Shortly after the West Seattle Bridge cracked and closed last year, Seattle City Council member Alex Pedersen requested an audit of Seattle’s vehicle bridges. The results? Not great, Bob. The Office of City Auditor’s report found that more than 70 percent of these spans are in fair or poor condition, meaning they’re “at an elevated risk of unexpected closures.”

It’s not all bad, though. The overall state of our bridges isn’t drastically worse than a decade ago, and the “poor” label applies to fewer of them than in 2010. Instead there exists a spectrum of bridge dependability, from the unstable to the flaky to the unflinching. Or, in the no-nonsense parlance of the National Bridge Inventory, “poor,” “fair,” or “good.”


Crumbly Crossings

Magnolia

Poor Two decades after the Nisqually earthquake damaged this 1930 span, the city still hasn’t coughed up the funds to replace it.

Second Avenue Extension South

Poor Don’t let the hard concrete exterior fool you: This urban overpass with classic Pioneer Square views needs some structural love.

 


Lake Union’s Problem Children

University

Poor/Fair A cry for help? In the shadow of the noisy Ship Canal Bridge, this century-old bascule over Portage Bay has quietly slipped into ominous condition thanks to subpar supports.

Ship Canal

Fair Opened in 1962, this deteriorating, rusting stretch of I-5 is listed as a “Critical Funded Need” by the state’s transit agency. “It can no longer be ignored without dire consequences.”


Drawbridges That Could Use a Lift

Ballard

Fair Flaky as a Seattleite making plans. It’s gotten stuck spread-eagle multiple times, and commuters bemoan delays via a parody Twitter account. SDOT says the city needs to rehab or replace it.

Fremont

Fair/Good Let down that hair, Rapunzel. The bridge with fairy tale–inspired neon has held up better than its 1917 counterpart in Ballard, though its steel surface still needs a dousing on hot days to remain functional.


Shy but Sturdy Stalwarts

Image: courtesy sdot

Eighth Avenue Northwest

Good Even at 71 years old, this crossing over a lush Broadview ravine is as unyielding as the evergreens shading it. Still, even a top Seattle bridge needs updating: It was recently due for a seismic retrofit.

Image: Dean Forbes

Lucille Street

Good A sinuous I-5 underpass over rail tracks between Beacon Hill and Georgetown remains structurally sound and pedestrian-friendly 40 years after South Enders sought a replacement for its wooden predecessor.


77
Vehicle bridges maintained by Seattle’s Department of Transportation.
70
Median age of those bridges (years).
50-75
Typical bridge lifespan (years).