the second half of your post, I never felt like Seattle didn’t want us and I’m sad that you do feel that way.  

      • WSJ April 16, 2020 (4:26 pm)

        West Seattle does not have the tax base or infrastructure to be its own city, period. Everyone already complains about taxation bespoke the fact that the rest of the city’s businesses subsidize us in a major way. 

  • Ebisu April 16, 2020 (11:42 am)

  • YES2WS April 16, 2020 (11:44 am)

    Oh, where is that beautiful, multi-lane road today.

  • Colby April 16, 2020 (12:07 pm)

    The image is flipped, it was really messing with my mind!

  • Michael Waldo April 16, 2020 (12:12 pm)

    A 36 yo birdge falling apart is what happens when governments are made by law to pick the lowest bidder. There has been issues on going. remember the botched repaving a few years ago?

  • WS Taxpayer April 16, 2020 (12:48 pm)

    Note:  2 lanes of traffic each way…Get ‘er done!  

  • West Seattle Guy April 16, 2020 (12:56 pm)

    Not to double comment post – but this seems relevant here. Video on the construction of the bridge from the 80s.  https://youtu.be/ycGLroMK2QQ

  • heyalki April 16, 2020 (1:28 pm)

    Is this old for a bridge? Or was it just badly engineered?

    • Waiting in Line April 16, 2020 (2:33 pm)

      My old neighbor was on the team that designed the WS Bridge; he commented once that the lead engineer wanted to break some type of world record for largest span crossed; said he was pushing them to do something that had never been done before. 

  • Sij April 16, 2020 (2:00 pm)

    Under the circumstances we need to be grateful the bridge shut down before any tragic event took place. If they can repair it, they are estimating the use for only 10 years. Why bother?I think they should do minor repairs and convert the bridge into a recreational park like NYC Highline, and add car ferries to Fauntleroy terminal and figure out a landing spot in Seattle. Somebody, or some committee didn’t do their job right, or didn’t know how to forecast. 

  • Tim K April 16, 2020 (2:42 pm)

    Please note, that 1981 construction photo is flipped 180 degrees. Not that it matters much now. Like many, I drove through that phase and here we are in 2020. We need to deal with the present and live for the future, but oh, for 1981 and the long gone, four lane bascule bridge!To quote Electric Light Orchestra from the song “The Way Life’s Meant to Be”
    As I wander around this wreck of a townWhere people never speak aloudWith its ivory towers and its plastic flowersI wish I was back in 1981Just to see your face, instead of this placeNow I know what you mean to me, oohAnd I wonder (oh, I wonder), yes, I wonder (yes, I wonder)Is this the way life’s meant to be?

    • WSB April 16, 2020 (3:20 pm)

      That’s already been pointed out.This is how it was posted by the Seattle Municipal Archives; we didn’t alter it.

      • Tim K April 16, 2020 (5:22 pm)

        Yes, my apologies for missing Colby’s earlier observation and I didn’t think you would have altered the photo. Guess that detail was missed at the city. Thank you!

  • Don't shoot the messenger April 16, 2020 (3:03 pm)

    Let’s just say I know a guy….. They are not repairing that bridge. If they did it would be very temp (10 years would be impossible) and I quote “Hope to God there isn’t an earthquake.” They will have to build a new bridge and possible tolling. 

    • Slings and arrows April 16, 2020 (4:23 pm)

      If they are not repairing the bridge then why go through this kabuki of shoring for a year? Can’t they just knock it down now and get to work?

      Tell your “guy” we will pay a toll. Just please get to work ASAP.

      • WSJ April 16, 2020 (6:11 pm)

        The shoring work is required in order to stabilize the bridge so that it can be prevented from collapsing onto the lower bridge, and for any demolition work that needs to happen of/when it’s taken down. 

  • AN April 16, 2020 (3:35 pm)

    Amazing how the old ramps under the bridge, east and west from Avalon Way and Harbor AVE as well as the Admiral Way ones, are between 60 and 80 years old and still standing! Goes to show that they just don’t make things the way they used to! 

    • Ross April 17, 2020 (11:20 pm)

      Have you ever actually seen these two bridges?  I mean in person?  Not trying to be a smartass here, i just can’t believe anyone would think these structure are comparable. would think that  a fair  someone would conclude the design of the lower bridge has any bearing is im honestly surprised anyone  hardly co

    • miws April 18, 2020 (7:16 am)

      AN, it should be noted that the two Avalon/Admiral bridges were rebuilt several years ago, although I don’t recall to what extent. —Mike 

  • Drew April 16, 2020 (7:26 pm)

    I was here when the Chavez hit the old drawspan.  Traffic in/out of West Seattle was terrible for years until the new bridge opened.  What a great day that was.  It never occurred to me that we would be contemplating a replacement so soon.  Just a massive display of ineptitude that the city was unable to maintain this bridge for even half it’s designed life!  I hope we get an outside investigation of what went wrong.  SDOT can not be trusted on this subject.  And yes, it’s good that it was closed before it fell down, but that is the absolute lowest bar to clear.

  • Brian April 16, 2020 (9:40 pm)

    SDOT should hire Elon Musk’s Boring company to build a network of tunnels connecting WS, Vashon, and Bainbridge to the city.  Removing the ferry traffic could save the whales.  Win-win.

    • Rumbles April 17, 2020 (2:26 am)

      @ Brian –  The sound is pretty deep, for a tunnel

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