The Fremont Bridge was opened on Friday June 15, 1917, at a cost of $410,000. The first traffic over the bridge was to "owl cars", the last run of the trolleys, and then after 5am the same day to all other traffic. The Lake Washington Ship Canal was dedicated on July 4, 1917, which has caused confusion about the opening date, for this bridge crosses the canal. The Fremont Bridge is the first of four city bascules to cross the canal, the others being Ballard Bridge (1917), University Bridge (1919), and Montlake Bridge (1925). The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, and is also a designated city landmark, ID #110347.
Due to its low vessel clearance of 30 feet (9.1 m), the Fremont Bridge opens an average of 35 times a day, which makes it the most frequently opened drawbridge in the United States and one of the busiest bascule bridges in the world. Federal law gives marine traffic the right-of-way over vehicular traffic, however the Fremont Bridge is closed to most water traffic during rush hours.
The bridge's blue and orange color was chosen by voters at a 1985 street fair.
In 2006, the Fremont Bridge underwent a $41.9 million restoration project to replace the approaches and maintenance shop, as well as renovation of the mechanical and electrical systems that operate the bascule. The approaches were completed in May 2007 and testing lasted through the Spring of 2008. In 2014 the city began repainting the bridge.