READER REPORT: West Seattle low-bridge reminder

Thinking about ignoring the West Seattle low-bridge rules? Eric has a reason to reconsider:

(Wednesday night) while riding my bike home, I saw the low bridge backed up due to all the cars in line to cross. Then, an ambulance tried to get through. Took nearly 5 minutes. A Seattle incident-response vehicle [photo above] was stuck in traffic because they could not get around everyone safely.

It’s not just saving time. What helps you with a few minutes can mean the difference between life and death to someone else.

Yes, we know, somebody in the photo may be permitted, But here’s a refresher of the low-bridge policy, if you’ve forgotten:

-All traffic allowed 9 pm-5 am
-Rest of the time: Transit (including employer shuttles and “essential worker” vanpools), freight (as in big trucks), emergency vehicles, placard holders (limited amount issued to local business groups, for example)
-Bicycle/pedestrian path open 24/7

Camera enforcement is expected to start this fall, but without monetary penalties until early next year; in the meantime, traffic-enforcement officers are still assigned to the bridge at random times. The policies continue to evolve and, as reported here last night, SDOT is suggesting a subcommittee of the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force to focus on that.

51 Replies to "READER REPORT: West Seattle low-bridge reminder"

  • Blbl September 10, 2020 (3:28 pm)

    Guilt trips and pleading with people will do no good. People will do their own risk-benefit analysis, and the risk is worth it when the alternative is what it currently is. Any loss of life caused by people taking the low bridge lays squarely on the shoulders of SDOT and the mayor. 

    • TM September 10, 2020 (6:05 pm)

      I agree that some tactics may not drive the right (and legal behavior). But I don’t agree that all fault for any consequences from adults making selfish decisions then goes to SDOT and the mayor. We’re all in this together, and not just the bridge situation. 

      • Duffy September 10, 2020 (8:09 pm)

        You can keep saying “we are all in this together”, but until every single West Seattleite plays by the same rules, we are most certainly not all in this together. They need to enforce it the way it is supposed to be enforced. For the life of me I have no idea why they are doing what they are doing now (faux enforcement?)

        • Hammer in Hand September 10, 2020 (8:53 pm)

          100 less officers come to mindless overtime pay for the ones available can’t have it both ways

          • Duffy September 11, 2020 (7:30 am)

            Did the SPOG tell you to say that?

        • TM September 11, 2020 (9:53 am)

          Please reference the part in my comment about “adults making selfish decisions”. Which is the behavior/culture that needs to go away if we want to get through these challenges in the best shape as a community.

    • PrettySimple September 10, 2020 (6:45 pm)

      Any loss of life caused by people taking the low bridge lays squarely on the shoulders of SDOT and the mayor. “  People crossing the bridge illegally do in fact deserve the blame for the consequences of crossing the bridge illegally.

    • Joe Grande September 10, 2020 (8:38 pm)

      How if this the fault of the Mayor and SDOT?  They can’t crap a new bridge. This is an example of the Seattle Motto, “It’s all about me!”

    • Calires September 10, 2020 (11:32 pm)

      Nope, BLBL.  That’s like saying that your car getting broken into by a junkie is the fault of poppy growers in Afghanistan.  The fault lies with the person breaking into your car. 

      • Blbl September 11, 2020 (8:40 am)

        While I hate analogies, Calires, I’ll continue yours: SDOT and the mayor are watching a line of “junkies” break into your car, and they do nothing except tell the junkies they may get a ticket in several months if they see them break into your car then. SDOT & the mayor know about the problem and their only response is to “buy a bike”.  This is on them.  

    • Lincoln Park Mom September 11, 2020 (8:43 am)

      Typical.  It’s always someone else’s fault.  Gawd!

    • rpo September 12, 2020 (4:27 pm)

      So if you purposefully block an ambulance from transporting a patient to a hospital, the fault lies with the city? That’s insane.

    • Steve September 12, 2020 (6:55 pm)

      This is why I support income based fines for traffic violations.  They should be  high enough to hurt. This way the risks can be better evaluated.

  • Anne September 10, 2020 (3:44 pm)

    Unfortunately those that cross in spite of policy are deaf to pleas. It’s all about them. 

    • FrustratedinSeattle September 11, 2020 (10:28 am)

      Yes, I agree, the ultimate decision rests with the driver. I am in W Seattle frequently for work. I also do food delivery in the evening. For months I ignored the flagrant cheaters and stuck to the detours. It was easier then with less traffic, I took pride in following the rules as I fumed about the lack of enforcement. SDOT bragged about adjusting 39 traffic signals in the first month of the detour. Those signals must not be anywhere near the detours, because signalling in the detour area was and continues to be crap. When Covid is over you can travel to Vietnam or other 3rd world countries and see what can be done for moving large volumes of traffic with sychronized signals, but it takes effort and commitment to your craft. Now six months have passed, traffic is increasing. SDOT’s complete refusal to do something resembling work has resulted in huge backups on Marginal that could be relieved if we were in a 3rd world country. SDOT says, “ride a bike for the next two years”. W Seattites keep ordering food from the other side of the bridge and assuming it’s delivered by drone? I’ve joined the ranks of the cheaters, since SPD is on strike now, the guilt is easier to handle than the frustration of sitting behind that signal on Chelan, watching the cars spill onto and off the low bridge. 

  • heartless September 10, 2020 (4:01 pm)


  • heyalki September 10, 2020 (4:16 pm)

    ugh come on people. 

  • Delridge September 10, 2020 (4:19 pm)

    For the last 4 days, Apple iPhone maps have been directing myself and many others to cross the Low bridge. Has anything changed or is Apple’s map data just a tad messed up? Wonder if anyone else is having the same experience. 

    • Anne September 10, 2020 (4:38 pm)

      Not tech savvy-but should Apple Maps know be on top of policies? 

      • newnative September 10, 2020 (5:06 pm)

        GPS-based traffic aides should be able to discern road closures and real-time obstructions. When I typed in directions over the weekend, I didn’t get instructions to cross the lower bridge.  Just now I did, though Google gave me alternatives. 

    • East Coast Cynic September 10, 2020 (4:45 pm)

      Google maps always directs me to 509/1st Ave or South Park. Apple is a cheater. The camera enforcement should start shortly after placement and not wait till next year.

    • Chelle September 10, 2020 (7:15 pm)

      Yes, since March my google maps has taken me on the detour routes, but the last 2 days it’s directed me to go under the bridge.  Although the time difference to get to where we were going was about a 25 minute difference, we had it reroute us to the detour.

    • Observer September 11, 2020 (10:31 am)

      Same thing on Google. It’s because so many people are cheating that the program assumes the closure notice is out of date. 

  • Just wondering September 10, 2020 (4:23 pm)

    Don’t wait  to enforce with fines.  They know what they are doing is wrong.  Make them pay!

    • KBear September 10, 2020 (5:45 pm)

      They’ve already had nearly a 6 month grace period. Fine them immediately. 

  • flimflam September 10, 2020 (5:17 pm)

    This is a tough situation for drivers/commuters and while nobody is perfect (I admit to not following the speed limit at all times, for example) but emergency vehicles need to be able to get through at all times, period.

  • yumpears September 10, 2020 (5:51 pm)

    Delridge – I’m having same experience. Apple iPhone maps has been correct (i.e. knows the bridges are closed) up until a couple days ago. They must have had an update. Its frustrating.

  • Kyle September 10, 2020 (5:56 pm)

    I watched an ambulance take longer than 5 minutes to navigate through the highland park hill during rush hour a week ago. Have we looked at how highland park ambulance times are affected by all the increased congestion in that neighborhood now? 

  • Alki Lover September 10, 2020 (7:31 pm)

    “…but without monetary penalties until early next year.” Why so long? Why must we wait so long for the cheaters to be punished when so many of us are following the rules? And following them because we know how miscreant behavior can turn into a matter of life or death? Why are we to be punished for doing what is right while cheaters get a pass for so many months? Am I the only one outraged by this behavior by motorists as well as our so-called leaders? Is it any wonder Seattle is laughed at for being “process oriented” vs being reality based? Lets spend some filthy lucre on catching the cheaters now. The first week of fines ought to pay for the “process.”

    • KM September 11, 2020 (7:54 am)

      According to an SDOT presentation a couple week ago, the first time the automated enforcement catches a driver cheating, only a warning will be sent. Drivers are getting off too easy.

  • Duffy September 10, 2020 (8:12 pm)

    Seattle is a mess. Period. I love this city and I’m not leaving, but we are in a historic time of complete failure but the city’s “leadership”. It’s pathetic. I’m pouring another glass of wine.

    • WSREZ September 11, 2020 (10:35 am)

      Lol. all we can do at this point. *Sigh* pours another glass of wine and raises a cheer to you, Duffy. 

  • Smittytheclown September 10, 2020 (8:38 pm)

    Would one ambulance collapse the high bridge?  

    • AB83 September 10, 2020 (9:26 pm)

      No it wouldn’t 

    • Lagartija Nick September 11, 2020 (1:38 pm)

      Of course not, but then you’d have to man the blockades at every ingress/egress point to the bridge 24/7. Are you willing to pony up the extra taxes to pay for that? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

      • Kyle September 11, 2020 (5:21 pm)

        Isn’t that exactly what people are calling for the police to do on the low bridge? Yes it might cost a little money to implement, but might be worth it to restore another lane of capacity for use during the bridge closure.

  • WS98 September 10, 2020 (9:15 pm)

    It’s so interesting how people turn on city leadership whenever they don’t like what’s being done or how it’s handled. This blame game has been going on for decades, let’s take the high road people.Per my FIL who builds bridges, the bridge failure actually sits squarely on the shoulders of the contractors/engineers/architects who didn’t build it correctly in the first place.The bridge had been closed for a little over 5 months, IMO every vehicle that disobeys the rules for the lower bridge should be heavily fined. 

  • Jon Wright September 10, 2020 (9:38 pm)

    A bunch of folks are all twitterpated because fines don’t start “until early next year.” As a result, they are convinced that Seattle government is clearly a bunch of nincompoops! This is why our country is going down the tubes, because ignorant people are convinced their opinions are important.

    The ability to place automated enforcement cameras is governed by state law. Relatively recently, the state established a pilot program to extend camera enforcement to some additional things like transit lane violations. Per that state law, “through December 31, 2020, a warning notice with no penalty must be issued to the registered owner of the vehicle for a violation generated through the use of an automated traffic safety camera authorized in this subsection.” Sorry clueless angry people, the city has nothing to do with “no tickets until next year.” Check it out here if you are curious:

    It took less than 5 minutes of Googling to find that, so anyone who was interested in becoming informed instead of spouting off some impotent outrage could have found it, too.

    • KM September 11, 2020 (8:04 am)

      Jon, thanks for pointing this out. In SDOTs presentation, it says that registered owners would receive a warning, and monetary fines would start in 2021. I understood this as warnings first, even when fines are implemented. Is that not the case? Will registered owners receive fines on their first offense in 2021?

  • Mj September 10, 2020 (10:51 pm)

    The low level bridge capacity needs to be fully assigned, the SDoT has instituted an arbitrarily low number using emergency vehicle as an excuse.  This is a red herring, emergency vehicles navigate congested streets all the time, flashing lights and sirens kinda gets the message across.  Allowing motorcyclists to use the low level bridge should be a no brainer.

  • Jimf909 September 10, 2020 (11:17 pm)

    Goodness, so a citizen ignores the law, behaves in a way that creates negative consequences for a neighbor-citizen and this is the mayor’s fault? What other personal accountability issues do you expect the government to fix for you? 

  • Latenighter September 11, 2020 (12:10 am)

     The two times Apple maps has directed me over the low bridge, I realized it was after 9 PM.  Checking during the day it’s always detoured.

  • skeeter September 11, 2020 (8:21 am)

    I bike across the low bridge often.  One day I decided to count the number of vehicles crossing illegally.  37.  In the time I biked across the bridge, 37 car drivers disobeyed the rules and crossed the bridge against the law.  It seems strange to me that SPD doesn’t ticket drivers once in a while to get folks to comply.

  • APM September 11, 2020 (8:56 am)

    Is any consideration being given to expanding public use of the low bridge to weekends? I have to admit it’s frustrating to be sitting in a long line of cars at the 5 way intersection and seeing almost zero traffic on the low bridge, as there is minimal truck traffic on weekends. The temptation may be too much for some. Maybe even allow outbound traffic from 6am to 6pm and inbound traffic from 6pm to 6am to throw West Seattle a bone? 

  • Ben September 11, 2020 (9:08 am)

    Um, I just saw the note in the original post about “limited placards given to local businesses”.  I have a local business – right at the footings of the tall bridge!  No one asked me if I wanted a placard, this is the first I’ve heard of it.  Um – who can I call about that??  I suspect I don’t know the right people, lol

    • WSB September 11, 2020 (10:09 am)

      We’ve mentioned it several times in ongoing coverage. I’d imagine the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce has probably announced it to its membership as well. Not sure what their rules/policies/criteria are, and whether it’s a “members only” thing, but you can ask.

  • skeeter September 11, 2020 (10:36 am)

    My understanding of the limited placards for local business
    is they are very restrictive.  The
    placards cannot be used for, say, commuting. 
    They cannot be used for customers or patients and so forth.  They can only be used if your business
    operations require employee travel between West Seattle and the mainland while
    performing duties.  For example (this is
    made up) if a security patrol business has a client on Harbor Island and a
    client on Harbor Avenue, that business might be considered for a placard
    because employees have to travel back and forth during the course of performing
    their work duties.  Again, this example
    is made up – it’s just my understanding of who might potentially be considered. 

    • WSB September 11, 2020 (11:34 am)

      While we haven’t seen how the WSCoC has or has not communicated about it, we have seen the Junction Association’s notes, and yes, the passes are described as being intended for businesses who have to make “supply runs,” and are checked out a day at a time.

  • Saaly September 11, 2020 (1:59 pm)

    What I don’t understand is the lack of signs at the bridge itself that state the restrictions clearly. There  should be signs that say something like “TRANSIT/TRUCKS ONLY BETWEEN 5AM-9PM”. I think some amount of  the drivers using the bridge illegally is just from not knowing the restrictions and seeing so many other cars going on the bridge.

    • WSB September 13, 2020 (2:04 pm)

      There are signs but you’re right, they’re not clear. If you’re headed northbound at the end of Delridge, there’s a longrunning misspelled signboard with messages including


  • DiverLaura September 11, 2020 (2:06 pm)

    how about special use placards for folks taking care of patients or family caregivers on the ‘other side’ yeah, you’d have to prove it with a doctors note, but as a primary caregiver for my aging father I’d jump through ALL the hoops I had to, just for the chance I could get to him in under an hour during a weekday.  Here’s how it looks right now… yesterday trying to do the ‘detour’ had a MILES long back up not only on the side streets but then they CLOSED the 1st ave bridge in middle of morning.   Traffic was backed up for miles and anyone who was lucky enough to be caught the backup with access to an offramp ended up having to drive south to the …14th ave bridge…   I have totally shifted my caregiving schedule to 9pm and later, but as folks have mentioned, opening up for weekend use would be super helpful, and not ridiculous at all.  The situation as is, is pretty untenable.   For those for which this is no inconvenience and you just want us all to pull out our bikes and pedal with a weeks worth of groceries, check your privilege and please have some empathy to others in more challenging situations than your own.  

Sorry, comment time is over.