W. Seattle Low Bridge to close for a week due to mechanical repairs

Oct 5, 2023, 5:02 AM | Updated: 8:58 am

spokane street bridge...

(Photo from Seattle Department of Transportation)

(Photo from Seattle Department of Transportation)

West Seattle is about to lose one of its two bridges to downtown. The Lower Spokane Street Bridge will close for about a week, starting this weekend.

A swing bridge isn’t any good if it can’t swing, and the Lower Spokane Street Bridge swings about 1,500 times a year, or about four times a day, to let boats travel along the Duwamish River to Elliott Bay.

More on the Spokane Street Bridge: Drivers rack up tickets using Lower Spokane Street Bridge

There are two giant turn cylinders inside the bridge, and the Seattle Department of Transportation found damage to one in December.  “On one of the cylinders, which basically turns the bridge and rotates it to open and close position, the seals had leaked, and that resulted in the removal of that cylinder to be overhauled,” the Seattle Department of Transportation’s Kit Loo said.

That damaged cylinder had to be removed to be repaired. It shut down the low bridge for several weeks at the start of the year. Now it’s time to put it back in.

“We’ve essentially overhauled that cylinder that was down and pulled out, and what we’re planning to do is reinstall that overhauled cylinder this upcoming week and then remove the second one to have it refurbished,” the SDOT interim director of roadway structures, Loo said.

The bridge was designed to open and close with just one functional cylinder. The cylinders had never been removed when workers started the job last time, so he said it took several weeks to make it happen.

“It was a learning process to understand how you move a 20,000-pound item down from 20 feet up in the air into a cradle and move it out that pier house with a really constrained space,” Loo said.

Loo said they learned a lot from that first removal that’s why this upcoming closure is only expected to take about a week because it will take them, “two to three days per cylinder in order to do the operations.” The time is also budgeted to test the bridge and make sure that everything is working correctly.

More from Chris Sullivan: Sea-Tac getting creative in finding room to grow for $4.5B expansion

The bridge will remain in the open position between Saturday, Oct. 7 and Saturday, Oct. 14. This is expected to cause delays, especially into the Port of Seattle.

“We have been coordinating with the Port of Seattle relating to truck movement into Terminal 5, so they’re aware of some slight changes in terms of how their trucks are going into that terminal,” Loo said. “There’ll be utilized in the high bridge.”

The high bridge is your primary alternate as well. You should expect heavy eastbound congestion near I-5 during the commute next week.

This is expected to have a bigger impact on bike commuters and pedestrians. They will have no access to the bridge either.

SDOT is providing two free transit passes a day who need help completing their trips.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.


Image: A Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) tow plow is seen in action on a snow...

Chris Sullivan

Sullivan: My apology to Plowie McPlow Plow

Lost in all the jokes about WSDOT giving its snow plows ridiculous names is that these tow plows really get the job done.

2 days ago

Sound Transit security...

Micki Gamez

Major disruption ahead for Sound Transit riders

Brace yourself -- another Sound Transit disruption kicks off next month in order to do maintenance on the 1 Line.

6 days ago

(WSDOT image)...

Chris Sullivan

3 years of construction to widen I-5 in Pierce County begins

The next phase of construction to widen I-5 in Pierce County is now underway, and drivers can expect three years of traffic congestion.

7 days ago

i-90 state patrol chains...

Chris Sullivan

Pack your chains for snow: State Patrol targeting big rigs on I-90

The State Patrol is on the prowl across I-90 and other mountain passes, making sure truck drivers are ready for the snow.

9 days ago

Thanksgiving travel tips...

Chris Sullivan

The mystery of the closed Kirkland overpass and Thanksgiving travel tips

Mike in Edmonds asked me about what he calls "the phantom" overpass of I-405 at NE 100th Street in Kirkland, plus Thanksgiving travel tips!

16 days ago

montlake 520 finish...

Chris Sullivan

Final phase of SR 520 plan in jeopardy

We're down to the final few months of construction, as the Montlake lid should be finished early in the second quarter of next year and the reversible lane from State Route 520 to the Interstate 5 express lanes should be done by June.

21 days ago

W. Seattle Low Bridge to close for a week due to mechanical repairs