SDOT has closed a section of trail near the east end of the Spokane Street Bridge, effectively closing the trail loop under the bridge and forcing all trail users to use the crosswalks and sidewalks at the intersection of SW Spokane St and 11th Ave SW. The trail will be closed until sometime in April while crews install a new communications line for the swing bridge control system.
One of the crosswalks marked in SDOT’s map was the site of the collision that killed Robb Mason last July. Though the route marked on the map is the most direct route and is commonly used, the trail loop under the bridge is also popular because it allows people to skip using the crosswalks entirely. The construction notice downplays the importance of this trail loop:
“While this work occurs, we will temporarily close a trail spur that branches off the main West Seattle Bridge Trailway. The impact to people who bike, walk, or roll in the area will be minimal. Our project closure site will not affect the main trail over the Spokane St Bridge, or the primary bike route between West Seattle and Downtown used by most people on bikes. Instead, we will be closing a section of the trail that provides an optional loop around the foundation of the Spokane St Bridge used by some bikers.”
— Advertisement —
I found this determination somewhat surprising since I always use the loop, and I thought it was the main route. While the trail loop has extra distance, you don’t need to wait for the walk signal or worry about car and truck traffic. Those crosswalks have always felt sketchy and in need of more safety enhancements. For example, people driving eastbound across the bridge can take very fast right turns due to the wide turning radius.
Perhaps the city could do something to tighten up that turn to encourage slower turns across the crosswalk. The Spokane Street crosswalk is also placed an awkward distance from the intersection due to the rail line there, and it crosses two lanes in the eastbound direction for seemingly no reason. There is only one lane eastbound across the bridge, and the street goes back to one lane shortly east of the crosswalk. It’s almost at though that second eastbound lane exists only to make the crosswalk more dangerous. Seattle’s Vision Zero data shows that the vast majority of people killed while walking or biking happen on streets with more than one lane in the same direction. SDOT could tighten that crosswalk up so it crosses only one lane in each direction, which would dramatically reduce the time users spend exposed to traffic and remove the ability for people driving to use the second lane to make a dangerous pass. This change could also help create some space to tighten up the turns and create a less awkward and squished area for trail users.
The construction work will move communication lines from the upper bridge to a new underwater route. The work is a “proactive” effort to “decouple the low bridge from the high bridge,” according to SDOT. Not exactly a vote of confidence in the high bridge, which underwent emergency repairs after serious cracking was discovered in early 2020. The Spokane Street swing bridge has its own troubled history due to an unreliable opening mechanism.