WEST SEATTLE LOW BRIDGE: Here’s how access is about to expand

(File photo)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The rules for who gets to drive on the West Seattle low bridge, and when, are changing.

SDOT is announcing the new access rules at today’s West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force meeting (watch here). We and other media got a pre-meeting briefing on the changes.

First, the key points; we’ll get into the details after the short version.

OPEN-TO-ALL HOURS: Three more hours are being added on Saturday and Sunday mornings, 5-8 am, which means the low bridge will be unrestricted 9 pm Friday to 8 am Saturday, 9 pm Saturday to 8 am Sunday, and 9 pm-5 am the other five nights/mornings.

That’s the only added access that doesn’t require SDOT approval for drivers. All the rest will be via pre-authorized license plates:

PATIENTS WHO NEED LIFE-SAVING MEDICAL TREATMENTS: Applications for this will open tomorrow.

ON-CALL HEALTH-CARE PROVIDERS: Applications for this previously announced change will open soon.

RETAIL AND RESTAURANT BUSINESSES: All West Seattle businesses in these sectors are welcome to apply for access to use the low bridge.

RIDESHARING: They’re going to expand the definition to align with what the state Department of Licensing allows via special ride-share plates, which, for example, could open low-bridge use to a family who uses its vehicle to transport multiple families’ children to schools on the other side of the river.

SDOT says all of the above will combine to potentially double the number of allowable non-emergency/transit/freight trips on the bridge daily. In all, they have been allowing access that could have totaled up to 450 trips a day – though they have only been seeing around 250 of those types of trips lately; these changes will open the door for up to 900 trips.

But SDOT emphasizes that these are temporary changes and could be rolled back at any time, including once Terminal 5 reopens for cargo after its first “modernized” berth is complete next year.

Now, the details:

“Life-saving medical treatments” will not be defined by a set list – it’s up to your health-care provider to verify that you need low-bridge access to get to and from your treatments. SDOT’s Meghan Shepard says the verification process will be similar to how providers verify that people are eligible for disabled-parking placards. SDOT will not ask for your personal health information, just for provider verification. Once granted, this authorization will last for 90 days, and then you’d have to apply to renew it.

On-call health-care providers will need employer verification; the application process will open by the end of this month.

Businesses that are authorized to use the low bridge now will keep that access through May 31st, but otherwise, everything starts fresh.

In the pilot program over the past several months, businesses mostly sought access through the West Seattle Junction Association or Chamber of Commerce, first with physical placards, then with license-plate numbers once the enforcement cameras were activated. SDOT had final say. Now they’re taking over complete administration of access, and there will be a “portal” – with translation – through which businesses will be able to apply. More than 600 businesses will now be eligible, SDOT says, whereas previously about 160 were participating. These are not commute trips, though – they are to be limited to “urgent trips to pick up equipment or supplies.”

Maritime/Harbor Island business access is not changing.

For the expanded ride-share access, you have to have a state-issued plate.

All of this information, and application links, will be made available via the SDOT webpage for the low bridge.

Meantime, we will update/extend this story with whatever additional information comes up during the presentation/discussion at today’s Community Task Force meeting.

ADDED THURSDAY NIGHT: No major discussion during the Community Task Force meeting; members who had advocated for adding life-saving-treatment patients had words of praise for the impending change.

A timeline note – while SDOT hopes to add people in that category as soon as possible, other user groups will be updated monthly, so you would want to get an application in by the 15th to be considered for addition on the 1st.

And one more slide from the deck used both for the media briefing and the task-force meeting – this is the current SDOT rationale for rationing low-bridge usage:

Several other items of interest from the meeting will be in our next report, to be published Friday.

FRIDAY UPDATE: Though they’re not linked on the SDOT website, the applications for life-saving-treatment patients to get low-bridge authorization are available now, and we’ve received the links.

English – here

Spanish here

Traditional Chinese here

Vietnamese here

Khmer here

Korean here

Oromo here

Somali here

69 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE LOW BRIDGE: Here's how access is about to expand"

  • Wtf April 8, 2021 (4:40 pm)

    Illegal discrimination to public road use.

    • Auntie April 8, 2021 (5:03 pm)

      My guess is this is a sour grapes response because you are not in any of the aforementioned groups and not being able to use the low bridge inconveniences you. Welcome to the world of most of West Seattle’s residents. Use alternate routes like everybody else – you just have to leave earlier, unfortunately, to allow extra time for the extra miles.

    • Jon Wright April 8, 2021 (5:15 pm)

      Is there something in the RCW or SMC that is applicable?

    • Justin April 8, 2021 (6:16 pm)

      Said the white person with enormous privilege that’s never actually faced discrimination. There’s nothing illegal about restricting access to a bridge that can’t handle the weight of everyone’s cars. I mean, just look up the next time you’re taking West Marginal Way.

      • two socks April 8, 2021 (8:35 pm)

        What is going on with all the experience and word hijackings lately

      • Glenna April 8, 2021 (8:51 pm)

        Justin- you don’t know if the person you were responding to is white.  Additionally, white or not, you have no ideas what challenges they have in their life.  seek to unite not to divide

        • Ice April 8, 2021 (11:46 pm)

          Well, I think we can make a safe assumption that they aren’t currently undergoing life-saving medical treatment.

        • Justin April 9, 2021 (10:40 am)

          It’s a very white man comment so I can deduce that the person is able-bodied and white. I’m matching energies this year. Maybe uniting next year.

  • Driving me crazy April 8, 2021 (4:45 pm)

    Great news about increased access Just need to vent today.  So tired of drivers that cut in line as we are all waiting to merge or at stop lights. There I feel better now

    • Carson April 8, 2021 (5:01 pm)

      Ditto on that

  • wetone April 8, 2021 (5:38 pm)

    Well that really helps all that have to commute in/out of WS and have businesses or live within impacted areas. It just blows me away the privileges given to Port of Seattle and many others tied to the city. With zippo given to all else. There is no reason 1 lane on high rise could not be opened with very little work. But then it really doesn’t matter because Spokane st viaduct needs rebuilding anyway as surface is crumbling apart from poor something ;). Direct results from poor city leadership over last decade+……

    • Jason April 8, 2021 (8:52 pm)

      Take the bus and stop whining. 

    • Ice April 8, 2021 (11:53 pm)

      Opening a single lane on a possibly unstable and dangerous structure so traffic will be reduced by a near imperceptible amount sounds like city leadership so poor that you could write a comedy about it.

  • Alki rider April 8, 2021 (5:59 pm)

    Cool. Here’s another reminder to motorcycle riders in solidarity that we need to keep pestering SDOT until they recognize us just like they looove bicycle riders.

    • Auntie April 8, 2021 (6:16 pm)

      It makes no sense that motorcycles are not allowed to use the lower bridge.And I’m guessing the number of motorcycles going out of West Seattle wouldn’t be a huge impact on the bridge traffic.  By the way, motorcycles are allowed to use HOV lanes on Washington highways, so it seems only sensible that they be allowed to use the low bridge.

      • two socks April 8, 2021 (8:37 pm)

        I seem to recall there were some safety concerns, perhaps the mix of freight and motorcycles is not ideal

        • Alki rider April 8, 2021 (10:57 pm)

          The “safety concerns” SDOT had do not align with reality of riding a motorcycle anywhere else one could encounter freight, like I-5. SDOT leadership are from another planet.

          • Vox April 9, 2021 (6:13 pm)

            I’d argue that it’s much less safe riding a motorcycle down W Marginal with all of the speeding cars, unsignaled lane changes, and turning semis than the lower bridge. It’s ridiculous that motorcycles aren’t allowed.

          • two socks April 9, 2021 (8:58 pm)

            There is a big difference between motorcycles occasionally encountering semi’s on a mix use roadway which is predominately made up of cars at any given time, and a roadway that would be a mix of predominately large trucks and motorcyclists. Both large trucks and motorcycles have blind spots to contend with. One doesn’t have to be a truck driver, a motorcyclist, or a genius to foresee this mix could result in devastating accidents.

      • Fiwa Jcbbb April 9, 2021 (11:09 am)

        It’s actually the Federal government that recognizes that motorcycles and scooters take up far less space and use far less fuel, and encourages their use by allowing them in HOV lanes on Federally funded interstates.  Washington state is forced to allow it, but requires a $30 “Good to Go” pass to ride in designated Lexus Lanes. The City of Seattle charges the same parking fee for MC’s and 40 foot Land Yachts…unless you’re living in it…

    • SJW April 11, 2021 (3:17 pm)

      This is a joke right? Motorcycles still take up space. Even if your bike is sandwiched right between two cars, you still require the space.  You don’t get any “Special” treatment, your still on the road, unlike a Bicycle. 

  • J9 April 8, 2021 (6:18 pm)

    Where can one apply if we fit the new criteria?

  • Don Brubeck April 8, 2021 (6:41 pm)

    Don’t motorcycles take the same amount of space in the traffic lane as a passenger car? Is there a reason for different treatment?

    • A.J. April 8, 2021 (7:18 pm)

      Less weight, less wear in the roads, and yes, they do take up less space than a car. Motorcycle riders are also more exposed to the elements, are exposed to more pollutants from other vehicles exhaust when sitting in traffic (and we are in the middle of a pandemic that affects respiratory systems), are more vulnerable to road hazards that may appear due to the alternate routes not being designed for the current level of wear they are experiencing. I’m probably forgetting a few things, but those are some justifications.

    • Wendell April 8, 2021 (7:34 pm)

      Most motorcycles are smaller, lighter and take up less space than even the smallest car. Most motorcycles weigh only a few hundred pounds, instead of thousands, thus causing less wear to the roadway. And, most motorbikes only have two seats, which qualifies them for HOV status. They can also keep up with traffic while taking up less space. The only motorcyclists that some folks may see are the scofflaws, but most of us are law abiding family members who just want to get home in one piece, and our modern motorcycles return excellent gas mileage. Special treatment? Puhleeze, have you seen all the paint on the Avalon hill for cyclists? I’m a cyclist, too – so thanks for that special treatment.

    • The truth April 9, 2021 (12:24 am)

      Motorcycles take up the same space front to back, but not side to side. They can easily pull over to allow emergency vehicles through.

  • trickycoolj April 8, 2021 (6:43 pm)

    Doesn’t sound to promising for folks who work on Harbor Island and aren’t ILWU. 

    • HarborIslandworker April 8, 2021 (7:53 pm)

      Yeah doesn’t seem very equitable to me especially since the majority of the people that have Access now and who are going to get access won’t use the low bridge once the west Seattle Bridge reopens seems pretty stupid to not give access to people that used The low bridge before and who will continue to use the low bridge once this is all over I’d like to know what the numbers were from the survey that they put out and how the survey was worded if the reason for not giving access to Harbor Island workers is because it would exceed capacity then why did they just more than double capacity on the low bridge …. i’m baffled

  • Moji April 8, 2021 (6:57 pm)

    Do the expanded weekend hours start tomorrow?

    • WSB April 8, 2021 (7:06 pm)

      Saturday, technically.

  • Yes2WS April 8, 2021 (7:19 pm)

    No; motorcycles do not take the same amount of space as the width of a car. The reason I specified width is because the reason motorcyclists aren’t allowed is due to a supposed hindrance on emergency vehicles. You can’t convince  me a motorcycle and / or scooter would adversely impact an emergency vehicle if allowed access across the low bridge. On another note, I once crossed a scooter on the low bridge bike path while cycling and gave her a huge thumbs up. Sadly, I have seen no others attempt this during this WSB fiasco.

    • Alki rider April 8, 2021 (11:01 pm)

      Please write to WestSeattleBridge@seattle.gov!

    • bill April 9, 2021 (12:21 pm)

      Gasoline-powered vehicles are not allowed on bike paths. Period. Thumbs down to the scooter rider. Maybe that was the same woman I saw being ticketed on the bridge trail by a motorcycle cop two months ago. I wish I had stopped to take a picture!

  • DJC April 8, 2021 (7:28 pm)

    Come on City of Seattle, allow motorcycles and scooters.  if for no other reason, safety to the rider.  FACT:  the most dangerous locations for motorcyclist are in heavy traffic, 

    • Alki rider April 8, 2021 (11:02 pm)

      SDOT needs to hear more from us!WestSeattleBridge@seattle.gov

  • Jeff April 8, 2021 (8:52 pm)

    Ok city… emergency vehicles can use the high rise… the bridge is now stabilized… dedicated on and off ramps… no chance that an open bridge would stop the emergency vehicle…. open the lower bridge to all traffic… what is a logical argument against? 

    • Jefezplt April 8, 2021 (9:44 pm)

      There is no other roadway in the city with travel hours restricted to this extent. 5am to 9pm is idiotic… At the most it should be 7am to 7pm to cover daytime commuter hours … Really it should be 6a-9a and the 4p-7p. The bridge is empty before 7a and after 7p.I have heard the argument that buses/emergency vehicles need access. That doesn’t hold water. Busses are empty and can use special lanes up to but not including the low bridge . Any emergency vehicle driver capable of doing their job can use the center if everyone in both directions pulls to the right and STOPS. The City Council and SDOT need to rethink ttheir position and come up with a workable solution, or maybe WS should file a class action suit to address the negligence that caused the problem.

      • Foop April 8, 2021 (10:59 pm)

        More often than not I see the 120 passing by saying it’s full. I don’t understand why so many people seem to think no one is riding the bus. Speaking of equity…

    • Reed April 8, 2021 (9:53 pm)

      The huge holes cut in main bridge deck, don’t you pay attention?

      • Chemist April 9, 2021 (1:16 am)

        Are the bridge deck holes different from the other roadway holes that often get covered with a steel plate while work is ongoing?

        • reed April 9, 2021 (7:51 am)

          There are four of them, two on each side, approximately 155 square feet each, right in the middle of the deck, with other project equipment around them, making it IMPASSABLE. See for yourself on Google Earth.

      • Jeff L April 9, 2021 (8:21 am)

        They can get large construction trucks across the bridge right now no problem. It might take a little thought and a little money to get the emergency vehicles on the high rise but don’t you think it would be worth it to the west seattle community to have the lower bridge open to all traffic all the time?

    • two socks April 8, 2021 (10:46 pm)

      The low bridge cannot support the same amount of traffic as the high bridge, for one thing. Restrictions are necessary to manage the amount and type of traffic on the low bridge, while also ensuring emergency vehicles have good access.

      • Jeff L April 9, 2021 (8:27 am)

        Says who? When there were accidents on the hight rise the lower bridge was packed… they didn’t worry then… and if it is a fact, meter the traffic onto the lower bridge… it can handle 10-20 times the current traffic I would expect! The problem is the city doesn’t care to make it better…

  • Pemfir April 8, 2021 (9:01 pm)

    Things are going to get alot worse as employees return to office in the next few months 

  • Terese April 8, 2021 (9:30 pm)

    What about school teachers who teach 1/2 day on the mainland and then have to come back to WS for afternoon remote teaching? I’ve only got 30 minutes to get back and tackle the West Marginal mess! Just wondering since I’m essential! 😍

  • No thanks April 8, 2021 (10:11 pm)

    If they open the low bridge to motorcycles Alki beach will turn into a worse nightmare than Daytona beach at spring break. Be careful what you think you want. It’s a two way street. 

    • Alki rider April 8, 2021 (11:09 pm)

      Do you have some data to back these claims up? Perhaps how it compares to people that actually use their motorcycles for commuting, getting groceries, etc. vs Sunday/Saturday hoolies that just want to show off?

      • Mark47n April 9, 2021 (8:24 am)

        Hoolies? What’s a “hoolie”? Are you ascribing the term hooligan to motorcycle riders that come to the beach on weekends as a destination? Are you slighting traffic that supports the businesses on Alki? Perhaps this is about the lack of parking on the PUBLIC streets in the neighborhood? well, you knew about the limited parking when you moved here. I presume you live near Alki and are unhappy because it’s not your private beach. I hate to break it to you but WS and Alki haven’t been quiet places to live for a few decades, at least. If you want quiet rural living then you’ll have to go somewhere else.

  • Callie April 8, 2021 (10:23 pm)

            Was there a specific explanation as to the reason for the extra hours on the weekend since West Seattle Blog was at the meeting?  Or did the City just decide to do something nice for the people of West Seattle on the weekends?

  • Lisa April 9, 2021 (7:26 am)

    Yay for us weekend hikers! Makes it so much easier to get to the trails. But, still, boo about motorcyclists. That’s just ridiculous that we can’t use the low bridge.

  • skeeter April 9, 2021 (8:07 am)

    I’m a bicyclist with a daily commute across the low bridge.  I do not own a motorcycle, but I support motorcycles being given access to the low bridge 24/7.  Motorcycles weigh far less than a car, they take up less space, and they can easily get out of the way of emergency vehicles.  Just look at a Washington State ferry – motorcycles are treated totally different from cars due to their smaller size and weight.  Also, motorcycle riders face danger from distracted, aggressive, and impaired car drivers.  So we should let motorcycles use the lower bridge if they think the lower bridge is the safest route for them to travel.     

  • Sparky April 9, 2021 (8:10 am)

    They should open it up eastbound to all traffic on all hours.  The backup will be getting onto the bridge, not off as there is only one light on the east end before the Spokane Street viaduct onramp.  Cutting down the traffic headed south on West Marginal will help keep the light at the bottom of Boeing Hill moving.

  • sam-c April 9, 2021 (8:52 am)
    • “RETAIL AND RESTAURANT BUSINESSES: All West Seattle businesses in these sectors are welcome to apply for access to use the low bridge.”
    • Why only restaurant and retail businesses?   There are other types of businesses in West Seattle, where the work day (unlike retail and restaurants) require traveling to and from West Seattle to do the work.
    • WSB April 9, 2021 (9:00 am)

      According to SDOT, because they’re the ones that have been hit the hardest by the pandemic.

      • sam-c April 9, 2021 (9:09 am)

        I do understand that they have been impacted more, but not sure how bridge access relates to it, or what it will do to improve those businesses.  It’s not like potential restaurant patrons from other areas of Seattle have been given access to the low bridge, making it more likely for the restaurant to have more business…

        • skeeter April 9, 2021 (1:17 pm)

          Sam-C I am with you 100%.  I don’t understand the relationship between the bridge and the pandemic.  Both have been really difficult but I can’t for the life of me figure out what SDOT is trying to accomplish.  Is SDOT going to allow employees or customers of retail and restaurants to use the lower bridge??  But not employees or customers of medical providers, schools, libraries, etc?  

        • two socks April 9, 2021 (8:44 pm)

          It might help from an operations and staffing perspective, for those who commute to WS for work.

      • Anne April 10, 2021 (9:26 am)

        I think the public and SDOT have lost their minds and their common sense. Applications for the low bridge commute should be based on the total business financial losses and criticality, and not just the “type” of business. We only hear news about retail and restaurants losing the most during the pandemic, so there’s a lot of sympathy that’s been generated there and discrimination against other businesses, types of workers, and people. Small Businesses that are not in hospitality have gone out of business, like small biz manufacturing — hundreds of mfg shops and associated jobs are just gone. Nobody talks about this. Many restaurants pivoted quickly into online and take out while manufacturing sat idle with nothing to pivot into like restaurants. And essential workers – absolutely – a valid essential worker in medical, education, (and people with critical care conditions), etc. should be considered and eligible to apply for a shorter commute. Where have all the priorities and common sense gone? Would you rather have a doctor at the hospital when you show up at the ER, or get your favorite Thai food? Would you rather have an airplane sitting on a runway without spare parts the next time you’re headed to see your grandparents after a year, or a good burger? When your wife is having a baby and you have to get to the hospital, won’t you be glad that 17-year old from Bellevue was able to come quickly over the bridge and make your latte at your favorite coffee shop while you have to navigate neighborhoods and long traffic lines to get over the 1st Ave Bridge?

  • FixTheBridge April 9, 2021 (9:13 am)

    A bridge is a public accommodation.  I think it is a strict violation of HIPPA for Seattle to require anyone to disclose to SDOT any detailed information about their healthcare needs in order to use a bridge.  SDOT has lost it’s way and this latest move just further proves their incompetence.

    • WSB April 9, 2021 (3:18 pm)

      SDOT was very clear that they are not obtaining nor retaining health information. You can see for yourself on the form now that it’s public:

    • mark47n April 10, 2021 (12:59 pm)

      To my understanding HIPPA prevents health service providers from disclosing information. By requiring those who request access to the low bridge to demonstrate a legitimate need, if the city chooses to do that, it would be voluntary. No one is forcing the release of that information, not releasing it just means that you have to drive around like the rest of us, which is as it should be anyway. There’s a world of difference between EMS and someone having to budget time to get the the chemo center. As my dad would say when I was a kid “show me where it’s written that life’s supposed to be fair.”  If life were fair then no one would get a life threatening illness unless they deserved it (who decides that?), no one would be homeless and you wouldn’t have to ruin yourself financially to obtain life saving care for yourself or loved ones…anyone, really.

  • Don Brubeck April 9, 2021 (10:17 am)

    The application information for people needing lifesaving medical treatment was promised for today, April 9.  It is not available today, April 9.  Meghan Shepard said the application processing time will be six weeks.   Life saving medical treatment does not follow such a leisurely bureaucratic process. The need arises suddenly. It may be over in less than six weeks. Six weeks plus however long it takes SDOT to post the application  is the same as saying we hear you, but we are not going to do anything to actually help you.  Do better, SDOT.

  • Lagartija Nick April 9, 2021 (11:11 am)

    Before I even read the comments I knew most of them would be of the “But what about me?????” nature. I was not disappointed. Perhaps we should be more thankful that more of our neighbors have access so our detour routes are less congested.

  • WSB April 9, 2021 (11:54 am)

    SDOT has sent the links for the applications that patients can send in ASAP – in English here:

    We’ll add all eight links above. They are working to update their website but that apparently will take longer.

  • two socks April 9, 2021 (8:34 pm)

    Sam Z., I feel for you. It must be frustrating sometimes.

  • mark47n April 10, 2021 (1:03 pm)

    I do love reading the bridge threads. The sense of outrage and entitlement contained therein never fails to disappoint.

Sorry, comment time is over.