FOLLOWUP: West Seattle low bridge to remain closed at least two more weeks

(SDOT camera image, looking west from east end of low bridge)

SDOT is finally commenting on what’s wrong with the West Seattle low bridge (Spokane Street Swing Bridge), four days after it was closed. According to SDOT, the bridge won’t reopen for at least two weeks because crews need “to repair mechanical issues that intensified after a power outage during the ice storm on December 23.” They’re still working on a “repair plan and schedule.” Here’s their explanation of what’s wrong:

The problem initially appeared to be associated with a computer issue that occurred while the bridge was powering back up after a power outage. Once the computer issue was resolved, engineers found previously identified minor issues with the hydraulic system that moves the bridge had intensified.

SDOT completes regular inspections of the Low Bridge and had existing plans to repair these aging components in 2023. However, after the power outage, it was discovered that previously manageable small-scale issues had escalated into more severe problems. Until these components are fixed, the bridge cannot be reliably moved without risking more severe long-term damage.

SDOT engineers are working as quickly as possible to analyze repair options. While there is not yet an estimate for how long bridge repair will take, SDOT expects the closure to last for at least two weeks.

Based on the evaluation results, additional Low Bridge closures for repairs may be needed in 2023, along with closures associated with planned capital improvements to the bridge next year.

In the meantime, the low bridge is being kept open for maritime traffic, but closed to vehicle, bicycle, and foot traffic. The bridge is 30 years old.

67 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: West Seattle low bridge to remain closed at least two more weeks"

  • Bus December 27, 2022 (4:23 pm)

    Has Metro commented on a re-route for the 50 yet?  Will it take the high bridge?

    • Bob December 27, 2022 (4:44 pm)

      The 50 has taken the high bridge since it was re-opened. No busses use the low bridge on normal routing.

      • G Mors December 28, 2022 (6:18 pm)

        Just last week a metro bus followed me over the low bridge. Not sure which number it was, or maybe it was just returning to base, but it definitely crossed the low bridge heading East. 

  • ARPigeonPoint December 27, 2022 (4:25 pm)


  • Mr B December 27, 2022 (4:45 pm)


  • Bob Anderton December 27, 2022 (4:48 pm)

    This is a big deal for bike commuters from the north end of West Seattle. Riding over the first Avenue Bridge adds significant time and the roads in Georgetown/SODO are not safe for bicycling beginners.

    • 1994 December 27, 2022 (9:36 pm)

      Is the foot ferry an option from West Seattle to Downtown for the bike commuters? Maybe bike riders can get a reduced fare or a free ride during the low bridge closure?

      • Jeepney December 28, 2022 (7:26 am)

        The water taxi has multiple bike racks on the rear of the vessel.  Cyclists should pay their fare share, just as the pedestrians do.

    • 1968 December 28, 2022 (12:18 am)

      I saw 2 bicycles going over the upper bridge in the dark and rain yesterday morning…

  • Admyrl Byrd December 27, 2022 (4:49 pm)

    Say what you will about things – but if Mayor Jenny waffled more or did anything other than repair the current bridge, what in the world would we be looking at right now?

  • H December 27, 2022 (5:00 pm)

    This sounds suspiciously like 2020.  

  • Roms December 27, 2022 (5:09 pm)

    They’re surely taking a look at all options… Reminds me of something else, but what? 🤔

  • Paul December 27, 2022 (5:41 pm)

    What-da-ya-wanna bet that port traffic will be able to use the upper bridge instead of taking the long way around. Double standard? Let’s wait and see. 

    • my two cents December 28, 2022 (7:28 am)

      There is no “double standard” at play here bro.

  • Wendell December 27, 2022 (5:43 pm)

    “It’s not just good, it’s good enough” — Crusty the Clown

  • Crazy Biker December 27, 2022 (5:43 pm)

    Is it legal for me to ride my bicycle across the high bridge?

    • WSB December 27, 2022 (7:11 pm)


    • bolo December 27, 2022 (8:21 pm)

      No. And highly inadvisable anyways. BTDT. Long time WS bike commuter. In the late 80s-early 90s the “new” low bridge was under construction. During that construction period, during weekdays a 15-passenger van with attached large flatbed trailer with bike racks on it would shuttle bicyclists back and forth, over the “new” high bridge.

      One evening there was no shuttle van. A growing sizeable group of us cyclists eventually decided to bike over the high bridge. (The 1st Avenue bridge had no cycling infrastructure at the time.)

      This is what I learned:
      1. Shoulder (where there is one) full of obstacles. Chunks of wood, glass, car scraps, garbage, rocks, gravel, etc.
      2. Cars and large trucks whizzing by inches away at high speeds.
      3. Cars and trucks honking incessantly.
      4. Vehicle drivers not expecting and not knowing how to deal with a cyclist on “their” territory.
      5. Steep, long steep steepness, no place to rest.

      BTDT. Never again. I was much more of a daredevil then, once is more than enough.

  • Mj December 27, 2022 (5:47 pm)

    This is a big adverse impact to the bike community there is no reasonable alternative route.  Fortunately this in December/January not July/August.  

    • Mary December 28, 2022 (8:15 pm)

      As a year-round bicycle commuter, I don’t consider the timing “fortunate.” Biking on the east side of the First Avenue South Bridge route during warm, likely dry daylight isn’t so bad, but tackling that in the dark, wet, and cold of a January 6:00 p.m.? Not so much.

  • Jeepney December 27, 2022 (6:20 pm)

    On the bright side, imagine if this had been 5 months ago.  The low bridge was a lifesaver for my commute every day when the high bridge was down.

  • Peter S. December 27, 2022 (7:03 pm)

    Gee, this sounds familiar.  (Small-scale issues that were allowed to languish until they became major issues.)  To the bicycle commuters who commented in related post how inconvenienced they are by this outage:  I feel your pain.  Now you know how the majority of us felt while the high bridge was out of service for 2+ years. 

    • JN December 27, 2022 (7:21 pm)

      Except for the small difference that there is no directions or detour support for cyclists from the city, and the only reasonable detour diverts cyclists onto dangerous industrial semi highways through SODO if you’re heading north (which incidentally rank amongst the highest death rates for pedestrians and cyclists in the city). But sure, it’s totally equivalent. 

      • Peter S. December 27, 2022 (8:28 pm)

        @JN:  Nobody claimed it was equivalent, but there are some parallels.  Multiple bikers gleefully pointed out how easy it was to ride their bikes over the low bridge while the high bridge was closed.  Except for the complaints that flowed when they were delayed by extended marine traffic openings.  I’ve ridden that  route through SODO and it’s definitely no treat.  Neither is being stuck in gridlock at the Chelan CafĂ© or the foot of Boeing Hill.  Not to mention possibly being shot at by deranged road ragers.     

        For the record: bus commuter and occasional bike commuter for many years.

        • JN December 28, 2022 (4:23 pm)

          @Peter S. you are actually equating inconvenience “Now you know how the majority of us felt while the high bridge was out of service for 2+ years. ” (the horror of air conditioning and heated car seats!) and one situation of road rage to the actual physical endangerment and constant harassment cyclists face on roads that this closure forces them to use. As a note I had three cars initiate “punishment passes” (less than 1 foot) this morning commute as I rode in to work.For the record: cyclist, bus rider and driver, so my experience negates yours just like your little comment at the end tried to erase mine!

          • Peter S. December 28, 2022 (6:58 pm)

            @JN:  Facts:  1) There was more than one gun-involved road rage incident documented on WSB during the high bridge outage.  2)  You misread my “little” comment.  I was only trying to be clear that I’m not *just* a car driver sitting comfortably in my air-conditioned and heated-seat car, to use your words.  Does occasionally commuting by bike from West Seattle to downtown Bellevue qualify as enough experience in your eyes to be able to empathize with other bike riders?  Why so angry?

    • Grateful for alternative transportation options December 27, 2022 (7:22 pm)

      The bikers made that commute even more bearable for those of us trapped in that traffic. The bike detour is not comparable to the dry warmth of your car and very unsafe detour options for bikers during low bridge closures. Those bikers will now be forced back into cars. ‘Now you know how it feels’ is not a helpful comment at all. The biker volumes increased exactly because of that detour. 

    • Neighbor December 27, 2022 (8:35 pm)

      I’m going to blow your mind but it’s possible to own a car and a bicycle.

    • Jay December 28, 2022 (9:41 am)

      I think the percentage of people who bike to work and were unaffected by the high bridge closure is close to 0%. The media paints cyclists as “others,” and comments around the low bridge closure are pretty smug towards cyclists. But we drive the high bridge just as much as anyone else.

  • Chemist December 27, 2022 (7:07 pm)

    The lack of a shuttle van for bicyclists during this closure of the low bridge is interesting.  I hope the bus bike racks will be sufficient because 1st is a fairly long detour by pedal.

    • WSB December 27, 2022 (7:07 pm)

      Thanks, I’ll ask them tomorrow.

  • Kyle December 27, 2022 (8:00 pm)

    Remember when SDOT promised to spend more on bridge maintenance then diverted the funds to other interests..

  • aa December 27, 2022 (8:09 pm)

    I don’t know how anyone can complain about this short term inconvenience when people have frozen to death in their homes and cars in upstate NY.  I’m sorry you can’t ride your bike for two weeks, and you may have to take the bus or find a ride share, and I know this triggers recent bridge issues, but get some perspective folks.  You have options.  I bet some of you even have cars you can dust off and drive.

    • bolo December 27, 2022 (8:28 pm)

      OK, maybe you have a point.

      But we here in West Seattle, this is what we do.

      We complain about bridges.

      Best to just get used to it.

      • Jeepney December 28, 2022 (7:30 am)

        Not just bridges.

    • Neighbor December 27, 2022 (8:41 pm)

      Pretty simple.  Someone freezing to death in New York doesn’t affect my commute.  Bad things happen all the time everywhere.  â€śIt’s worse somewhere else” is always true and is an uninteresting and not constructive take on suffering here.  People can be mad or sad about more than one thing at a time.  Maybe someone who was organizing a relief benefit for Buffalo victims needed to use the low bridge to get to their venue.  The world is comlex.

    • Jay December 28, 2022 (9:33 am)

      People in Yemen are starving by the thousands. How dare you complain about a handful of people in Buffalo? If there’s a worse problem in the world, then your problem doesn’t matter.

  • Question Authority December 27, 2022 (8:10 pm)

    For those of you “armchair quarterbacks” who have never ever built, maintained or repaired a complex mechanical/electrical/scada system you sure love to fault things you will never understand the complexity of.  Components randomly fail regardless of love and attention, much like when some of you awake to a flat bicycle tire even though it was full the nite before.  This bridge system is not something you simply pump up and go about your day, because it’s big and will hurt, maim or kill you if you don’t know what your doing so please take a chill pill for those of us who know about such large dangerous things.

    • Neighbor December 27, 2022 (8:43 pm)

      Question authority by trusting SDOT’s word!

      • Question Authority December 27, 2022 (9:12 pm)

        When you have worn the soles off you’re steel toed boots for as many years as I have in the trades and in fact actually worked on that bridge you can have something to say that will count towards something that matters. This isn’t like taking your car to Jiffy Lube when it needs an oil change or blows a gasket so a little reality check is in order here for those who think this is simplistic to fix

        • Roms December 27, 2022 (10:05 pm)

          “Components randomly fail regardless of love and attention” should be “components fail because of lack of love and attention.” Like your boots, where the sole gets used at a defined rate under expected conditions, pretty much anything has an expected lifespan based on usage. A pump. Or a gasket. Or a hose. Or a structural post. Even a hammer. Maintenance is needed based on that. While there are “random” failures, they are usually due to poor design, poor craftsmanship, etc.

          • Question Authority December 27, 2022 (11:15 pm)

             For argument sake let’s say you perform reliability centered maintenance and track the life cycle of your components, even if you notice and plan for an upcoming failure of a multi ton 9′ diameter hydraulic cylinder or any part of the complex hydraulic system it still take labor and time to fix.  We’re talking about big things in small spaces and even new equipment can suffer what’s referred to as infantile failure right out of the crate.

          • WS Res December 28, 2022 (2:43 pm)

            And yet, unpredictable things happen. Entropy comes for us all. They were planning repairs to the hydraulics in 2023 – unfortunately entropy doesn’t work to a schedule.  My favorite boots turned out to have a tiny flaw in the leather just at a point where wearing them puts a lot of stress. I had to have them patched when it split unexpectedly despite my regular care for them. That’s just how things work in an imperfect world.

    • Jay December 28, 2022 (9:38 am)

      The city knew about the electrical and hydraulic system problems, but they kicked the can on repair work until 2023. The problem has been known for a while. This isn’t armchair engineering, it’s SDOT’s engineering. It’s absolutely broken down now because of a lack of “love and attention.”

      • Question Authority December 28, 2022 (9:57 pm)

        What about that pesky thing called the “Pandemic” and it’s effects upon the supply chain for parts that were ordered?  You seem to expect plans and schedules to be defined, guaranteed and not subject to outside influences but life doesn’t work that way.

      • Mark47n December 29, 2022 (7:42 am)

        As another tradesman who works on complex SCADA and electromechanical systems I would like to make a few points regarding reliability and component failure.Yes,  parts can fail prematurely but most quality parts have life cycles in the millions of counts. Also, many  sensors, and encoders and other SCADA parts are solid state, this means there is no love and attention to be paid since there is nothing to maintain. So, while it’s possible to plan for failure as you approach these cycle counts these parts can be affected by the failure of the parts that they detect/monitor/measure. Some of these parts can be difficult to get in the event of premature failure. Not much else to be said about it. You plan for the failure of some parts using predictive maintenance techniques but that’s a projection, and sometimes you miss.The mechanical parts in systems like these, likewise, are designed to a certain life, in terms of number of operations.  When maintenance professionals tell you that systems need attention that doesn’t mean that they ARE failing, but are reaching the end of life. No one, however, can predict sudden failure, though.Getting the pieces and parts together for a major overhaul of major infrastructure is a complicated task when you have to consider, also, how there are to be installed in tight spaces. This take planning, pick plans (for crane operations,  safety considerations, permitting, etc., to say nothing about scheduling a major outage of the equipment. Two weeks down is not an unreasonable timeframe for replacing major components in a swing bridge. To be clear, replacement includes removal AND installation.Last point, there is no maintenance department anywhere that I’ve been, and I’ve worked in heavy industry and worked on the big facilities through Seattle and the region for the last 15 years or so, that is funded or staffed in a manner to provide total maintenance. IT’s always triage. Always. We’re putting out fires her and there, we try to plan and to get ahead of the curve but it’s tough, especially when you’re plain understaffed. If that’s true in private industry it’s doubly true in the public sector.Again, two weeks is pretty inline with what  would anticipate for such a project, even if it was fully scheduled and this in no way matches with the failure of the high bridge. Comparing the two incident is specious at best. 

  • wetone December 27, 2022 (8:39 pm)

    Problems with swing bridge have been known for awhile, just as the problems with highrise were. SDOT and City seem to be running our infrastructure into the ground before repairing from what I have been seeing lately……interesting business model and where’s the accountability ? As mentioned swing bridge 30yrs old, the railroad bridge just south was built early 1920’s and that’s the main line to and from new port T-5.   SDOT and City need to get back to basics, instead of building Ferrari’s.  When you have a Ferrari you have to maintain it, something SDOT has a real problem with these days……maintenance issues and and parts sourcing gets tougher the older it gets. Seattle’s building lots of Ferrari’s these days with little care about their future……..

    • WS Res December 28, 2022 (2:47 pm)

      SDOT and City seem to be running our infrastructure into the ground before repairing – this is a problem everywhere in the US. When we built most of this infrastructure, “government” and “taxes” hadn’t become poison words. Thanks to Grover Norquist’s childish dream of “drowning [government] in a bathtub” and the “I got mine, good luck out there Jack!” attitude it enabled, government has had to cut, cut, cut, cut funds for maintenance and repair. Now we have a shortage of government workers to fill needed positions when we don’t have hiring freezes, because the positions don’t pay enough to compete with private sector work and they no longer come with benefits that make the lower pay worthwhile.  I’d say “we’re getting what we deserve” but in reality younger generations are getting the bill for older generations’ deliberate and selfish neglect.  Washington State can’t even stomach the idea of taxing the very very wealthy so that we might actually have, and maintain, nice things.

      • K December 28, 2022 (6:29 pm)

        Well said.

      • WestSeattleBadTakes December 28, 2022 (6:48 pm)

        This infrastructure is not maintainable with the paltry tax base combined with how much we use it. It is a snake eating its tail. It is too bad many simply do not want to accept or understand this, so it keeps getting worse.

        • WS Res December 29, 2022 (10:25 am)

          This attitude goes even farther back than Norquist, I have to acknowledge. I was just catching up on Heather Cox Richardson’s newsletters yesterday, and ran across these relevant paragraphs about the way “pay for social goods via taxes” has become equated with “socialism/communism” and supported by white supremacy:

           …the idea from the Reconstruction years that Black voters would elect leaders who promised them roads and schools and hospitals that could only be paid for with taxes on property owners. In the post–Civil War South, that primarily meant white men. Thus, in this construction, minority voting meant a redistribution of wealth from white men to Black people. In the twentieth century, international communism meant government takeover of the means of production. But in the United States, “socialism” and “communism” were defined in the 1870s by those opposed to Black voting, who insisted that letting Black men have a say in their government would create a racial redistribution of wealth that would destroy America.

      • wetone December 28, 2022 (7:03 pm)

        I agree to some point of what your saying. But with our city and state Covid protocols it  has had a huge impact as to why there not getting responses for job openings. City council and mayor also seem to have issues prioritizing.

    • Mark47n December 29, 2022 (7:45 am)

      To clarify, the RR bridge is owned, operated, and maintained by BNSF and they have crews that perform both mechanical and electrical maintenance on it regularly. I worked for BNSF for awhile, as a System Electrician, and this was my bridge to inspect, along with the one in Chambers Bay in Steilacoom. The city has nothing to do with this bridge.

  • Todd Tillinger December 28, 2022 (7:34 am)

    Hopefully the bicycle and pedestrian detour is well marked and the city cleans the debris out of the bike lanes.  As a bike rider and a car driver I’m bummed when either bridge (high or low) is out of service, and hope it gets resolved soon. 

  • sgs December 28, 2022 (8:43 am)

    Why wouldn’t it be possible to keep the bridge sidewalk open for bikes and walkers, with temporary closures if necessary for testing?  Can’t imagine that would have an impact on the work.

    • Jay December 28, 2022 (9:35 am)

      It’s stuck in the open position. And they’re legally required to keep it that way for boat traffic, because if they move it again it might not open.

    • Question Authority December 28, 2022 (9:52 am)

      That bridge spans a waterway controlled by the US Coast Guard and freedom of marine navigation takes priority.  It’s been swung open per higher powers than the vehicle/bicycle lobby or anything the City has to say, much like whenever a ship pulls up it opens without delay.

    • WS Resident December 28, 2022 (10:30 am)

      They can’t keep opening it for maritime traffic and closing it for the rest, so it has to stay open for the maritime traffic only. 

  • Gay December 28, 2022 (11:22 am)

    When we have an earthquake, will they close the bridge to check for hidden damages if they don’t find obvious ones?  Was it closed for the Nisqually quake?

    • Joe December 28, 2022 (4:22 pm)

      Yes they will and yes it was. 

  • Wseattleite December 28, 2022 (3:03 pm)

    It should only take a month or two to compile a huge citizen committee comprised of every possible identification category to oversee the bridge closure.  Every possible scenario of remedy should be studied, from fixing the bridge to using carbon free unicorns to ferry everyone across the river. A benefit will be several hundred new speed bumps installed in obtuse locations throughout the City, and numerous surveys to research how people “feel” about the closure. Let’s not waste this opportunity!  Let the games begin!

    • Barton December 29, 2022 (8:58 am)


  • Mike December 29, 2022 (8:28 am)

    Nice. And only 30 years after this span was opened, huh? Maybe they should have just built the whole thing out of Legos…

  • skeeter December 29, 2022 (1:00 pm)

    If your morning or afternoon commute was worse this morning or evening it’s partially my fault.  I chose to drive my car in because I have no practical way to ride my bike to the office with the lower bridge out.  Sorry.  

  • Calvin A January 3, 2023 (2:40 pm)

    Would SDOT be willing to help bike commuters with free water taxi service while this is an issue, especially if the timeline is extended?

Sorry, comment time is over.