13 scenes from a year without the West Seattle Bridge

(Illuminated traffic sign shortly after the closure began, March 23, 2020)

One year ago tonight – at 7 pm March 23, 2020 – the West Seattle Bridge was closed, just 4 hours after the city announced it was unsafe for traffic. The last-minute word of that 3 pm briefing came minutes after a reader emailed us to say they just heard a rumor the bridge had to close for a year-plus of emergency repairs. We found it hard to believe … but it was true. Hours later, crews were blocking off the bridge entrances:

(35th/Fauntleroy bridge entrance, March 23)

West Marginal Way – a street some West Seattleites had never traveled – was suddenly a major route to and from the peninsula.

(West Marginal Way traffic beneath the bridge, March 24)

Traffic through Highland Park increased dramatically. Within a week, a rush-installed signal was up at the long-suffering intersection of Highland Park Way and Holden.

(March 29)

In April, we learned the bridge wouldn’t reopen before 2022. By May, ramps were more enduringly blocked off:

(May 2020, Delridge onramp)

Police – and later, cameras – worked to enforce restrictions on the low bridge:

(April 2020 reader photo by Dean)

Streets beyond West Seattle filled with cut-through drivers to and from alternate bridges; though SDOT was working on mitigation plans, South Park neighbors took action of their own:

(June 2020 reader photo by Robin)

Work began to keep the bridge from falling down before the replace-or-repair decision could be made:

(June 2020 SDOT photo – taking samples off side of bridge)

(July 2020 – workers atop and under the bridge)

In case of complete cutoff, emergency personnel made sure they could get to West Seattle no matter what:

(June 2020 Airlift NW/Seattle FD drill at Alki Playfield)

Winter came. Still bridgeless, but the stabilization work was done, and the work platforms came down by year’s end.

(November photo by Tony Welch)

In February, a spooky sight as the traffic-free bridge filled with February snow, unplowed

(February 14 image from SDOT camera over the high bridge)

And now … in spring … the empty bridge awaits permanent repairs:

(Reader photo by Mike Burns)

Later today, more anniversary coverage, including where things stand now.

34 Replies to "13 scenes from a year without the West Seattle Bridge"

  • Former WS Res March 23, 2021 (10:31 am)

    It was also the same day the Governor announced the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order.  Quite a big day for WS.

    • WSB March 23, 2021 (11:41 am)

      It was. We’ll be commemorating that in tonight’s virus roundup, if not sooner.

  • Joe Z March 23, 2021 (11:09 am)

    One year of car noise and pollution replaced with peace and quiet.
    One year of the Avalon Triangle becoming less of a danger to cyclists and pedestrians.
    One year of staying ‘on the island’ and discovering more of our wonderful local businesses.
    One year of the C-line getting quickly downtown without having to merge with cars onto 99 N.
    One year of West Seattle turning into a better version of Kitsap.
    Here’s to another year+ of no bridge! Keep taking your time SDOT :)

    • Derek March 23, 2021 (12:22 pm)

      How privileged of you! Are you trolling? Maybe your life got easier. Not mine. This has added an hour of commute time a day. As well as cars speeding through my neighborhood to cut around the detour and nearly killing little kids playing. I truly despise these kind of comments of high privilege. We need the bridge up and running ASAP!

      • Jort March 23, 2021 (1:22 pm)

        I encourage you to bike or take the bus instead! It is likely to be much faster.

        • Derek March 23, 2021 (2:28 pm)

          How will taking the bus stop everyone else from speeding through my neighborhood?

        • jerry h March 23, 2021 (4:56 pm)

          @JORT, Thanks! motorcycle >>>> bicycle > car

        • 1994 March 23, 2021 (8:35 pm)

          Jort – are you really Heather Marx from SDoT incognito?

          • Heather Marx March 25, 2021 (8:53 am)

            Nope.  I sign my name.

    • AHneighbor March 23, 2021 (12:26 pm)

      Sounds lovely. Unfortunately the bridge closure hasn’t affected all West Seattle residents the same, and there are many neighborhoods that weren’t designed to handle so much traffic now dealing with quite a large volume of cut-through drivers, many of whom seem incredibly upset about the reroute. Just another perspective. 

    • LPM March 23, 2021 (12:32 pm)

      Don’t you mean “Keep spreading, Covid!”?

    • Joe Z March 23, 2021 (1:37 pm)

      Obviously the negative externalities of our car-oriented society are now being felt by other neighborhoods. That’s unfortunate for everyone. I can’t even imagine how long the car commutes are going to get as everything starts to reopen in the next few months.

      It’s also unfortunate that when the West Seattle Bridge does reopen, the superhighway from the Junction to I-5 will return as before. I was happy to see that SDOT recently committed to a 65-75% reduction in car trips by 2035. So the high bridge and connector highway can finally be removed in a couple decades (presumably after light rail opens). The early preview of the future has been nice (assuming this city gets serious about climate change beyond just having everyone sit in traffic in electric cars instead of internal combustion engines).

  • Jort March 23, 2021 (12:11 pm)

    Another sad reminder of, after foolishly designing our entire American society around private automobiles, how strong our dependence is on them. I was and continue to be disappointed that SDOT and the city’s “leader”ship didn’t treat this like the society-altering emergency it is and take immediate and forceful steps to deeply reduce car dependency in West Seattle and begin massive investments in alternative transportation for every citizen. Instead, we get band-aids and political leaders without the courage to tell people, “No, you are not entitled to a fast car commute, you will sit in a nightmare hellscape of insufferable traffic and if you don’t like it, you can take a bus, walk or bike.” That is the kind of actual leadership this city needs, instead of virtue signalling to cyclists and transit users with watered-down half-measures. This was an opportunity to make transformative changes to free us from an unfixable problem and our leaders chose, instead, to continue to pretend that somehow focusing the overwhelming majority of our transportation resources on cars will end up working.

    • Joe Z March 23, 2021 (1:40 pm)

      To me it is most disappointing that they are still committing to a replacement high bridge to be constructed sometime in the 2030s or 40s. I can’t imagine how a new high bridge will be consistent with any of the strategic climate change plans of the city/county/state. 

      • k March 23, 2021 (2:17 pm)

        Spot on, Joe.

    • Will S. March 23, 2021 (4:05 pm)

      Has it really been only one year of you guys gloating about the misery of people who drive? It feels like much longer.

    • Sam March 23, 2021 (6:09 pm)

      I feel like I would disagree with Joe on practically every social issue. But he’s right 

    • skeeter March 24, 2021 (9:32 am)

      Amen Jort!  You are an inspiration.  In my view, the West Seattle Bridge didn’t break in March 2020.  It broke in September 2018.  As I sat in my car through cycle after cycle of red lights on Delridge – traffic backed up for a mile or longer – I decided to make a change.  I put fenders on my bike and invested in some waterproof outerwear.  Since then I have logged 940 (one way) bike commutes across the lower bridge.  Including this morning.  I’ve never been happier or healthier.  I understand not everyone can bike.  So if you are a car driver, *please* support safer and better bike routes.  That will free up road space for those who cannot bike or don’t want to bike.  It’s a huge waste of time to have people sitting in traffic not moving.  We can do better.  

  • Deb March 23, 2021 (12:38 pm)

    Joni Mitchell said it so well – ‘Don’t it always seem to go That you don’t know what you’ve got Till it’s gone …’

    • k March 23, 2021 (1:06 pm)

      …what about the rest of that chorus? 

      • waikikigirl March 23, 2021 (4:00 pm)

        They paved paradise And put up a parking lot With a pink hotel *, a boutique And a swinging hot spot Don’t it always seem to go That you don’t know what you’ve got Till it’s gone They paved paradise And put up a parking lotThey took all the trees Put ’em in a tree museum * And they charged the people A dollar and a half just to see ’em Don’t it always seem to go That you don’t know what you’ve got Till it’s gone They paved paradise And put up a parking lotHey farmer farmer Put away that DDT * now Give me spots on my apples But leave me the birds and the bees Please! Don’t it always seem to go That you don’t know what you’ve got Till it’s gone They paved paradise And put up a parking lotLate last nightI heard the screen door slamAnd a big yellow taxiTook away my old manDon’t it always seem to goThat you don’t know what you’ve gotTill it’s goneThey paved paradiseAnd put up a parking lotThey paved paradiseAnd put up a parking lot

    • AMD March 23, 2021 (1:31 pm)

      “They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot.”

  • Curiousabout March 23, 2021 (1:45 pm)

    All the weight from the February snow didn’t make the bridge topple down??? 

  • PD March 23, 2021 (2:36 pm)

    WSB I honestly can’t fathom a photo essay of this bridge year without any photos of the increase in bicyclists who have discovered a wonderful way to achieve their commute and now have no intention of returning to the high bridge on a daily basis. That’s not the only story or even the biggest story but I would hope that you would strive to include it. Media so often gets caught up in the car centric storyline.

    • West Sea Resident March 23, 2021 (4:10 pm)

      I haven’t noticed any increase in bicycles using the lower bridge when I ride. I tried bicycling to work and almost got killed on three different occasions. Very stressful. So now I just take the bus and walk. I also walk to the grocery store and most of my errands. I don’t know about this car-centric narrative, but I do know that cycling to work during rush hour in poor lighting with drivers in a hurry and still drinking  coffee or putting on make-up is dangerous and not advisable. Now I just ride when I can after work around the neighborhood for exercise. And it’s still stressful. The bicycle promoters are completely out of touch with reality and consistently gloss over the dangers of cycling. 

      • reed March 23, 2021 (5:06 pm)

        “I don’t know about this car-centric narrative, but I do know that cycling to work during rush hour in poor lighting with drivers in a hurry and still drinking  coffee or putting on make-up is dangerous and not advisable.”Thank you for identifying the core issue that drivers are the single biggest threat to cyclists, not a little bit of rain and occasional wind. You make an excellent argument to improve cycling infrastructure around the city.

      • Spoked March 23, 2021 (11:02 pm)

        Sorry to break it to you, but you are still at risk by such drivers when walking or driving in another vehicle. 

        Also, you make a good argument for better bike infrastructure. Separate bike lanes make the roads safer for cyclists.

        Imagine if pedestrians had to walk in car traffic… they are safer on sidewalks, and cyclists are safer in bike lanes.

    • troj March 23, 2021 (5:25 pm)

      lol what a joke. I started biking to work out of necessity, but I cant wait to go back to driving (in an electric car before you get on your climate change high horse). showing up to work wet in the dark with freezing hands and teary eyes  is not fun.

  • Michael Myers March 23, 2021 (6:15 pm)

    A year of slow, ineffective city government limping along. Biking to work isn’t a long term reality since you take your life into the hands of distracted drivers.  🤦‍♂️🙄

  • Xana La Fuente March 23, 2021 (7:39 pm)

    Someone I know swares its now OK to drive on one of the WS Bridges ( he didnt specify ) He claims that after 9 pm its open.I need to know! Please! Correct answer!?

    • WSB March 23, 2021 (8:13 pm)

      The low bridge has been open for months to all traffic 9 pm-5 am 7 days a week.

  • Spoked March 23, 2021 (11:10 pm)

    That photo of the worker taking a sample from under the bridge while dangling high in the air… wow, that takes some, nerve! Cool photo!

  • Kathy March 24, 2021 (11:05 am)

    During this time of lower traffic volumes in the Fauntleroy Boulevard Project corridor, couldn’t we finally get some painted bike lanes along the 4-lane “Fauntleroy Freeway”? I seem to recall when the project we planned for 25 years was abruptly cancelled, Durkan, Herbold and SDOT promised some interim safety improvements, but these never materialized for people biking we only got one pedestrian crossing significantly improved. There is more than enough room in the right of way to add some painted bike lanes. Although traffic volumes may be lower, it has caused speeding to increase, so the danger to people biking is as high as ever. If SDOT is serious about increasing bike share, they need to get busy on providing connected bike routes.

Sorry, comment time is over.