Image: Todd Bates

In its 78 years, the 167-foot-high “suicide bridge” has been the final perch of choice for more than 230 jumpers. Fremont residents weary of witnessing semiannual death dives finally nudged the state into ponying up $4.6 million for an eight-foot-high safety fence. Now Fremonters have another reason to fret: noise. Construction on the steel-rod barrier is expected to be so loud that the Washington State Department of Transportation has issued free industrial-strength earplugs to residents. The estimated completion date is early 2011, with the noisiest work occurring at night—all the loud, hot summer.

The longest floating bridge on the planet is the focus of one of the longest-running transportation debates in the region. Disagreement over a desperately needed redesign of the 1.5-mile expanse had stalled progress for more than a decade before a state-­approved construction plan was finally set to begin next year. But a last-­minute proposal from Mayor Mike McGinn —who insists the new bridge include the potential for a future light rail line—threatens to freeze construction anew. Debate between the state and the city is expected to drag on through the summer and into fall.

Damaged in the 2001 Nisqually earthquake and ranked one of the most dangerous bridges in the state, the 79-year-old span—a daily commute route for some 20,000 drivers—will close on June 30. The closure is expected to add at least 20 minutes to commute times, reroute three Metro bus lines and 12 public school buses, and significantly impact the response times of emergency vehicles. And there’s little relief in sight; due to lack of funding there are no immediate plans to replace the bridge.

Never mind that the maligned double-decker is doomed for demolition. Starting in ­August, WSDOT crews will install gates designed to cut off vehicle access to the bridge in the event of an earthquake. Meanwhile, the dispute continues over who will foot the bill for the deep-bore tunnel scheduled to replace the viaduct. In a recent letter to Governor Chris Gregoire, Mayor McGinn threatened to pull city approval of the project if it looked like Seattle might get stuck with millions in overrun costs. Expect ongoing missives between the two leaders in the coming months.

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