UPDATE: West Seattle low bridge reopens after all-night closure; here’s what SDOT says went wrong

1:13 AM: If you have to cross the Duwamish soon, don’t head for the low bridge. It’s been closed to surface traffic for more than an hour; SDOT says via Twitter that it’s “mechanical trouble.”

1:30 AM: The bridge had trouble Tuesday afternoon, too.

2:09 AM: Still not open.

4:58 AM: Metro is rerouting buses over the 1st Avenue South Bridge.

5:59 AM: The low bridge is still out of service and SDOT has finally confirmed that means ALL modes – closed to bicyclists and pedestrians as well as motor-vehicle drivers. No word yet on how much longer this is expected to last.

6:51 AM: The low bridge has just reopened.

10:40 AM: Here’s how SDOT spokesperson Ethan Bergerson answered our question about what went wrong:

The Spokane St bridge was closed last night from approximately 11:30 p.m. to 6:45 a.m. due to an intermittent mechanical issue which triggered a safeguard preventing the bridge gates from being opened. This is an intentional safety measure which ensures that people cannot travel over the bridge until the underlying mechanical issue is resolved. Our engineers and maintenance staff worked through the night to complete the immediate work to address the problem and verify that it was safe to reopen the bridge. We are still working to understand the underlying root cause, and determine next steps to ensure that this does not happen again.

4:05 PM: An update from SDOT:

There were two separate mechanical issues which occurred on the Spokane St bridge, both of which triggered the safeguard of closing the bridge gates to the public.

On May 11 at roughly 4:10 pm, the tail lock on the east side of the bridge triggered an alarm, which is related to a known issue with the hydraulic arm that extends/ retracts the locking pin. Engineers and maintenance staff were able to address this issue and reopen the bridge at about 7:00pm. We are planning to address this issue by building a new hydraulic arm, and will also refurbish the existing arm as a backup for future use.

On May 11 at 11:05 pm, a small component within the traffic barrier turning mechanism got stuck preventing the gate from opening. As a safeguard, the gate is programmed to shut down if something is interfering with its normal operations in order to prevent further damage. When the gate shut down, it triggered other control system alarms and safeguards, resulting in all gates from closing. Our engineers and maintenance staff worked through the night to complete the immediate work to address the problem and verify that it was safe to reopen the bridge at about 6:15 a.m.

28 Replies to "UPDATE: West Seattle low bridge reopens after all-night closure; here's what SDOT says went wrong"

  • Lisa Jackson May 12, 2021 (1:19 am)

    Thank you for posting! I never thought I would get home today! 

  • Michael Bloom May 12, 2021 (5:09 am)

    Well, is see that is says closed until January of 2022. Oh, joy. Well I will finally get to meet all my west Seattle neighbors. 

  • Michael Bloom May 12, 2021 (5:14 am)

  • JW May 12, 2021 (5:26 am)

    Still not open at 5:25. Big mess on the west side. 

  • Mel May 12, 2021 (5:48 am)

    What is SDOTs plan for ambulances in this situation? If medic one needs to get someone to the hospital quickly, going around isn’t really an option. Would an ambulance be able to use the low bridge anyway? This is pretty ridiculous.

    • Eddie May 12, 2021 (8:08 am)

      Jump it like Bo Duke.

      • martin May 13, 2021 (9:23 am)

        Made me laugh

    • Sasquatch May 12, 2021 (11:02 am)

      Great question. Seems like SDOT is going to get sued by somebody for not giving a crap about emergency services and the well being of West Seattle residents.  I can see an ambulance not able to use the lower bridge – forced into the horrific detour and sitting in traffic for longer than they should. Those of us in North West Seattle have very limited options for emergency services in such a situation. 

      • Mark47n May 12, 2021 (5:25 pm)

        If this is such an issue to you then you should move to a location that has no barriers to EMS vehicles.Bridges are closed to traffic for a reason. In other words, if it’s not safe, according to the protocols in place, then it’s not safe. There seems to be a real lack of comprehension about that in these parts. 

        • reed May 13, 2021 (9:37 am)

          “If this is such an issue to you then you should move to a location that has no barriers to EMS vehicles.”Exactly Mark. In fact, I would take this exact argument and apply it to all the other gripes that people are having around the bridge. West Seattle is a peninsula; always has been and always will be, which means there are limited ways to get in and out, and nothing will ever change that to a significant degree. That being said, perhaps people who have a problem with this would be better off moving off-peninsula to have more options. 

      • KM May 13, 2021 (10:22 am)

        Do people that live in WS not realize there is a hospital with emergency room in Burien?

  • Delridge May 12, 2021 (6:10 am)

    Bummer! We really needed it this morning. Hope they get it fixed up ASAP. We dealt with the res traffic signal issue yesterday over the bridge. It was pretty weird!

  • Mark May 12, 2021 (6:35 am)

    Great, this is just what we need. And it looks like they haven’t even started repairs on the upper bridge yet… whatever their projected completion date is we can expect to add on a year or two… They need to make this issue a bigger priority now there is literally only one way in and out for all of west seattle. 

    • P-diddy May 12, 2021 (6:59 am)

      The reason you are not seeing any work on the high bridge is they have to monitor it for a year, through all the thermal cycles, to tailor the repair. I’ve read the fix will be relatively fast after the monitoring period is complete.

  • Feed up with leadership May 12, 2021 (6:56 am)

    Brought to you by the same city leadership that crippled the upper WSB and  pushing for reforms all over the city with nothing but poor decisions made all around.

  • CarDriver May 12, 2021 (7:02 am)

     WSB. In cases like this does SDOT have the ability/desire to adjust traffic signals so it doesn’t go green for non existent traffic coming off the low bridge??

    • WSB May 12, 2021 (7:12 am)

      Some signals can be controlled remotely from the traffic center downtown. They’ve been upgrading communications technology to enable that in more places.

  • Cogburn May 12, 2021 (8:12 am)

    Surprise surprise – when you don’t maintain things they stop working. An omen of things to come unless city government starts doing their job on infrastructure care. 

    • Jon Wright May 12, 2021 (9:25 am)

      City government can’t do a whole lot unless the electorate is willing to fund infrastructure care. 

      • My two cents … May 12, 2021 (10:40 am)

        Council is currently discussing how to proceed with the $20 tab fee. Original concept was for maintenance of bridges, etc. but now they are opening this up to other options. Sticking your head in the ground and assuming things will be OK until later has led us to our current situation. 

        • Pete May 12, 2021 (3:36 pm)

          I agree completely. Our elected “leaders” have been kicking the maintenance of our infrastructure down the road for years now. that is most of the reason that we are in the predicament that we are in today. AND it is not just the West Seattle High bridge as there are issues with the low bridge, the 1st Ave bridge as well as close 60 other structures in the city of Seattle. And this does not even take into account the many roads that are in desperate need of repair or the miles of streets with no sidewalks in the middle of our city.  

      • Colonel Mustard's Wrench May 12, 2021 (8:23 pm)

        Jon Wright said:  “City government can’t do a whole lot unless the electorate is willing to fund infrastructure care. “
        Correction:  City government can’t do a whole lot if the City Council won’t prioritize maintenance. 
        We know that SDOT has been underspending their annual budget for years.  Why ? 
        And meanwhile, the 4th Ave S bridge near Costco has had a lane closed forever – a lane that West Seattleites are desperate for with the high bridge currently unusable.

        Oh why is the high bridge unusable ? 
        Could it be that SDOT didn’t replace the bearing on Pier 18 at the 30 year mark ? 
        A maintenance that is the industry standard. 
        It seems that only SDOT didn’t seem to know that.

    • Jort May 12, 2021 (3:29 pm)

      Politicians love to cut ribbons for fancy new tunnels and bridges, but don’t want to have the courageous conversations required to inform motorists that our society erred in committing so many resources into shifting our transportation almost exclusively to automobiles. The cost of automobile infrastructure maintenance, which is increasingly being deferred at great risk, is going to be astronomical and motorists and politicians alike are going to struggle mightily with it. There will be a reckoning on this failure in America within our lifetimes. We are seeing it already with the high bridge. There is no way forward for the automobile as a primary means of conveyance in a dense city. It has never, not once, been sustainable and Seattle will not be the first city in the world to make it happen. The sooner we reduce car addition and dependency, the more money we will save and the better our city will become.

      • Wsfugee May 12, 2021 (5:55 pm)

        I need a RSS feed of just Jort comments.

  • AdmiralFunkMaster May 12, 2021 (3:33 pm)

    So miserable – our region of the city as a whole. $20 tab fee? How to proceed?? Pump $19.95 of that $20 into paying salaries for high level city employees that like to take extended vacations and not respond to emails because they are “too backed-up”. You’ve been fooled Seattle, by yourselves. Make sure to laugh, the next time you are glance in the mirror. 

  • Acoginthewheel May 12, 2021 (5:03 pm)

    Something on the bridge to tell us commoners the bridge is closed and not reopening would have been nice this morning at 0530hrs while trying to bike across. Guess the crews “working through the night” didn’t bother to think of that.

    • Colonel Mustard's Wrench May 12, 2021 (8:31 pm)

      Try not to expect too much from SDOT’s Sam Zimbabwe. 
      He’s just not up to the task to lead SDOT anywhere, other than from one disaster to another.

  • Kathy May 13, 2021 (10:36 am)

    THIS is why we need safe routes for bicycle commuters between the Spokane Street Bridge Trail/ West Duwamish Trail and at the north end of the 1st Ave South Bridge through Georgetown and SODO. Yet people (freight community, car drivers) are fighting tooth and nail against creating a short safe bike connection to the signalized crossing to the West Duwamish Trail. Biking from the 1st Ave South Bridge into Georgetown, SODO and downtown Seattle is still a nightmare despite years of advocacy to fix that mess. When these sudden Spokane Street Bridge closures happen I shudder to think of the poor people trying to get home or to work on their bike in the dark through these dangerous areas.

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