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Major Seattle route about to go away for 18 months

Only in Seattle can the loss of 500 feet of road lead to major congestion. Drivers need to prepare for the upcoming loss of the Fairview Bridge that connects South Lake Union with the Eastlake neighborhood.

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If you are unfamiliar with the Fairview Avenue Bridge, it runs along the southeast side of Lake Union. It is a great commuter backdoor for people trying to escape South Lake Union and access the U-District without getting on I-5. Most drivers probably don’t realize that they are on a bridge for about 500 feet as they approach Eastlake.

“It isn’t until you get down lower at the water level that you can see the underlying structure and see the shoreline goes underneath the roadway,” project manager Marilyn Yim said. “That’s when you realize it’s actually two parallel structures that we are going to be replacing.”

Once you get under the roadway, you can see just how much the pilings need to be replaced.

“One is a timber trestle bridge, built in 1948, that’s on the water side,” Yim said. “The other one is a reinforced concrete bridge, that was built in the 1960’s.”

The southbound span is actually the last timber-supported bridge on a major road in Seattle.

Drivers need to prepare for life without this route into and out of South Lake Union for about a year and a half. The closure will happen this fall. Eastlake Avenue is the only other north-south route in the area, and Yim said the city wants that to be a “locals-only” type of detour, using Aloha Street to get back to Fairview.

“Aloha Street is really the only street that connects between Fairview and Eastlake,” she said. “That is going to be the route that transit and bikes and pedestrians and local traffic will be using.”

Yim wants everyone else to stay off Aloha Street and use other ways around the closure.

“It is not an arterial,” she said. “We’re closing an arterial and putting all that traffic onto this much smaller road.”

Bikers, dog-walkers and runners. You will also have to use the detour. The floating walkway that is currently under bridge will be going away, too.

“That’s the first thing we have to remove,” Yim said. “We have to float that thing away in order to gain access to the structures we are replacing.”

A new walkway on the water will be installed once the bridge is complete.

And there will be some gain after this year and a half pain. Yim said Seattle will be getting a better bridge, with new amenities.

“The new bridge will have the same number of car lanes that are out there today, and they will be full standard (12 feet),” she said. “We’re going to have sidewalks on both sides and a two-way, protected bicycle lane.”

We’re still waiting for the final schedule. All we know now is that this closure is set to start in the fall.

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