CHOKEPOINTS

Will ‘normal’ congestion return with reopening of the West Seattle Bridge?

Aug 18, 2022, 8:54 AM | Updated: 9:03 am
bridge...
(KIRO 7)
(KIRO 7)

We all know you are ready to get on the West Seattle Bridge again. It is scheduled to open one month from today, but do you really remember what it was like driving the bridge?

It’s been nearly 2.5 years since anyone has driven across the West Seattle Bridge. Memories of what it used to be like might have faded. Don’t get me wrong. Having the bridge open is much better than what you have had to deal with over the closure, but an open bridge means a return to a daily backup.

Nearly 900 days into its closure, the West Seattle Bridge’s reopening date becomes official

The Seattle Department of Transportation’s Heather Marx is the project director for the bridge repair. She also lives in West Seattle and knows first-hand what driving this bridge is like.

She wants to remind everyone that this was a repair, not an improvement project. It will have the same number of lanes as before.  “This wasn’t an expansion of capacity,” she said.  “If you remember what the travel was like across the West Seattle Bridge before it broke, it’s probably not going to be all that much different, except that COVID-19 has changed some of our commuting habits.”

And we can get to that in a moment, but remember, an average of 100,000 drivers used that bridge every day. Another 20,000 people rode transit across the bridge.

You might have forgotten the daily grind up the hill to where Delridge joins in.

All the merging. All the people driving in the bus-only lanes illegally and then merging over without much notice. All the craziness at 99, and my personal favorite, the backup on the east end of the bridge where it meets I-5. Have you forgotten all the fun merging there?

I don’t want to rain on your parade. Getting the bridge back restores a lifeline, but it’s not going to change what your daily drive used to be.

Now back to Marx’s point on working from home and how it might cut into those previous numbers. She has been going into the office a couple of days a week, and she’s been using the bus. If that’s what you have been doing, she suggests sticking with it.

“It works for me, and my bus trip has been just about the same as it’s always been,” she said.

And those buses will now be back on the bridge and hopefully a little faster. The low bridge will also be back to normal. It will be open to all. Photo enforcement will go away the day the bridge opens.

But Terminal 5 opened during the bridge closure, so you could see more truck traffic.

One thing Marx hopes will happen is that people that have been using all the alternate neighborhood driving routes will return to the bridge. “I certainly hope that people stop driving through Georgetown and the south end,” she said. “Those communities have really absorbed more traffic than they were ever designed to.  I hope that people give West Marginal Way a break. That roadway has had 200% of the traffic that it normally does.”

We could also see less congestion on 509 into and through South Park and maybe even on I-5, which has become a popular route for people heading out the south end of West Seattle.

Just be prepared. Our traffic will shift a bit after the bridge reopens.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.

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Will ‘normal’ congestion return with reopening of the West Seattle Bridge?