West Seattle Bridge Program

Updated September 2, 2021

What's Happening Now?

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Thanks to everyone who joined us for the West Seattle Bridge Program virtual public meeting on Wednesday, July 21. More than 250 community members joined the meeting to ask questions and hear updates about the ongoing repair effort on the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge (high bridge), expanded access on the Spokane St Swing Bridge (low bridge), and our work to improve access to and around West Seattle through the Reconnect West SeattleHome Zone, and neighborhood travel options programs.

Couldn't attend the meeting? Here are other ways to learn more and connect with us:   

NEW WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE VIDEO (available in 8 languages) 
SDOT presented their new video at the July 21 virtual public meeting, and it's now available with subtitles in eight languages: English, Spanish, Somali, Traditional Chinese, Korean, Khmer, Oromo, and Vietnamese. Watch the video now on YouTube. Learn more about the bridge closure, how SDOT is responding in partnership with community members, and what you can do to help reduce congestion and impacts on your neighbors. We're all in this together!  


TRAVEL OPTIONS AND HOW YOU CAN HELP
As COVID restrictions lift, streets are getting busier. We're working to build projects that promote safety and minimize traffic impacts in neighborhoods. You can help too! If you can, skip the drive. Bike, walk, roll, scoot, catch a bus or ferry, join a vanpool, or stay local. Learn more about your travel options here.  

DON'T DRIVE ON THE SPOKANE ST SWING BRIDGE (LOW BRIDGE) UNLESS APPROVED
The low bridge is closed to most vehicles on weekdays from 5 AM to 9 PM and weekends from 8 AM to 9 PM. Unauthorized vehicles will receive a $75 ticket. See if you qualify to drive on the low bridge or apply for access here.  The low bridge remains open for all who are taking transit, walking, biking, or rolling.   

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West Seattle Bridge Program

From repairing the high bridge, to rehabilitating the low bridge, to improving access to the low bridge for different users - and implementing more than 195 traffic mitigation projects to help make it easier and safer to get in and around West Seattle - the West Seattle Bridge Program is a major effort making improvements to infrastructure and in our communities. Let us help you navigate all the various projects that are happening as part of the program.

High Bridge Repairs 

How is the City rapidly repairing the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge (high bridge)?

High bridge repair graphic

Low Bridge Access Policy 

Who can use the Spokane St Swing Bridge (low bridge)?

Low bridge access graphic

Reconnect West Seattle

How is the City restoring travel across the Duwamish and reducing neighborhood impacts?

Reconnect West Seattle icon

West Marginal Way SW 

What improvements are we considering along West Marginal Way SW?

West Marginal Way icon

Low Bridge Improvement Projects

How is the City keeping the low bridge strong and reliable? 

Low bridge projects icon

Travel Options 

What are ways you can get into and around West Seattle, and help minimize community impacts?

Travel options icon

Community Task Force 

Who is on the Community Task Force and how can I follow along? 

Community Task Force icon

Home Zone Program 

What improvements is the City making to calm traffic during the bridge closure?

Home Zone icon

Project Overview

On March 23, 2020, we closed the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge (high bridge) to all vehicle traffic. The sudden announcement to close the bridge stemmed from regular inspections that indicated accelerated growth of new and existing structural cracks. 

Historically, the high bridge is the city's most-used bridge, carrying an average of over 100,000 cars, trucks, and buses every day. The closure has caused a significant disruption to traffic in West Seattle, Duwamish Valley neighborhoods, and in Seattle as a whole. 

On November 19, 2020, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced that she has instructed the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to restore travel across the Duwamish by repairing the high bridge. We've completed phase 1 stabilization of this two-part repair process, and the stabilization work concluded in December. She also directed SDOT to continue early design work for an eventual replacement of the bridge. Watch the Mayor's announcement on YouTube.    

The Mayor's decision to initiate stabilization repairs in March 2020 means we are already months down the repair pathway selected, ensuring that not a moment of forward progress has been lost. Our teams will begin construction for phase 2 rehabilitation by the end of 2021. Our goal is to open the high bridge in mid-2022.

West Seattle High-Rise Bridge Alternate Routes Map

Signs are in place to guide people through the new routes over alternative crossings of the Duwamish Waterway.

West Seattle High-Rise Bridge Alternate Routes Map

Recent News on the SDOT Blog

To view more SDOT blogs about the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge Program, visit sdotblog.seattle.gov/tag/west-seattle-bridge/ 

Project Library/Reports

Other Resources

Community Engagement

We are committed to working with the community to keep you informed of progress and milestones as we rehabilitate the bridge. We will seek your continued feedback on how to improve mobility and safety for West Seattle, as well as the South Park and Georgetown neighborhoods. Thank you to everyone who has helped us make this project better with your ongoing engagement. 

Learn more, get involved, and tell us what you think: 

Frequently Asked Questions

Though this is a difficult moment for many, we're grateful to our team for having the systems in place necessary to make sure we could act quickly to preserve life and safety.

The discovery of rapidly expanding cracks on the morning of March 23, 2020 required us to make an immediate decision to close the bridge that day.

In late February 2020, our engineering consultant recommended that the rate of deterioration made it necessary to consider traffic restrictions at some point in the near future. As our staff reviewed and came to the same conclusion in early March, and prepared to share that news with key stakeholders and the public, our structural engineering consultant notified us that they had conducted a new analysis that raised larger concerns. As a result, we conducted our own observations over the next few days to verify their findings and on Monday, March 23, 2020, we identified significant new cracking. This confirmed that cracking had rapidly accelerated to the point where there was no other option but to immediately close the bridge.

We want to be very clear that during our frequent inspections of the West Seattle Bridge over the past several years, there was no indication that the bridge was unsafe for ordinary use or that preventative maintenance plans would impact normal use of the bridge until very, very recently. Third party experts suggested that lane reductions or closure may be necessary for repairs at some point in the future. As we were preparing to share that news, accelerated cracking in the bridge over the course of a few days — caught by our close monitoring process — forced us to make the difficult decision to close the bridge, immediately. 

This outcome, without a robust opportunity for public engagement and mitigating surprise, is never one we want and it's our hope that recent efforts to engage West Seattle around existing projects make that clear. Please know that we are thinking of the people and businesses of West Seattle every day as we work tirelessly to reopen the bridge safely.

For more thorough information about how we monitor the West Seattle Bridge check out our bridge reports.

We regularly inspect our bridges. The events of the past few days are a notable example of why those efforts are critical and why we take this responsibility so seriously. We did not make this decision lightly, but ultimately, we prioritize safety above all else.

During a 2013 routine inspection of the West Seattle Bridge, our bridge inspectors discovered four sets of cracks in the bridge support structure. We've inspected the bridge every year since then, which is twice as frequently as required by federal guidelines. Those annual inspections did not indicate a need for repairs that would significantly disrupt standard use of the bridge.

During a 2019 assessment of the bridge's ability to carry heavy loads, our structural engineering consultant mapped the cracks in the bridge and discovered that they had grown since the previous year's inspection. Along with our engineering consultant, we continued to closely monitor these cracks and carry out maintenance.

We want to be very clear that during our frequent inspections of the West Seattle Bridge over the past several years, there was no indication that the bridge was unsafe for ordinary use or that preventative maintenance plans would impact normal use of the bridge until very, very recently.

In late February 2020, our engineering consultant recommended that the rate of deterioration made it necessary to consider traffic restrictions at some point in the near future. As our staff reviewed and came to the same conclusion in early March, our structural engineering consultant notified us that they had conducted a new analysis that raised larger concerns. As a result, we conducted several observations over the next few days to ground-truth their findings and on Monday, March 23, we identified significant new cracking. This confirmed that cracking had rapidly accelerated to the point where there was no other option but to immediately close the bridge.

More thorough information about our monitoring of the West Seattle Bridge check out our reports.

Along with our partners, we have made the reopening and mitigation of the West Seattle Bridge closing a top priority with teams working tirelessly to safely restore access. At present, however, the bridge will remain closed until further notice. At this time, we cannot give a definitive date for when the High Bridge will reopen, but we anticipate a lengthy closure. In the immediate term, we will take all measures to preserve the integrity of the bridge so a long-term solution can be put in place. We are working tirelessly with our partners to assess what near-repairs need to be made now and in the future, how long they will take, and how to fund them. We will continue to share updates as we have them.

Currently, we have standard vehicle barriers in place as we plan for a more permanent barrier. We first need to better understand the length of closure to determine the best type of permanent barrier to use. To do this, we are currently assessing what near-term repairs need to be made, how long they will take, and how to fund them.

Updated 10/26/20


With public safety as our top priority, Low Bridge access is restricted primarily to ensure efficient emergency vehicle access across and around the bridge.Who CAN use the Low Bridge

  • Emergency vehicles  
  • Transit vehicles (King County Metro buses and school buses)
  • Freight vehicles
  • People walking, rolling, using a scooter, or biking (Low Bridge path)
  • Employer shuttles
  • Vanpools
  • People with placards (currently 160 distributed)
  • People driving personal vehicles at night (from 9 PM to 5 AM daily)

Who CANNOT use the Low Bridge

  • Ubers, Lyfts, or other ride-sharing vehicles 
  • People driving personal vehicles, including motorcycles, during the day (from 5 AM to 9 PM daily)  

The placard system was based on data that showed we could allow 160 more vehicles to use the Low Bridge without impacting emergency response vehicles. The 160 is a small number that was distributed among:  

  • Maritime/industrial users proximate to Harbor Island
  • International Longshore and Warehouse Union   
  • West Seattle Chamber 

The placard system is temporary until automated enforcement of the Low Bridge begins by the end of 2020 when all use must be tied to individual license plate numbers.  

Currently, detour signs are posted and Seattle Police Department officers are stationed at either end of the Low Bridge to direct general purpose traffic away from the bridge. We are monitoring traffic on the Low Bridge and as new traffic patterns develop, we may be able to adjust access.

When the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge closed on March 23, 2020, we also had to restrict access to the Low Bridge - a critical detour route for many. The High-Rise Bridge carried significantly more vehicles because it has seven lanes compared to the two lanes on the Low Bridge. If all the former traffic from the High-Rise Bridge tried to use the Low Bridge, the resulting congestion and delay would block the efficient movement of emergency response, transit, and freight. 

Signs notifying people driving that the Low Bridge is closed except for buses and authorized vehicles, as well as detour signs, are posted at multiple points at either end of the Low Bridge.  

At this time, healthcare workers are not authorized to use the Spokane St Swing Bridge (low bridge).

We recognize the critical need to provide low bridge access to medical providers who live in West Seattle and need to travel to work for specific, emergency circumstances.  We are currently working with healthcare institutions to determine how we could potentially expand this access to healthcare workers. This access would only apply to certain on-call positions that require an employee to report to work within a specified amount of time (i.e. 30 minutes for an emergency surgery). This would not apply for healthcare workers commuting to work for a regular, scheduled shift.  

There is an interim option for providers at your organization who live in West Seattle and who receive a citation after traveling across the low bridge for an on-call shift, where they have to respond within 30 minutes or less.     

Declaration of Non-Responsibility Process 

This policy applies to health care providers who are:   

  • On-call, and   
  • Live in West Seattle, and  
  • Receive a call-out notification to a hospital east of the Duwamish and must cross the low bridge to respond. 

The Declaration of Non-Responsibility does not apply to workers commuting to regular, scheduled shifts.  

To apply for cancellation of this citation, the owner may submit a Declaration of Non-Responsibility, accompanied by proof documentation on official letterhead (or electronically with official logo) stating:  

  • The subject of the citation is an employee of [institution named on letterhead/logo]   
  • The employee lives in West Seattle  
  • The employee was on-call on the date of infraction and the employee was called in at approximately the time shown on the infraction; alternatively - the employee's call schedule for this month is attached  
  • Proof documentation must be signed/e-signed (not typed) from by institutional official with authority to confirm 

The citation mailed to the employee will include instructions on how to submit this information via a Declaration of Non-Responsibility. This documentation will be sent to the City of Seattle Municipal Court for review and determination if the citation will be waived.   

We know the process for a Declaration of Non-Responsibility may be an intensive process for healthcare workers who are already severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is our goal that in upcoming weeks, we can work with healthcare institutions to better understand healthcare worker needs and develop a policy for on-call workers and the low bridge access.  

Under the existing low bridge access policy, a freight vehicle is defined as a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,001 pounds and higher (Class 3). 

The below graphic shows the classification of freight vehicles. Graphic courtesy of the Alternative Fuels Data Center

Gross vehicle weight rating chart courtesy of https://afdc.energy.gov/

There are many ways to get to and from West Seattle, and we're working to help make that easier. Alternate routes for those traveling to and from West Seattle by car include the 1st Ave S Bridge or South Park Bridge. The Low Bridge is also open for you if you're riding transit, in a vanpool, walking, rolling, riding a scooter, or biking.

Know that through our Reconnect West Seattle framework, we are doing what we can to help people who continue to drive cars and freight trucks, and ride bikes, by updating the markings on the road, adjusting signal timing, and improving road signs. We are working with nearby communities to prioritize projects that will reduce the impact of increased detour traffic; prioritizing transit connections to and from West Seattle; building new bicycle projects; and establishing and improving detour routes. We're also helping make changing your commute possible with the new West Seattle and Duwamish Valley Travel Options portal, which is just a starting point for more resources to come.

The Low Bridge remains open to pedestrians, including people who use mobility devices, and bicyclists.

Motorcycles can use the Low Bridge (Spokane Street Bridge) from 9 PM to 5 AM. At all other hours, motorcycles are not currently allowed under the dynamic Low Bridge Access policy. 

While an individual motorcycle is smaller than a car, it still requires roughly the same amount of room on all sides to travel safely. This is because a large truck or bus needs just as much room to stop safely when they are following a motorcycle as they do for any other kind of vehicle. While motorcycles could travel side by side, most motorcycles travel on their own and occupy an entire lane.

From a traffic engineering perspective, motorcycles take up the same amount of room as a car. This is especially true in stop-and-go conditions where congestion is created by the cumulative reaction time of every individual driver waiting to move forward after the vehicle in front of them moves forward. The number of vehicles in a line of traffic is just as important as the size of each individual vehicle, and so motorcycles could be expected to add to congestion at any intersection, just like cars do.

Additionally, we have safety concerns about motorcycles travelling next to large trucks and buses in stop-and-go conditions, especially because congestion would likely increase considerably if more motorcycles used the Low Bridge. 

Updated 10/26/20

With public safety as our top priority, Low Bridge access is restricted primarily to ensure efficient emergency vehicle access across and around the bridge.

Who CAN use the Low Bridge

  • Emergency vehicles  
  • Transit vehicles (King County Metro buses and school buses)
  • Freight vehicles
  • People walking, rolling, using a scooter, or biking (Low Bridge path)
  • Employer shuttles
  • Vanpools
  • People with placards (currently 160 distributed)
  • People driving personal vehicles at night (from 9 PM to 5 AM daily)

Who CANNOT use the Low Bridge

  • Ubers, Lyfts, or other ride-sharing vehicles 
  • People driving personal vehicles, including motorcycles, during the day (from 5 AM to 9 PM daily)  

The placard system was based on data that showed we could allow 160 more vehicles to use the Low Bridge without impacting emergency response vehicles. The 160 is a small number that was distributed among:  

  • Maritime/industrial users proximate to Harbor Island
  • International Longshore and Warehouse Union   
  • West Seattle Chamber 

The placard system is temporary until automated enforcement of the Low Bridge begins by the end of 2020 when all use must be tied to individual license plate numbers.  

The Coast Guard has sent a notice to non-commercial vessels with a request to request openings during non-peak commute times. SDOT is also making a formal request to restrict bridge openings during peak commute times, which could take several weeks or months to implement.

We are looking to provide several alternative routes. We need to be careful not to direct drivers to prefer any one route to encourage traffic to spread throughout the system to avoid congestion as much as possible.

We are working with King County Metro and regional transportation, life-safety, and maritime partners today to jointly develop a comprehensive traffic control plan to keep people and goods moving. This plan will include bus reroutes, general traffic detours to alternative streets and bridges, and a street-by-street approach to increase the capacity of detour routes to better carry the traffic using the high-rise bridge today.

The Seattle Police Department, Seattle Fire Department, and medical first responders are aware of the closure and planning detours. Our traffic control plan will use streets that accommodate the emergency response network to connect communities to hospitals as they are today.

We are monitoring traffic on the Low Bridge and as new traffic patterns develop, we may be able to adjust access.

The signals at this intersection were upgraded on April 1, to improve traffic flow and allow our staff to manage the signal in real-time. In order to get as many people through the intersection as we can, we also extended the length of the green light. We monitor this intersection regularly and will continue making adjustments to improve traffic flow. This is a complex intersection with five directions of traffic each waiting their turn to move through the intersection. At any given time, four groups of traffic are waiting for a green light and it can be a longer wait than the average signal.  

 For regular project updates, please visit project webpage or subscribe to project emails

We are continuing to work with the engineering consultant that recently assessed the cracking on the West Seattle Bridge. Future work requiring a bid will be posted on our procurement website.

To help manage traffic during the closure of the West Seattle High Bridge, we installed a temporary signal at Highland Park Way SW and SW Holden Street intersection. Safety improvements for the intersection had already been in progress, including a permanent 4-way traffic signal. We will continue moving forward with the permanent safety improvements and collect community input on the project while the temporary signal remains in place. For more information on the Highland Park Area Traffic Safety Improvements, please visit the project webpage.