FOLLOWUP: Why so many West Seattle Bridge crashes in same spot? SDOT stumped

(SDOT image via Twitter, Saturday morning)

After that bus hit a barrier on the westbound West Seattle Bridge near the ramp from southbound 99 on Saturday morning, it was attributed to the driver swerving to avoid another vehicle. But it wasn’t the only crash that day in the same spot – and it was followed by at least two others days later. In comment discussions, other drivers have mentioned something seemed awry when they drove through that same section. So we asked SDOT if the department planned to investigate. We heard back late today from SDOT spokesperson Ethan Bergerson, who said it’s a mystery so far:

After these crashes occurred, we sent one of our inspectors to take a closer look at roadway conditions in this location. They verified that all of the signage, road markings, and pavement was in good condition. Our inspector did not see any standing water in this location, although it is possible that it was wetter at the time of the incidents. We did not make any changes to the road in this location during the West Seattle Bridge closure which would alter how people approach or drive over this particular spot.

While it’s difficult for us to determine a specific cause for this series of collisions, now that this trend has been identified we’ll be aware of the location if we see similar crashes in the future. If we do see an ongoing trend, we’ll continue to consider what we can potentially do to address it.

We also typically see an increase in crashes in rainy weather, especially when it first starts to rain after a relatively dry summer. So we would like to remind all drivers at this time of year to slow down and be extra cautious when driving in the rain, and to make sure to take care of any safety-related car maintenance issues like replacing worn-out tires or windshield wipers.

If you encounter a specific problem there (or on any other city street, which is what The Bridge is) and want to contact SDOT about it, they’re at 206-684-ROAD.

56 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Why so many West Seattle Bridge crashes in same spot? SDOT stumped"

  • H20K9 October 27, 2022 (8:44 pm)

    SDOT to West Seattle – DROP DEAD!
    “If we do see an ongoing trend, we’ll continue to consider what we can potentially do to address it.”
    That is essentially saying, ‘If the issue continues we’ll continue to look at the issue’…..SDOT in a nutshell.
    No sense of urgency what-so-ever.

    • KT October 28, 2022 (10:03 am)

      Sounds like their reaction to when the the bridge started  cracking.

      • StupidInSeattle October 28, 2022 (4:27 pm)

        From the same government group that watched the Freeway bridge crack for 7 years comes assurance that nothing is wrong in a bridge spot where multiple wipe outs have occurred in just the past two weeks.  I feel so much better…

    • Chels P October 30, 2022 (12:58 am)

      I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that merging is not included in WA State Drivers Education, and is not a skill required to be tested on the WA State licensing exam.

  • Anxious Driver October 27, 2022 (9:03 pm)

    When it rains there’s about 10 feet of pavement before the merge becomes parallel that feels like I’m hydroplaning.  The patch looks different from the rest of the road too, as it’s darker.  First time I noticed it, I thought it was an oil slick?For westbound routes I’ll be taking the 1st Ave Bridge until it gets resolved.

    • m October 27, 2022 (10:34 pm)

      Observation from heading westbound on the bridge in the left lane.  Right before and as you pass under Highway 99, almost up until the merge.  There appears to be tread marks in the cement, as if driven on before the cement dried.  Maybe tires are hugging the tread mark and somehow creating an extreme hydroplane condition? 

    • Matt October 28, 2022 (6:28 am)

      There is definitely something on the bridge surface that is different than normal wet pavement or pavement that hasn’t seen rain in awhile. My experience happened just south of where the accidents happened. My car felt like it was on black ice. No control. Luckily, I didn’t wreck. Now that it’s raining again maybe SDOT should do some testing and drive their vehicles on these portions of the roadway to see what happens.  Hopefully it doesn’t take someone getting killed for them to find out what is really going on. Until that happens I am using the lower bridge when traveling westbound.

    • NoFreewayHydros October 28, 2022 (8:35 am)

      Or, being aware of the issue, we could all just slow down to the posted speed limit and below it according to conditions.  
      Noting and appreciating WSB’s coverage, I drove it slowly.  
      The only possible element I spotted  is a steel expansion joint at the end of the curve (I think it is faintly visible in the photo).  
      These steel bands across the roadway can result I temporary loss of traction, perhaps initiating skids.
      This expansion joint pre-existed the closing, so the two accidents  may be a simple coincidence, as commenter Morgan explains below.

    • 1994 October 28, 2022 (9:35 pm)

      Agree with your description of the water pooling in that location on the left lane, just before you start going up the incline.  Has been that way for years in that spot.

  • Admiral Dad October 27, 2022 (9:05 pm)

    If some of the episodes I encountered at the Admiral Hill on-ramp to the bridge when it first re-opened, it may be an issue of people not having a clue of what they are suppose to do in that area.

    • Ferns October 28, 2022 (12:44 am)

      Yes, it looks like the on ramp drivers may not realize they have to merge so quickly snd do not have the right of way. More and clearer signage to slow down and that traffic is merging may be needed. 

      • Sam-c October 28, 2022 (5:21 am)

        Isn’t this at the 99 on ramp to westbound West Seattle Bridge? No merging required. It’s a third lane that gets added to the other 2. It doesn’t even become an exit only lane after the crest of the bridge. 

        • sam-c October 29, 2022 (8:23 am)

          *until after

      • Anxious Driver October 28, 2022 (8:45 am)

        That’s an interesting point.  For me there’s plenty of time to merge safely and calmly.  The ramp doesn’t actually merge into traffic; it has its own parallel lane for at least half a mile (before it exits off the bridge) where the driver can change lanes anytime before the next exit.

    • Estabon October 28, 2022 (7:12 am)

      Admiral on ramp is not where the accidents are happening. Just slow down people. 

  • Mj October 27, 2022 (9:54 pm)

    The SR-99 ramp to WB WSB is an add lane, simply extending the gore stripe for 100′ to the west to allow motorists a bit more time prior to making lane changes could be a simple option to consider!

  • Dede October 27, 2022 (10:27 pm)

    I saw several SDOT vehicles lined up on the bridge on the W bound side as I was heading east across the bridge and wondered right away and hoped they were there to assess that crash area however it was a completely dry day, wasn’t raining at all. Pavement was dry . So how are they supposed to determine the slickness of the surface if there’s no water present????? Did they bring a spray bottle and test one spot? Lol 

    • Anon October 28, 2022 (7:37 am)

      Those SDOT vehicles were there for high bridge inspection, completely unrelated to this.

  • Morgan October 27, 2022 (11:07 pm)

    While odd coincidence, it’s still just very unlikely…but not so impossible to avoid being coincidental. It’s unlikely to flip heads on a coin four times in a row….but not so improbable it would suggest the coin was special. Make sense?

  • Marcus October 28, 2022 (4:10 am)

    Seems like pavement discontinuities from what people saying.  That place was ALWAYS the place where everyone wanted to change lanes.  Either to get in the left lane to go up into WS or the right lane to take Delridge or Admiral.  I always saw hurried lanes changes and mixed with possible pavement discontinuities it sure is a problem.

  • divine October 28, 2022 (4:57 am)

    I have my own observations, but anybody reading this, let me ask a question.  In the years since the bridge was first closed, have drivers gotten more aggressive, abandoned self-regulation, and acted dumber?  If so, then it might explain this. 

    • Cellphone in hand October 28, 2022 (11:19 am)

      Since the pandemic, I’ve noticed more people using their cell phone and driving at the same time.

    • Jort October 28, 2022 (1:35 pm)

      Data supports this assertion, so yes. This has gone hand-in-hand with the performative and intentional non-enforcement stance taken by law enforcement agencies. This adds up to a recipe of negative outcomes for driving-related crashes, injuries and deaths. 

      • CarDriver October 28, 2022 (8:31 pm)

        Jort. “intentional non enforcement by law enforcement agencies” WOW! please share your documentation and what you’ve done to combat it.

      • Auntie October 28, 2022 (8:56 pm)

        Oh, yes! That totally explains why my car fishtailed as I drove off 99 onto the West Seattle Bridge going only about 15mph, as I had heard of the problems there. Non-enforcement was surely the problem for me and my slow-going car. Whew! I know this would not have been a problem if I had been riding a bike across the low bridge, but as a disabled senior citizen, that is not an option for me.

  • Chuck Jacobs October 28, 2022 (5:51 am)

    I drove past the white pickup right after the accident on Tuesday. The front was smashed and the drivers side was torn up. As I passed and traffic started moving normally again, I gave it a little gas and immediately spun my tires. That section of road is extremely slick when wet for some reason. I too will be avoiding that area, especially when rainy.

  • JR October 28, 2022 (6:46 am)

    While the road may be the same as before the bridge closure… maybe many drivers aren’t?  My impression is that a couple years of the horrible traffic (and merges) on the detour route generated a lot of drivers who view the daily commute as some sort of competitive sport…

  • Mike G October 28, 2022 (7:06 am)

    This is probably not the answer but I’ve noticed during heavy rain, water builds up at that valley point and if you are in the left lane headed in either direction your windshield gets hit with a lot of water  and this can be temporarily disorienting 

    • 26THAVE October 28, 2022 (1:30 pm)

      Mike, that happened to me on  a classic western WA spring day where its just rained causing lots of water on the roadway, but now, sunny and humid in your car so you have your windows cracked going over the WSB then BAM water came from over the barrier violently crashes through the cracked drivers window blasting one of my contacts out….. was not funFunny thing is that happened to me through MY PASSENGER WINDOW in stop and go traffic in the slow lane on the Ship Canal bridge from some Jacka** driving on the shoulder passing everyone where water was standing. 

  • Estabon October 28, 2022 (7:28 am)

    Entitled drivers speeding is usually the culprit. Impatient drivers in the left lane coming across the viaduct part from I5 will cut over into the add lane at the NB 99 on-ramp and impatient drivers from NB 99 will cut over to the middle lane so they don’t have to be behind the bus going up the incline. And since the bridge has been closed for so long drivers are out of practice with their Indy 500 pole positioning tactics in this area. Please just slow down and be patient. Whole Foods and your endangered craftsman bungalow will still be there when you finally get out from behind that dang bus and the driver going the speed limit. Hmmm. Maybe not the craftsman because the townhouse boogie man is coming for it. 

  • Jay October 28, 2022 (7:32 am)

    The markings aren’t in good condition. They aren’t reflective and they practically disappear from a driver’s perspective in the rain. This has always been a problem.

  • W/S driver October 28, 2022 (7:46 am)

    the area is very slick needs to be degreased ,cleaned ,sand blasted , do something asap , there is something in the concrete , did something get spilled in the last 2 1/2 years  ?  fix it now !!!!!!!!!!!

    • cjboffoli October 28, 2022 (11:06 am)

      I agree. SDOT doesn’t have to “understand” what’s going on there. But the number of accidents in that spot are not just coincidence. What would it hurt to proactively degrease/ power wash/ spall that section of roadway?  What would it take for action? A fatality?

      • NOFREEWAYHYDROS October 29, 2022 (7:06 am)

        I appreciate Mr. Boffoli’s comments, usually.  
        But this time he is stretching with his claim of “not just coincidence.”  
        Others have written, sagely, about statistics.  
        ‘Snake-eyes’ do sometimes occur in multiples, and some do win the lottery more than once.  
        Odds are odds.

  • john October 28, 2022 (8:10 am)

    It would be nice if reflective paint was used on the road.  It is darn near impossible to see anything in the dark when it’s raining.

  • Peter October 28, 2022 (8:35 am)

    Same root causes as all crashes: Bad driving, too easy to get a driver’s license, no regular testing of driving ability, unenforced traffic laws, no real penalties for violating traffic laws, no inspections of any kind for most vehicles, drivers not adjusting to conditions because of course _they_ can drive in the rain, too many ridiculously oversized/overweight SUVs and pickups, general irresponsible behavior by drivers, and vehicles that are unsafe by design. I can’t help noticing how all the drivers automatically jump on road conditions to absolve themselves of any responsibility.  

    • bolo October 28, 2022 (10:41 am)

      IIRC, there’s a speed sign on or near the first curve of that 99 ramp to WS bridge.
      Can someone report what the speed on the sign is?

      And then, can someone who is reporting fishtailing/swerving behavior drive it again at that speed and report back the results? Thanks!

    • CarDriver October 28, 2022 (2:00 pm)

      Peter.I too can’t believe that people and agency’s automatically blame drivers for accidents because road conditions/designs would NEVER be responsible for any accident. Oh, and how do you account for everyone who saw these accidents say speed or bad driving was NOT a cause.

      • Peter October 28, 2022 (11:32 pm)

        Who is “everyone who saw these accidents say speed or bad driving was NOT a cause?” I’d like to hear their first hand accounts rather than your unsupported claims that anyone is saying any such thing. 

      • NOFREEWAYHYDROS October 29, 2022 (7:15 am)

        Speed is by definition ALWAYS a factor.  No speed, no accident, no energy to be transferred and absorbed.  As for bad driving, I doubt that good driving was the cause.  Drivers are responsible for maintaining control over their vehicles. adjusting for weather, traffic and road conditions.  

    • wetone October 29, 2022 (1:58 pm)

      Peter you are flat out wrong on this one. Yes there is a lot of bad driving going on these days,  but I drove through this west bound and there was/is a very dangerous problem going through there. Professional driver and new truck going speed limit. Truck washed out as if on ice. Nuff said.

      • Nofreewayhydros October 29, 2022 (6:10 pm)

        “Professional driver and new truck going speed limit.”  
        If a driver is going the speed limit in inclement weather with enough water to cause a wash out as if on ice, then speed is the factor.
        Drivers are required to drive according to conditions,
        The speed limit is intended for dry roads, good visibility and light traffic,

        • CarDriver October 29, 2022 (6:39 pm)

          Nofreewayhydros.  So if it’s raining what speed would you expect people be travelling through that area??

          • Nofreewayhydros October 30, 2022 (5:32 pm)
            1. “There are various road conditions when you must slow down to be safe. For example, you must slow down before a sharp curve, when the roadway is slippery, or when there is standing water on the road.” 

            And “On a wet road, you should reduce your speed about 10 mph.”  From your Washington Sttet driver manual, not my expectation. driverguide-en.pdf

        • wetone October 29, 2022 (8:43 pm)

          Was it inclement weather when I drove through area with issues.  ????  SDOT ?

          • Nofreewayhydro October 30, 2022 (11:01 pm)

            Drove it tonight in heavy rain.  No standing water. The posted speed for  the entrance is 30 MPH,  so in inclement weather   – wet road, it would be 20 MPH.  

  • Herongrrrl October 28, 2022 (10:17 am)

    My husband, who is a cautious driver to a fault, had his car slide in that area in wet conditions. Slow speed, no sudden braking, and he said it felt like the car suddenly started skidding. I drove that route yesterday myself in dry conditions and noticed a visibly lighter band of pavement across the lanes where the accidents have happened. You can blame bad behavior and speed all you want, but if you read all the comments in this thread and the previous one it is clear that something is up with the road in that spot. I agree SDOT should be checking it in wet conditions, which better reflect the conditions present for these accidents. I didn’t have any issues with the road at posted speed in dry conditions, and I will also be avoiding this spot in wet conditions until it is fixed.

  • KBear October 28, 2022 (10:34 am)

    As others have already pointed out, it isn’t a merge, it is a separate lane. There is no need for anyone to immediately change lanes in that spot; you have an entire mile before it becomes exit-only. 

  • flimflam October 28, 2022 (11:14 am)

    In reading replies here and I’m other posts, it sure sounds like there is something slick there and not simply “bad drivers”. Is it shocking that SDOT is stumped though?

  • Mike October 28, 2022 (12:11 pm)

    If these incidents were attributable to lousy driving alone, or to wet roads, we would expect to see them more widely distributed (geographically speaking). So many in one place is prima facie evidence that roadway factors are likely involved.

  • 26THAVE October 28, 2022 (1:31 pm)


  • Aaron October 28, 2022 (3:48 pm)

    It is not terribly uncommon for semi trucks to spill diesel in that corner. The big fuel tanks are on the LH side of the truck, and that offramp is the first sharp right since fill-up for many trucks. Fuel sloshes out of that side tank due to the sharp turn, and diesel on a wet road is super slippery. I watched a girlfriend crash her motorcycle and I almost crashed mine into her in the middle of that turn some years ago. It was incredibly terrifying, as the “guard rail” is only thigh high, with a long drop to the ground below. The road surface was so slippery it was difficult to stand or walk!  A few hours later you couldn’t tell anything had been amiss.I can only guess it has been a few years since any of those truckers have taken that turn, so maybe they are going a bit fast and spilling fuel?

  • wetone October 29, 2022 (9:16 am)

    I was driving westbound on Monday or Tuesday around 3:45pm, in left lane right past 99 and my truck felt like it was on ice. Really weird, I lifted foot off gas and had to make very light steering corrections feeling very lucky not to hit concrete barriers. When I got home I went around truck to check and make sure something wasn’t broke or tire issue (it’s a new truck) Definitely something on road surface….. fuel, hydraulic oil, sealer ?  usually if fuel I smell it or see evidence, but nothing in this case. Seen multiple accidents eastbound recently also in same area……….. ?

  • CheeseWS777 October 29, 2022 (9:22 am)

    A portion of commenters are saying/arguing that reckless drivers are at fault here. Then another portion are of the mind that there is definitely something wrong with the roadway. I dont see why both these views cannot hold some merit. When the weather hits, roads get dangerous, and since its just turned from summer, drivers have probably forgotten that so its a double whammy. So remind those who you speak with to drive more safely and also “DOT” do your job and investigate till the issue is resolved. Also i think i should remind everybody that since it is getting cold, pls remember to check your tire pressure and anything else related that i have neglected to mention

  • Dorothy L October 29, 2022 (10:05 pm)

    This is so weird !! I almost got hit by a semi at that same spot last week who appeared to completely not see me entering from this ramp. I swerved and another car swerved too but it could have beee we n really bad and I couldn’t explain at all why this happened. I was so baffled I didn’t even have time to honk.

  • Rya October 30, 2022 (11:51 pm)

    I fishtailed earlier this week in that same spot when the roads were wet, even with my 4×4 on…not the first time that’s happened to me there either. If I give any acceleration at all right when that ramp starts to turn, I lose traction…super slick and dangerous. 

Sorry, comment time is over.