West Seattle Bridge

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West Seattle Bridge
West Seattle Bridge from 12th Ave S Viewpoint 01 - cropped.jpg
The West Seattle Bridge from the 12th Avenue South Viewpoint on Beacon Hill.
Other name(s) Jeanette Williams Memorial Bridge
Carries vehicles
Crosses Duwamish Waterway
Locale Seattle, Washington
Design segmental, cantilever
Total length 2,607 ft (795 m)[1]
Clearance below 140 ft (42.6 m)
Opened July 1984
Coordinates 47°34′15″N 122°21′01″W / 47.570945°N 122.350338°W / 47.570945; -122.350338Coordinates: 47°34′15″N 122°21′01″W / 47.570945°N 122.350338°W / 47.570945; -122.350338
The Antonio Chavez, the ship that hit the old bridge.

The high-level West Seattle Bridge is a cantilevered segmental bridge that serves as the primary connection between West Seattle and the rest of the city. It was built between 1981 and 1984 after the previous bascule bridge was deemed inoperable as a result of being struck by the Chavez freighter in 1978. The West Seattle Bridge was renamed as the Jeanette Williams Memorial Bridge on July 6, 2009, in honor of Jeanette Williams, who served on the Seattle City Council from 1970 to 1989, and was instrumental in securing political support for the construction of the bridge.[2][3] However, all directional signs continue to carry the name, "West Seattle Bridge."

The bridge spans the east and west channels that form the mouth of the Duwamish River at Elliott Bay, crossing over Harbor Island. Its main approaches are Fauntleroy Way S.W. from the west and the Spokane Street Viaduct from the east. The viaduct continues east to Interstate 5 at Columbian Way (exit 163), forming a three-mile (5 km) arterial between West Seattle and I-5. The navigational clearance height of the high-level West Seattle Bridge is 140 feet (42.6 meters).[4]

A low-level West Seattle Bridge of swing-span design spans the west channel of the Duwamish River immediately north of the high-level bridge. The low-level bridge carries the surface-level Spokane Street and has a navigational clearance of 45 feet (13.7 meters).

From 2008 to 2013, the Spokane Street Viaduct section between Interstate 5 and WA 99 was rebuilt and widened. The Spokane Street Viaduct section was one of Seattle's first freeways, built in 1940. The widened roadway has 3 lanes in each direction and shoulders. A new westbound on and off ramp was built at 1st Ave S and replaced the dangerous 4th Ave S off-ramp. A new eastbound off-ramp to 4th Ave S opened Aug. 16, 2010. The new roadway may be considered for an interstate designation after the upgrade as it connects to the Port of Seattle.

Original West Seattle Bridge and ship incident[edit]

West Seattle Bridge spans after being rammed by the Chavez on June 11, 1978

At 2:38 a.m. on June 11, 1978, the freighter Chavez rammed the West Seattle Bridge over the Duwamish West Waterway, thereby closing it to automobile traffic for the next six years.

The Chavez was 550 feet long and was carrying 20,000 tons of gypsum under the command of 80-year-old Puget Sound Pilot Rolf Neslund (1897-1980) and its master, Gojko Gospodnetic, when, just before dawn, it struck the east end of the bridge. A Coast Guard board of inquiry found both officers negligent. Neslund retired two weeks after the accident. Gospodnetic, a Yugoslav national, was fired.

Two years later, Neslund's wife murdered him on Lopez Island, later claiming that he had returned to Norway. Although no trace of the body was ever found, she was convicted of the crime and died in prison.

The accident had one positive result: It ended years of debate over a new West Seattle Bridge, particularly a high bridge to accommodate Port of Seattle plans for expanded use of the Duwamish Waterway. The previous effort to build a bridge collapsed in 1975 amid a kickback scandal that sent the City Engineer to prison.

After the accident, Mayor Charles Royer (b. 1939) and City Councilmember Jeanette Williams (1914-2008) enlisted the aid of U.S. Senator Warren G. Magnuson (1905-1989) to secure federal funds and the participation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as project manager for the high-level bridge. The new span was dedicated on July 14, 1984, at a cost of $150 million including $60 million in federal money. A new pivot-swing bridge later replaced the original bascule bridge.[5]

Exit list[edit]

Destinations Notes
Fauntleroy Way Southwest, 35th Avenue Southwest Ends at an at-grade intersection
Admiral Way Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
Harbor Avenue, Avalon Way Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
Delridge Way Southwest, Southwest Spokane Street - South Seattle Community College Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
11th Avenue Southwest - Harbor Island, Terminal 18 Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
SR 99 north Eastbound exit and westbound entrance
1st Avenue South Eastbound exit; westbound exit and entrance
4th Avenue South Eastbound exit
Spokane Street, 6th Avenue South Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
I-5 - Portland, Vancouver
Columbian Way, 15th Avenue South Eastbound exit and westbound entrance

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

External links[edit]