RANT: Is it a “FREEWAY” or really just a ‘Bridge’??

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    Pardon the rant, all, but I was just reading elsewhere on the site a posting about the West Seattle “Bridge” wherein a bunch of responders reacted (imo) as if they had no idea it was ever once called a “Freeway” when the subject came up in passing…

    I have lived in the region almost my entire adult life (not counting some years traveling) and as far back as I can personally recall, all the locals *I* ever knew/know have always called it the “West Seattle FREEWAY”. It was only in more recent years when they changed all the freeway signs (which also referred to it as a ‘freeway’) to read “bridge” that any confusion/debate/etc has come about. Fwiw, I as a native still do prefer and likely always will call it a “freeway”. Old habits and all that…

    WHAT SAY YOU? Do you call it a “bridge” or a “freeway” and are you a native or a transplant? Just curious… no harm to any bridges freeways natives or transplants intended or desired.. :)

    PS: A related quick ‘trivia’ addendum, next time you’re on I-5 do take a closer look at the interchange signs, you will see the letters “BR.” in ‘West Seattle Br.’ are actually still just on a small green board tacked on the signs to conceal the original letters underneath, “Fwy.”



    you mean the spokane street bridge?




    oh so you are talking about the Spokane street bridge. Your using google maps as proof? Scroll to the right, you can see MLK called *empire way*.




    I’ve lived in the Seattle area since 1987 and will likely always call this stretch of road the WS Freeway (except in the forums I generally try to be correct and call it the WS Bridge). Old habits do die hard. Remember when there was no barricade along the viaduct portion of it? I think the speed limit was higher back then too. Ah, the good old days.



    From what I remember from following the papers, it was so they could change the speed limits and enforce them since some argued that “freeway” implied 55-65 mph. Could be wrong but it seems to have been in the late 90’s about the time all the construction was going on around the south end of 99 (which also used to be called a freeway by some)



    That’s right. The official designation as well as the signage was changed from “Fwy” to “Br” solely to accommodate the slow posted speed limit.



    and, thus, I presume, additional ticket revenue? :/



    Not sure if this is true but some time ago I heard that Charlie Chong (former City Council member) pushed for the speed limit reduction after a very serious accident on the freeway.

    My GPS calls it the “Seattle Freeway.” Hello, time to update your maps.



    Oh boy! https://westseattleblog.com/blog/?p=18755

    Four names!?

    I suggest we should just consolidate for “ease” and “conformity” sake..

    Long live the “West Seattle Spokane Street Honorary Jeanette Williams Memorial Freeway Bridge!”

    We could just call it the “WSSSHJWMFB” for short? :D



    If the city could magically increase safety by renaming it from “freeway” to “bridge”, maybe they should consider calling it “West Seattle Light Rail Link”, so we can imagine ourselves getting downtown faster.



    I totally remember when there was no barricade between east- and west-bound lanes. One rainy night an eastbound semi came barreling up from the lower bridge on-ramp (just before the viaduct portion, where the lane then exits down to 1st), obviously didn’t see me on his left, and moved over 2 lanes without signaling, sending me into oncoming traffic (which there was none, thankfully).

    When I heard about the head-on collision/fatality that happened there soon afterwards, my thought was, “that could’ve been ME!”

    Every time I drive along I-5 and see the “Br.” that was patched over top of “Fwy,” I have a chuckle remembering how I would jokingly pronounce “Fwy” as “West Seattle Fweee”!



    I’ve lived in WS since ’94 and still have to remind myself to say “Bridge” instead of “Fwy”. I also recall a number of really ugly accidents when there was no lane divider, so I’m glad that changed. But dividers = less accidents. I’d like to see at least a 45 mph speed limit on the viaduct part.



    Well damn, on the way home tonight from work I checked my own ‘trivia’ and it brought a *freeway*-speed tear to my eye to take note of the fact WSDOT has finally replaced the “band aid bridge” I-5 signage at some time while I wasn’t paying specific attention… Yea for new signage, on safety grounds, but still brought me a little frown of bygone longings etc to see the fancy new signs that actually say the whole word “Bridge”! Oh well… At least I still have my rathole up on Phinney/GW, oh no wait, they knocked that down and built a condo w/a butt-nasty wine bar in the lobby…

    (An aside to transplants, I actually have also lived in SoCal for a time while traveling, it’s nothing personal -unlike some locals- I don’t mind you all ;) but I still can’t get with the condo thing, I’ll never understand buying air when someone else owns the walls, call me old school, another story I guess though…)




    ” Fweee”! ”




    Well, the post I was almost finished with just disappeared in a puff of smoke, so I guess I’ll start over … the ‘West Seattle Bridge’ is a City of Seattle facility; actually, it is two facilities: the 60 year old Spokane Street Viaduct, the low level elevated section over Spokane Street from I-5 to Alaskan Way (approximately) and the high-level bridge which was completed in 1984 that goes the rest of the way over the Duwamish to 35th Ave SW. Note: the low-level bridge built in 1991 is referred to as the Southwest Spokane Street Swing Bridge.

    There were numerous fatality collisions on the viaduct section until technological advances allowed the installation of a center barrier that would fit in the narrow space and not exceed the structure’s weight limit. The accident that got the most attention was in 1993 when a semi coming up the WB on-ramp at 4th Ave forced a car into oncoming traffic. The car’s driver and daughter were killed. As a result, that on-ramp was closed because there was not enough distance for traffic, esp. trucks, to get up to speed before merging. In 1997, the Seattle City Council asked WSDOT to change signs on SR-99 and I-5 to ‘West Seattle Bridge’ from ‘West Seattle Freeway’ to change the perception that the speed limit was 60 mph rather than 35 mph and 45 mph respectively (see below for details).

    At the moment, the city is in the middle of major upgrades to the Spokane Street Viaduct as part of a multi-agency effort to improve traffic access in the SODO/stadium/AW viaduct area: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/spokanestreet.htm and http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/sodo_construction.htm

    City of Seattle Council Resolution Number: 29541

    A RESOLUTION requesting that the Washington State Department of Transportation remove the word “Freeway” from the name and signage on entrances to the Spokane Street Viaduct and the West Seattle Bridge.

    Date adopted: March 3, 1997

    Vote: 9-0

    Committee: Full Council



    A RESOLUTION requesting that the Washington State Department of Transportation remove the word “Freeway” from the name and signage on entrances to the Spokane Street Viaduct and the West Seattle Bridge.

    WHEREAS, the speed limit on the Spokane Street Viaduct is 35 miles per hour; and

    WHEREAS, the speed limit on the West Seattle High-Level Bridge is 45 miles per hour; and

    WHEREAS, the Spokane Street Viaduct has been the site of over one dozen fatalities in the last 10 years; and

    WHEREAS, signs leading to the Spokane Street Viaduct and the West Seattle Bridge from Interstate 5 and Columbian Way indicate that motorists are entering the “West Seattle Freeway”; and

    WHEREAS, the use of the word “Freeway” on exit signs may lead motorists to believe that the Spokane Street Viaduct and the West Seattle Bridge are freeways and encourage motorists to drive at the customary freeway speed of 60 miles per hour rather than the posted speed limits; Now therefore,


    Section 1. The City of Seattle hereby requests the Washington State Department of Transportation to change the name and signage on the Interstate 5 and Columbian Way exits to the West Seattle Bridge and the Spokane Street Viaduct to remove the word “freeway” from these exits.

    Historical bonus fact: A second, higher swing bridge to West Seattle was added in 1911. As a cost saving measure, the bridge carried West Seattle’s new Cedar River water mains. Each time it was opened, the mains had to be uncoupled, temporarily shutting off the town’s water supply.




    Just a little technical correction on metrognome’s info. The section that connects to the highrise in the area of the fire station/steel mill on the west end that continues up to 35th, was originally known as the “Fauntleroy Expressway”, and opened in 1965.

    I feel your pain in losing all of the text you typed, metrognome. :-( I’ve had that happen occasionally too, moreso over on the main page than here, it seems. Usually, thanks to Murphy’s Law, it’s with a longer post, that not only took ahwile to type out, but to formulate in my mind.

    In fact, it happened to me just a couple of days ago on the main page. My computer had been running sluggishly, and it took awhile for the preview window to open, so after making a correction or two, I highlighted and copied the text. sure enough, as I went to post, my browser froze. I was finally able to get off the ‘net after several minutes and sign back in, and then repost it.

    I’ve tried to train myslf to make this a regular habit, especially with longer posts, but things will run just fine for awhile, and I get complacent, and forget to.

    Whenever it happens to where I *do* have to log off, then back on to the browser, after copying text to reattempt to post, I’m sitting here hoping outloud, that the ‘puter isn’t frozen up so bad, that I need to re-boot, and lose *everything*. (In between cussing the machine, and threatening to smash it to bits! ;-) )

    Don’t know if this would have helped in your case, but just a hint for the future, maybe.




    Thanks for all the details (and the “lost magna charta post” thing has happened to me before too… I second ‘Murphy’s Law’)…



    Seems like I noticed the patchwork freeway signs were replaced a couple of years ago, but I still pronounce it W.S. FREEWAY.

    The dividers were a huge improvement, one of the last of the death-trap highways in the Seattle area.

    Anyone that was here before the early 80’s can ever forget the I-90 bulge,

    with the reversible lanes in effect,

    on a rainy mid-Winter night.

    THAT made for a number of wide-eyed rides as a child.



    Oh yeah, dawsonct!

    It was *very* scary to drive, or ride, through that zig-zag with the reversible lanes in effect, *especially* under the conditions you describe.

    I remember when I was a delivery driver in the early ’80’s, I was heading back into our shop in Seattle one afternoon, around the start of rush hour. As I was nearing the bridge, traffic came to a dead. stop.

    After sitting there for a few moments, other people were pulling U-turns. I finally realized there wasn’t a single vehicle coming eastbound off of the bridge, so did the same to go back to 405, then come in on 520.

    About the time I was radioing into the dispatcher to let him know what was going on, I heard over the regular radio that there was a head-on on the bridge.




    People sure drive on it like it’s still a freeway!



    Why don’t we just call it a road…that has a speed limit ;-)


    That would be too easy JanS…how about we call it “X-V Duct Connector” or “Bridge to Nowhere”…



    I reiterate my vote for “WSSSHJWMFB” :D

    Incidentally, “this just in” on the main blog page today: https://westseattleblog.com/blog/?p=21560



    BTW, what a “GEM” quotable here, spoken like a true city document:

    “use of the word “Freeway” on exit signs may lead motorists to believe that the Spokane Street Viaduct and the West Seattle Bridge are freeways”


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