Alert: The Spokane Street Bridge will be closed ‘at least two weeks’

Map of the closure between West Seattle and Harbor Island.

Note that the High Bridge is a freeway with no walking or biking access despite extensive recent investments.

SDOT posted an update Tuesday evening with terrible news for people who walk or bike between mainland Seattle and West Seattle: The Spokane Street Bridge, the lower swing bridge with the biking and walking path, will be out of commission for “at least two weeks,” according to the SDOT Blog.

The Alki Water Taxi was already scheduled to run seven days a week this winter, though it will be closed January 1–2 for the holiday. You can also put most bikes on a bus (except oversized and electric bikes), though there are only three bike spaces per bus.

Otherwise, detouring all the way to the 1st Avenue Bridge is the only option for people biking, an extra five miles that add up to about a half hour each way according to Google’s estimate. And, of course, detouring to the 1st Avenue Bridge means navigating SoDo’s wide and fast streets that do not have a complete and comfortable bike route.

Considering the major disruption this poses to people who rely on biking, it would be a huge help if SDOT and/or WSDOT fast-tracked an emergency bike route from Georgetown to downtown. E Marginal Way, 1st Ave, 4th Ave or Airport Way are all viable options. The 4th Avenue South bridge over the railyard already has a lane closed pending repairs. Perhaps they could just extend that to connect S River Street and S Lander Street?

More details from SDOT:

The Spokane St Swing Bridge (Low Bridge) will remain closed for at least two weeks while our crews continue working to repair mechanical issues that intensified after a power outage during the ice storm on Friday, December 23.

Our engineers and crews are working as quickly as possible to develop a repair plan and schedule, and we will update the public as soon as more information is available. The bridge is currently open for maritime traffic and is closed to all vehicle, bicycle, and pedestrian travel.

Detour routes:

  • People traveling by car may use the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge.
  • Freight and people operating trucks headed to Terminal 5 in West Seattle may use the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge or West Marginal Way SW.
  • People riding King County Metro buses are not affected because transit does not use the Low Bridge during normal operations. We are coordinating with Metro to plan for potential snow storms, as the Low Bridge is a part of the transit snow network.
  • King County has expanded its Water Taxi service this winter with sailings seven days a week. The Water Taxi serves people walking, rolling, and biking unless sailings are canceled as a result of high winds and waves. The Water Taxi is not scheduled to sail on Sunday, January 1, or Monday, January 2.
  • People biking may also use the 1st Ave S Bridge.

Federal law gives the U.S. Coast Guard authority over maritime travel on the Duwamish Waterway and requires us to keep the waterway accessible for ships. The east channel’s bridge remains open, connecting Harbor Island and Terminal 18 to Sodo and the Spokane St Viaduct.

The problem initially appeared to be associated with a computer issue that occurred while the bridge was powering back up after a power outage. Once the computer issue was resolved, engineers found previously identified minor issues with the hydraulic system that moves the bridge had intensified.

We complete regular inspections of the Low Bridge and had existing plans to repair these aging components in 2023. However, after the power outage, it was discovered that previously manageable small-scale issues had escalated into more severe problems. Until these components are fixed, the bridge cannot be reliably moved without risking more severe long-term damage.

Our engineers are working as quickly as possible to analyze repair options. While there is not yet an estimate for how long bridge repair will take, we expect the closure to last for at least two weeks.

We are working to minimize effects on the traveling public to the extent possible and communicating with its regional partners, including King County Metro, the freight community, and the Port of Seattle.

Based on the evaluation results, additional Low Bridge closures for repairs may be needed in 2023, along with closures associated with planned capital improvements to the bridge next year.

We have been proactively working to maintain the Low Bridge as part of ongoing bridge preservation efforts. In addition to the immediate work to resolve this hydraulic system issue, we have several planned and recently completed improvements to the Low Bridge, including:

  • Structural rehabilitation, including carbon-fiber wrapping and epoxy crack fillings, which is complete
  • Bridge communications and control system upgrades (planned for 2023)
  • Bridge lift cylinder rehabilitation on east side of the waterway (planned for 2023)

Please stay tuned for updates via @SDOTTraffic on Twitter, the SDOT Blog, or sign up for email updates.

About Tom Fucoloro

Founder and Editor of Seattle Bike Blog.
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9 Responses to Alert: The Spokane Street Bridge will be closed ‘at least two weeks’

  1. bill says:

    The quick fix is free water taxi ridership for cyclists.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Water taxi hours is also an issue. It stops at 7ish. That’s way too early.

      • Al Dimond says:

        Yeah … outside water taxi hours this time of year there might be enough bike rack space on buses to just about cover it, especially if people that don’t need bikes on the other side can avoid bringing them … but some riders will face full racks over the next few weeks.

      • asdf2 says:

        One thing that helps: if you’ve got a bike, you can take whichever bus comes first (at least in the westbound direction), you don’t have to wait for a particular route. The C, 21, 120, 125, for instance, all work. Added up, that’s a lot of buses per hour, during a time of year when bike riding is at a seasonal low.

        I think, in practice, it won’t be too difficult finding a bus with an open rack.

  2. peri hartman says:

    Another stupid handling by SDOT. At least they could explain alternatives besides riding a significant extra distance. For example, as asdf2 says, there are several bus routes available. I checked the #21. It stops at S Hanford street and then gets on the freeway bridge. For me, this is a good alternative.

  3. Mary says:

    What is the best (least pot-holed and crazy fast traffic) route north from the First Ave South Bridge to Harbor Island?

  4. Conrad says:

    Ah west Seattle. It’s been a long and winding road. Previous experience leads me to believe that we are a little more than 2 weeks out from a bridge repair, and that SDOT is not going to make the detour bearable in the near future. It is, as they say, a bridge too far. I quit.

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