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Saturday: Fairview Ave N Bridge reopens with a car-free celebration

Photo of the under-construction bridge with event details also in body text.Construction work is wrapping up on the new Fairview Ave N Bridge, finally bringing an end to a long closure of a major bike route between South Lake Union and Eastlake.

The bridge opens to all traffic Sunday, but people walking and biking will be able to cross starting Saturday. SDOT is hosting an opening celebration 9:30–11:30 a.m. Saturday.

The old bridge was closed back in September 2019. I suppose if this important route was going to be closed for so long, a pandemic was a good time for it. The detour via Aloha Street adds a significant amount of climbing to the route, so the bridge reopening will be very welcome.

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Concept images showing the bike connections at both ends.
Concept images from an SDOT presentation.

The new bridge will have a two-way bikeway that operates similar to the old bridge, but the sidewalk will now be separate from the bikeway. Ideally, SDOT would have taken the long time they had during this closure to build a bike connection on Fairview between the bridge and Lake Union Park, but they did not. So for now, people biking on this wonderful new bike path will again have the no-win choice of either squeezing onto the west sidewalk or mixing with general traffic.

RapidRide J map.
Full RapidRide J map (PDF).

The streets around the bridge will change when the RapidRide J project is constructed. The current design calls for protected bike lanes on Eastlake Ave E and Fairview Ave N all the way from Lake Union Park to U District Station. That work is currently scheduled to begin construction in 2023.

More details on the new bridge opening from SDOT:

Unlike the old bridge, there are now sidewalks on both sides of the street and a protected 12-foot two-way bike lane on the west side of the bridge overlooking the water. The floating walkway along the water below the west side of the bridge has also been restored, with three new lookout platforms overlooking Lake Union.

The bridge is also a key part of the recently approved future route of King County Metro Rapid Ride J. This route will connect people to thousands of jobs in several of Seattle’s fastest growing neighborhoods including Belltown, South Lake Union, Eastlake, and the University District. Over the next few years, SDOT and Metro plan to make other major investments along the rest of this route to improve transit travel times, reliability, and capacity.

The brand-new bridge has been built to robust seismic and structural safety standards, and is a good example of one of the ways we take care of Seattle’s 124 bridges. We have completed 32 seismic retrofit projects on other bridges over the past 30 years and plan to complete nine more projects by 2025. Seismic retrofit projects bring older bridges up to modern earthquake safety standards and go above and beyond the ongoing maintenance, inspections, preservation, and basic repairs which we perform continually to keep Seattle bridges safe and stable.

The work is complete just as Seattle is reopening and in time for tens of thousands of people to return to work in South Lake Union and downtown.

The new bridge benefits all travelers, especially bus and bike riders who will both experience faster and more direct trips now that the long-term detour has ended. It is important that returning workers choose to commute into downtown without driving alone to avoid increasing daily congestion and to help keep freight moving.

Bridge construction is wrapping up this week, but we’ll continue working on related improvements now that there is less detour traffic on nearby streets. This work includes replacing a traffic circle at Yale Ave N and Aloha St with a permanently raised intersection, and building a new traffic signal at Aloha St and Eastlake Ave E.

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8 responses to “Saturday: Fairview Ave N Bridge reopens with a car-free celebration”

  1. Jort

    I just find it insanely frustrating and irritating that the city constructs an all-new bridge primarily for cars, tacks on a bike lane, and then claims it’s a huge benefit of active transportation funding and how it mostly benefits bus and bike riders and how it’s a big “Move Seattle” success story. How much would the bridge repair have cost if we didn’t have to worry about cars crossing it? Quite a bit less.

  2. pragmatist

    I don’t think they said that. They’re taking about this as an earthquake safety project, not a multimodal project.

    I don’t see this as primary for cars. Everyone who travels over the bridge benefits equally from replacing a rotting & decrepit bridge. If they’d added a lane it would be different .

  3. pragmatist

    Are you referring to the line about it especially benefiting bus and bike riders who will both experience more direct trips now that the long-term detour has ended?

    I don’t think they’re claiming that the bike lane makes it into a big bike project. They’re just saying that the construction detour was worse on bikers and bus riders than drivers, which is definitely true. Cars had to go a block out of their way, and the best route for bike riders was on the other side of the lake.

  4. eddiew

    since the bike lane is two-way on the north side of the bridge, how is the northbound transition between Fairview and Eastlake addressed? For decades, I have biked from the right side of Fairview. By the way, the future J Line alignment in the U District will be worse for most current Route 70 riders, as they will miss transfer points and have longer walks.

    1. Mike Francisco

      Yes, this is going a bit of a problem for any serious cyclist, who isn’t going to use the sidewalk to get from Valley Street. I’d just keep using the north bound lane, knowing that some drivers will think I should be in the bike lane, or must be, instead of impeding their ability to do 35 in a 25 mph zone. Another issue is the blob of not very visible concrete in your path if you do decide to use the left turn lane to get over to the bike lane – it’s right where if you don’t see it in time you’ll do a header over your bars. I put in a request to address this on the find it fix it app, and if enough people complain SDOT might actually fix it.

      1. Sean P.

        There really isn’t any reason to use the bike lane heading northbound until the rest of the street is fixed (which is going to happen in 2023…right?). You still can’t easily connect to it from the south end of the bridge and since they preserved the previous lane arrangement you won’t even really be holding anyone up by staying in the car lane.

        The north end of the bike lane does work a lot better now, though. It actually continues all the way to Fairview instead of awkwardly throwing riders onto the sidewalk.

  5. ronp

    This is progress but holy cow it would be nice to extend the protected bike lane to Mercer. I rode it this morning, very nice! But we need more protection!

  6. Dave

    There was free ice cream at this event, which was amazing! This bike lane is really nice to use going south, but quite awkward to get to going north. Will be nice when it connects to stuff.

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