FOLLOWUP: What’s next for West Seattle’s low bridge, 3+ weeks into camera enforcement

(File photo)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Lots of new information today in the fourth week of camera enforcement on the West Seattle low bridge.

Its use has been restricted since just after the high bridge closed last March 23rd. Seattle Police were periodically present in the area to enforce the restrictions, but a new state law allowed the city to pursue automated enforcement, and two cameras were turned on January 11th.

A subcommittee of the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force has met more than a dozen times to review and discuss low-bridge policy, current and future. Subcommittee member Lora Radford of the West Seattle Junction Association joined us in a conversation this morning with SDOT’s Meghan Shepard.

According to Shepard, traffic is down about a quarter on the low bridge since the automated-enforcement cameras were activated.

She also confirmed what a WSB comment last weekend revealed – though the city had said there would be no grace period, the “first couple of weeks” did result in warnings being sent to those caught breaking the rules, not $75 citations. “Several hundred” violations were being recorded daily, Shepard said.

What they learn about traffic patterns with the enforcement in place is what will enable them to decide whether the bridge restrictions can be loosened, and/or new user groups added. This week, SDOT is adding one user group – on-call health-care workers who have to quickly respond to a facility on the other side of the river. If someone in that situation uses the low bridge and receives a citation, they will be able to get it dropped via a special process:

Shepard said they’re not certain how many people that will affect, so they’ve launched a survey and Q&A sessions to try to get a sense of that. Next potential group would be patients who need to get across the river for potentially life-saving treatment. According to Shepard, that will be difficult to define, so they’re in a fact-finding mode for starters, with no timeline yet on when that might happen. As for other user groups, or expanded hours for open access (currently 9 pm-5 am seven days a week), she said that changes are “always on the table.”

Right now, those allowed to use the bridge remain:

If you are a West Seattle business and think you should qualify – you can contact the WSJA or West Seattle Chamber of Commerce if you are a member of either organization, or email if not. WSJA, for example, has 84 vehicles on its list; Shepard said the access list is evaluated monthly. It goes to the enforcement-camera vendor, Verra, to sort out the permitted vehicles from the violators.

They continue to “reserve” capacity on the low bridge for trucks that will be using it when Terminal 5’s north berth opens for cargo use as soon as June. How many trucks are expected? Shepard said the original numbers used to calculate capacity were from the Environmental Impact Statement for the T-5 modernization project, and they’re currently evaluating new numbers just received from the port.

More low-bridge updates are expected when the full WSBCTF meets next week – 4 pm Thursday, February 11th (check here for the viewing link).

48 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: What's next for West Seattle's low bridge, 3+ weeks into camera enforcement"

  • WSEA is the best SEA February 3, 2021 (2:57 pm)

    Let’s get this puppy opened up on the weekend to general access. 

    • WS resident February 3, 2021 (3:03 pm)

      There is no way, the bridge is only supposed to be able to hold 20 vehicles daily, last thing we need is another bridge closing, due to heavy traffic. 

      • WS resident February 4, 2021 (8:44 am)

        20k obviously what I meant. 

    • andrew February 3, 2021 (5:42 pm)

      people still need ambulances and busses on the weekends, too, though.

      • WS resident February 4, 2021 (8:42 am)

        Precisely why the bridge should not be opened to all drivers, the bridge cannot sustain more than 20k cars daily, and if we lose that bridge, no ambulances are making it to WS in due time. It takes 5-7 extra minutes to go around, I do it 5 days a week. Sometimes I find it’s faster than the WSB or lower bridge would’ve been. 

        • John February 10, 2021 (6:47 pm)

          Outside of daytime hours, it might be 5-7 minutes if you’re lucky. During the day? No way.

    • Sea-wa February 3, 2021 (5:55 pm)

      At least open up the hours a bit over the weekend. Have access till 10am vs 5am. 

    • JD February 8, 2021 (10:15 pm)

      YES YES YES!!!

  • AB83 February 3, 2021 (3:43 pm)

    You know I honestly do believe that on-call healthcare workers that need to be to the job site by a certain time after They get the call should be allowed to use a Low Bridge “but” why in the heck do any more West Seattle businesses need authorization to use The Low Bridge -They have all day to go around and get the supplies they need- Yet they take away the access from the people Who actually used this bridged to travel to the job site on Harbor Harbor Island Way before they shut the west Seattle Bridge down where the heck is the representation for Harbor Island workers that live in West Seattle this is beyond ridiculous has SDOT Ever actually looked at the freight traffic coming in to Harbor Island from the east side where they want everyone that works on Harbor Island and lives in West Seattle to come from and what about terminal five when it opens back up there’s gonna be so much more truck traffic down there it’s going to be crazy 

  • AdmiralPiggy February 3, 2021 (3:58 pm)

    @WS Resident – Only 20 vehicles daily? Another bridge closing due to heavy traffic?? This type of misinformation is dangerous.

    • WS resident February 4, 2021 (8:44 am)

      Dangerous? The K didn’t make it after the 20, assuming any reasonable person would’ve been able to figure that out, seeing as 10 cars would be ludicrous. I hope I didn’t cause you any danger with my typo. 

      • jd February 8, 2021 (10:17 pm)

        I didn’t now that!

    • rpo February 4, 2021 (8:54 am)

       I believe they meant 2,000 vehicles a day. That’s the # I remember being cited a while back.    

  • W Sea Resident February 3, 2021 (4:00 pm)

    Still concerned about emergency vehicle access. The bottleneck at that five way intersection by Chelan café can create back ups for eastbound traffic. With the current design and partitions, I don’t see how an ambulance could circumvent the line of cars.

  • CarDriver February 3, 2021 (4:30 pm)

    Freight vehicles over 10,000 gvw. WOWZER!!!! Watched SPD motorcycle officers wave across the bridge a LOT of “freight” (they had a LOOSE definition of)vehicles that were DEFINEATLY under that weight. A lot of surprised people getting tickets!!!  Bet they can’t fight their tickets!

  • sna February 3, 2021 (4:40 pm)

    Give every vehicle 1-2 trips per month across the low bridge before ticketing.  You don’t want the bridge to be under-utilized. 

    • rpo February 4, 2021 (8:55 am)

      No, we don’t want it to be overutilized and incur damage that would leave us with no bridge at all.

      • Birdied February 4, 2021 (11:00 am)

        On the contrary, some of us think no bridge is an excellent solution.

  • Frustrated February 3, 2021 (6:42 pm)

    A lot of meetings but no decisions.   But everything is “on the table”.   It’s so obvious that the weekend closure needs to be loosened.   I was heading out of town at 730am on Sunday and there were NO VEHICLES on the bridge.   Let’s use some common sense SDOT.

  • Smittytheclown February 3, 2021 (6:50 pm)

    Waste of road.  Give everyone a couple of passes per month based on plate number.  It will make everyone’s commute better by reducing the traffic of W Marginal.  Figure it out.

  • CarDriver February 3, 2021 (6:54 pm)

    Frustrated. SDOT has shown that common sense is something they’re not capable of. They’ve had almost a full year to study traffic patterns on the low bridge. What’s been learned?? That SDOT hasn’t cared to study traffic patterns on the low bridge. As i’ve said before SDOT will proclaim that more vehicles can use the low bridge about a month before the repaired(if they get around to it)high bridge reopens. SDOT: shall we hold our breath????

    • WSB February 3, 2021 (10:23 pm)

      The traffic patterns they’re studying now are what’s changed since automated enforcement started. That has been three weeks, not “almost a full year.”

      • Bronson February 4, 2021 (7:11 am)

        With all due respect @WSB, the traffic patterns they are studying now have absolutely no bearing on what traffic will look like should they open the low bridge up a bit. They have had almost a year to study the traffic patterns that would reflect real-life usage given the very limited, mostly absent, enforcement of low bridge restrictions during that time. SDOT – “Oh look, no one is using the low bridge now and there is capacity to add a few more hours.” Thanks Captain Obvious! You could have learned that over the past 10 months. Another Seattle process gone awry. By the time they make the decision on adding hours, the upper bridge will be repaired. While we’re at it, let’s study the temperature affects on the bridge repairs! Oh wait, we have likely already had our lowest temperatures for the winter. This city is unbelievable. 

        • WSB February 8, 2021 (7:17 am)

          No, we have not!

  • Lisa February 4, 2021 (1:25 am)

    I wish there was something that would work for medical professionals who work 12 hour shifts. Both days and nights. 

    • Reed February 4, 2021 (10:00 am)

      Lots of people work +12 hours per day; why should one group get special treatment?

      • Lisa February 5, 2021 (1:40 am)

        Then all 12 hour shifts. 

  • LINDA February 4, 2021 (9:20 am)

    Please open to traffic on weekends, this closure has put stress on the people of West Seattle.Please consider opening to all on weekends, thanks so much! 

  • nate February 4, 2021 (9:31 am)

    Assuming “several hundred” tickets per day is 300, times $75/ticket, pencils out to $22,500/day.  Multiply that by 7 days per week is $157,500/week, or approximately $630,000 per month, or approximately $7.5M/year.  I would also assume this number will only go up with the vaccination rate.  That’s a lot of money.  I wonder how many people are using it as an expensive toll bridge?  

    • bill February 4, 2021 (12:01 pm)

      From what I’ve noticed crossing on my bike, the number of Lexuses and BMWs registered in West Seattle would give you an estimate. The fine needs to be based on the offending vehicle’s original MSRP. 

      • tony February 4, 2021 (3:56 pm)

        100% agree with you Bill. Each time I cross the bridge on my bike I consistently see expensive imports as the dominant non-commercial or govt vehicles on the bridge.

      • My two cents ... February 4, 2021 (3:59 pm)

        @bill – what about the situation where you purchased your Lexus or BMW to use your examples as a used vehicle? Is it fair to judge someone based on the vehicle they drive?

        • bill February 4, 2021 (9:45 pm)

          If you flout the law in a status symbol car it is perfectly fair to judge you based on the vehicle. The MSRP of an older car will be less than a new model. MSRP is not subject to fudging in a seller’s report of sale. It may not be a perfect proxy for the owner’s prosperity, but it is simple and easily comprehended and administered. A fine based on some measure of a vehicle’s value is much fairer than a fixed dollar amount that is a severe blow to a low-wage worker while trivial to someone in the top 20%.

          • My two cents ... February 4, 2021 (11:40 pm)

            @bill LOL … next thing on your agenda, increased tax levels for those people buying designer water instead of tap water, or we could tax people based on designer clothing, and why not food also? That artisan meat? Nope.  You shifted gears and suddenly  it’s ok for anyone to cross the bridge – but we should have a graduated scale based on the model of your car? The State can’t even get around an income tax – you expect the City to be able to implement such a proposal in what decade? 

          • Reed February 5, 2021 (6:55 am)

            Two cents makes a good point. Owning a car that you can’t afford is the American way; car rich and house/everything else poor, just to show some kind of “status”. 

          • My two cents ... February 5, 2021 (8:46 am)

            There are also people out there that don’t necessarily live in the largest house, or take expensive vacations but enjoy their “luxury” car. The whole premise of automatically assuming things based on the car you drive seems like … profiling? Hhmmm.

  • CarDriver February 4, 2021 (12:20 pm)

    Nate. That’s what SDOT has done. The wealthy have been given their own bridge.

  • Dare February 4, 2021 (3:13 pm)

    Living within walking distance of the Spokane Street exit somehow becomes more and more infuriating with each passing day.  8pm to 6am would even help!

  • Gokargirl February 4, 2021 (10:07 pm)

    The City Council anc SDOT have something going on that we don’t know about. And it’s always about the $. A sound straight forward solution that benefits the residents of West Seattle is what is needed. 

  • zark00 February 5, 2021 (12:19 am)

    Couldn’t they let like carpools through, or motorcycles, or something? It really seems to me like more sub par work from SDOT.  Make it a 4-person carpool, that’s pretty limiting.  If they really gave a crap about ‘reconnecting west seattle’ they’d be stopping the people just willing to pay the fine and not just collecting their money. SDOT is really phoning this one in.

  • Sb2780 February 5, 2021 (12:19 pm)

    This is definitely just a money grab—even for people who are trying to obey the law. Notice the time stamp on the ticket…a whole 45 seconds. If SDOT is going to measure time down to the second for issuing a violation, they need to put up a stop watch clock. This city is unreal.

    • Reed February 5, 2021 (1:02 pm)

      Or you can be an adult and plan accordingly. I drove over the bridge last night and gave myself a 10 minute buffer just to be sure, seemed like common sense to me. Time management is my responsibility, not the city’s. 

    • skeeter February 5, 2021 (1:52 pm)

      SB2780 – thanks for posting.  I was wondering if enforcement had gone live.  Personally, I don’t think this is just the city’s attempt at a money grab.  The city is trying to enforce the rules, and the only tool they have is a stick.  

    • TS February 8, 2021 (2:43 pm)

      16 seconds! And my GPS time synced phone read 9:00 PM when approaching the bridge. SDOT might want to check their clocks. I would expect a ± 60 second grace period or margin for error. 

      • WSB February 8, 2021 (3:16 pm)

        Was that a fine or a warning? Asking because SDOT said last week (as noted in this story) that they had, unannounced, issued warnings for “a couple weeks” but 1/22 would be less than two weeks after camera activation. Thank you.

        • TS February 8, 2021 (4:14 pm)

          This was a courtesy warning notice. No fine or penalty, other than it being recorded in their system.

  • Scott February 6, 2021 (8:12 am)

    Don’t like the current time restrictions? Here is a petition asking SDOT to change the times to more reasonable hours.

  • JD February 8, 2021 (10:23 pm)

    My trip to surgery Monday morning, ONE HOUR to capitol hill and I take all the secret routes.  I passed a lot of stuck people in long slow moving lines.  Open the low bridge and it would take 10 -15 minutes for all of us.  Waste of fuel and more pollution, really Seattle?Idea – Restrict the amount of vehicles on the bridge at any given time to reduce stress, set up a red/green light like on the I-5 on ramps…come on mannn do I have to do this myself?!!?

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