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Plan ahead: Ballard Locks will have limited open hours until government starts again

Photo Courtesy of Civil Air Patrol
Photo Courtesy of Civil Air Patrol

The Federal government shutdown will affect a lot of people’s lives in a lot of different ways. But if you’re a bike commuter in northwest Seattle, the first sign of shutdown might look you square in the eye early Tuesday morning.

I have not yet confirmed details, but plan on the Ballard Locks being closed tomorrow and perhaps indefinitely until the Federal government shutdown ends.

When the nation neared a government shutdown in 2011, the Army Corps of Engineers sent MyBallard a list of the effects the shutdown would have on the Locks, including:

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The park grounds at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard would be closed, including access through the park.

Ship traffic, they said, would continue but would likely move more slowly due to fewer staff.

I have not confirmed that these details are the same, but play it safe and don’t count on getting through.

If you swing by tomorrow morning and find them closed after open hours, please let me know by commenting below or by emailing [email protected]. I’d like to confirm the status ASAP so others can know.

I’ll update when I know more.

UPDATE: Reader Brian DeGeeter sent us the photo below (taken Monday):



UPDATE 2: A press release from the Army Corps of Engineers says the Locks will be open for limited hours, but will close at 4 p.m. before the evening commute. Reader Brian confirmed that the park was open on his way through this morning, but don’t count on them. Details from the press release:

The park grounds at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard will be closed, starting at 4 p.m. today. As an example, cyclists and walkers won’t have access to or through the park beginning 4 p.m. today, nor any subsequent days until funding restoration.

UPDATE 3: Sad:

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19 responses to “Plan ahead: Ballard Locks will have limited open hours until government starts again”

  1. Gary

    Ok, I understand that they won’t operated the locks, but preventing you from walking across the top of them? That’s just petty. The alternative is the Ballard Bridge and that’s horrible.

  2. Rick

    I’m cool with this minor inconvenience…just as long we can delay Obamacare, and our Senators & Representatives still get their huge paychecks and elaborate benefits. Biggest shitshow, ever!

    1. Doug Bostrom

      Yeah, ain’t it great?

      “At the National Institutes of Health, nearly three-quarters of the staff was furloughed. One result: director Francis Collins said about 200 patients who otherwise would be admitted to the NIH Clinical Center into clinical trials each week will be turned away. This includes about 30 children, most of them cancer patients, he said.”

      Quite a show for us bozos, fer sure, dude.

      1. Doug Bostrom

        “Biggest shitshow, ever!”

        Also, no flu tracking! Far out! That’s entertainment! The world is so much bigger than our microscopic, pinheaded imaginations, eh?

  3. Bill

    I’m going to be charitable and assume they need a certain staffing level to ensure they can rescue anyone who falls in the water.

    The locks are operating.

    1. Gary

      “falls into the water”

      Vs being hit while riding across the Ballard Bridge? I’ll take my chances at the locks. How often has anyone fallen in? If it’s happened I’ve never heard of it.

      Besides if they are running the locks, that means there are people along the locks who could toss in a life ring, and call the fire dept. etc. etc.

      Still seems petty.

      1. Bill

        Although I can’t find a link right now, I have read about people falling off of boats in the locks.

        “that means there are people along the locks who could toss in a life ring”

        No, “Staffing limitations may cause longer lock times.” There won’t be as many people along the locks. Falling in the water here is no joke. Hauling someone incapacitated by hypothermia out of the locks is hard.

    2. RTK

      The lock grounds are very large. If you open them you’d need to lock and unlock gates, patrol the grounds, empty trash cans, clean restrooms and such. There are a lot of places for people to wander off to if the grounds are open. This was probably the basis for the decision.
      I’d imagine there is some law about keeping the locks open for traffic, Maritime law is very quirky.

      1. Tom Fucoloro

        Agreed. I don’t think there’s anything suspicious about the closed grounds. I wish there were a way we could have prepared, though. Perhaps put up fences to keep the route open while closing the bathrooms and park. Perhaps this is something the city can partner with the ACE on in the future.

        Also, imagine if this could also be a way to keep the route open 24/7. Or am I way off in dream land?

        Another thing to consider: The Locks are probably on the terrorism protection list, so legit or not I bet security is a reason the Feds would give for closing it without adequate staffing.

  4. Leif Espelund

    Unfortunately the Army Corps doesn’t seem to recognize that it isn’t just a park, but also a transportation thoroughfare. I’d wager that if a major road went straight through a federal facility they would find a way to keep it open. I mean, they are keeping the locks open to boat traffic after all. Once again, cyclists+ peds get the shaft.

    1. Bill

      The people actually getting the shaft are the Federal employees who aren’t working and getting paid. What are the chances the Republican House will compensate them for lost wages?

  5. Doug Bostrom

    The people -really- getting shafted are essential federal workers who on the job, not being paid and have no guarantee they ever will be. Closely followed by the straight furloughs, of course.

  6. Lars

    So…. evidentially this is all about bike commuters.? I am quite sure the Army Corps of Engineers understand it is used as a thoroughfare but their hands are tied. They get their orders,( yes, orders) from above. It’s a shutdown, people. This is bigger than your petty commuting inconveniences .

    1. Leif Espelund

      Lars, we all understand this is bigger than us. I think the point is they (either someone in the corps or whoever above them gives the orders) were able the keep the locks open during the shut down so their hands obviously have some flexibility even while tied. And while the locks are important for the maritime industry, they are used most frequently by pleasure craft. And I’m guessing if your commuting route was affected by this (and especially if you had no nearby safe alternative) you’d be a bit annoyed by the problem as well.

  7. […] This means that bicyclists who use this as a commute route between Ballard and Seattle will have to use either the Ballard or Fremont bridges. More at Seattle Bike Blog. […]

  8. Ruth Berge

    I did not realize that so many people commute that way. I do but because I have to walk my bike or in the winter it is dark, I more often go on the Ballard Bridge. Which does suck. I notice that someone left a mangled traffic cone on the southbound pedestrian walkway for example. (I keep meaning to start a blog of things I see on the walkway across the bridge….).

    Those of you who routinely commute that way, are you bothered by the winter hours (closes at dark) or having to walk across?

    By the way, I agree with Leif or whomever pointed out that the people who work there don’t have any choice. Whether it is reasonable to allow people to cross through the park untended is a debatable question. But think of all the things that people do – throw stuff in the water, graffiti, mess up the landscaping. People, as illustrated by (not Congress) a minority group of tea party House of Representatives, are not reasonable!

  9. Ruth Berge

    Oops, i also meant to say that my dream is for bicycles to take over the Ballard Bridge. Especially at Rush Hour! Too many cars along that road….

  10. Furloughed

    The Locks are being manned during the shutdown, by folks with no guarantee of being paid, because they serve vital public safety needs (police and fire boats). The staff that’s usually there to keep visitors and the park safe have been sent home without pay. For the self-centered folks that don’t that staff is needed, follow the link to the story below and you’ll see that people can get hurt and drown at the Locks.


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