Automated Photo Enforcement - West Seattle Low Bridge

Restricted Lane Access

Background

Following the 2020 Washington State legislative session, a pilot program was authorized for photo enforcement for blocking intersections (block the box), transit only lanes, and restricted lane access. In October 2020, the City of Seattle adopted an ordinance allowing the use of photo enforcement for the new areas mentioned above.

Since the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) closed the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge in March 2020, we have been limiting access on the S Spokane St Bridge (Low Bridge) between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. daily.

The West Seattle High-Rise Bridge carried significantly more vehicles because it has seven lanes compared to the two lanes on the Low Bridge. If all the former traffic from the High-Rise Bridge tried to use the Low Bridge, it would create severe congestion and long traffic back-ups, blocking access for emergency vehicles. The problem is especially acute because the Low Bridge is only two-lanes and has no shoulders.

With public safety as our top priority, Low Bridge access is restricted primarily to ensure efficient emergency vehicle access across and around the bridge. For more information about SDOT's Low Bridge Access Policy and how automated enforcement will work, visit www.seattle.gov/transportation/lowbridge.

Who Can Use the Low Bridge

  • Emergency vehicles   
  • Transit vehicles (King County Metro buses and school buses)
  • Freight vehicles
  • People walking, rolling, using a scooter, or biking
  • Employer shuttles
  • Vanpools
  • Pre-authorized users*
  • All Personal vehicles at night (from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily)

Who Cannot Use the Low Bridge 

  • Taxis and ride-hail app vehicles like Uber and Lyft (from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily)
  • Personal vehicles, including motorcycles, during the day (from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily)

*Pre-authorized use is currently limited to select maritime/industrial vehicles proximate to Harbor Island, International Longshore and Warehouse Union vehicles, and West Seattle business vehicles. If you believe you are eligible for pre-authorized use based on the description above, please email us westseattlebridge@seattle.gov or call (206) 400-7511.

How the photo enforcement system works

Beginning January 11, 2021, the automated photo enforcement system on the Low Bridge will turn on. Unauthorized Low Bridge users are subject to a $75 citation for every trip across the Low Bridge. SPD Traffic Officers, as well as other localized police agencies may continue to identify, stop, and enforce the sign restrictions.

Automated enforcement on the Low Bridge allows SDOT to better enforce the Low Bridge access policy by recognizing in real-time authorized users like transit vehicles, school buses, freight vehicles, emergency response vehicles, and a small number of additional pre-authorized users with their vehicle license plates.

Starting in early 2021, $75 citations will be mailed to vehicle owners for every unauthorized trip across the Low Bridge within 14 days of the violation. Some courtesy warnings may also be issued in early 2021. SPD will review each violation photo, which is required by State law. Violation photos are taken of the vehicle to capture the license plate number, not the person driving. The photos are only intended to be used for enforcing the restrictions on the Low Bridge, and are not intended for other law enforcement action. There is a $75 cap on citations, along with Seattle Municipal Court's community service in lieu of fee and zero-interest payment plans, to prevent citations from causing financial hardship to low-income individuals.

SDOT installed signs around the Low Bridge in October 2020 to notify people driving about the automated photo enforcement system. Cameras were installed in December 2020.

Frequently Asked Questions

When photo enforcement is operating, the registered owner of an unauthorized vehicle will receive a notice of infraction in the mail within 14 days. Citations can be issued for both directions of travel on the bridge. If the violation took place while driving a rental car, the timeframe will be longer. The rental car company has the opportunity to identify the vehicle operator and forward the information so a notice of infraction can be mailed to the renter of the vehicle. The Seattle Municipal Court provides an option for community service in lieu of paying the fee and zero-interest payment plans to reduce financial hardship to qualifying individuals. If you receive a notice of infraction, you have 18 days to pay it.

If you receive a notice of infraction, you have 18 days to pay it. You have three payment options:

1.     Send a check or money order in U.S. funds, payable to Seattle Municipal Court, for the AMOUNT DUE shown on the front, on or before the DUE DATE. Please include the enclosed coupon with your payment. Write your Notice # and your license plate # on your check or money order. PLEASE DO NOT MAIL CASH.

2.     Pay through the internet, on or before the DUE DATE at www.seattle.gov/courts/ticketinformation.htm or through our automated payment system accessible from any touch-tone telephone at (206) 233-7000.

3.     Pay in person, on or before the DUE DATE, Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM at the Court Payment Office on the 1st floor of the Seattle Municipal Court Building, 600 Fifth Avenue, Seattle, WA. A payment box is located in the front of the Seattle Municipal Court Building for after-hours convenience.

Under the state legislation, 50% of ticket revenues are remitted to the state. The City's 50% portion of any revenues will be used to support improvements to transportation that support equitable access and mobility for persons with disabilities.

While we do expect for this to be a cost-neutral program where citations cover the costs of building and operating the system, we expect to see significantly fewer unauthorized users than today.

Use the coupon enclosed with your citation to request a mitigation hearing or contested hearing. To submit a declaration of non-responsibility, follow the instructions on the citation.

  • A HEARING TO EXPLAIN THE CIRCUMSTANCES: By requesting a mitigation hearing, you will be deemed to have committed the infraction. You may not subpoena witnesses for this hearing. You would request a mitigation hearing if you agree you committed the infraction but believe the circumstances may be such that the court could reduce or waive the penalty.·      
  • A HEARING TO CONTEST THE INFRACTION: At a contested hearing the City has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the infraction was committed. You may subpoena witnesses including the officer who issued this Notice of Infraction. If you request a contested hearing the Court will schedule a pre-hearing conference, which you may waive by using the form attached to the Notice of Hearing that the Court will send you.       
  • SUBMIT A DECLARATION OF NON-RESPONSIBILITY: If your vehicle was stolen, sold by you prior to the date of the violation, or was otherwise not in your care, custody or control at the time of the violation, you may submit a sworn statement to that effect to the Court to rebut the presumption, established in SMC 11.31.090, that you were not driving the vehicle at the time of the violation.

You may view the photographic images and video online at www.ViolationInfo.com. You must use the Notice # and PIN printed on the front of the notice to login.

Persons without access to a computer can visit any Seattle Public Library branch or at the Municipal Court (600 Fifth Avenue) to view photographic and video evidence.

A photo enforced violation is treated like a parking infraction. There are no issues with your license, no points assessed, and no impact to your insurance.

Photos will be taken of the vehicle to record the license plate number and not the people inside the car. The photos are only intended to be used for enforcing the restrictions on the Low Bridge, and are not intended for other law enforcement action. 

The system will then cross-reference those license plate numbers with a database of authorized users to identify whether a vehicle is allowed to use the Low Bridge at that time. Seattle Police Department officers will review the images of every potential violation before issuing a notice of infraction.  Unauthorized vehicles are subject to a $75 citation for every trip across the Low Bridge.

Freight, transit, and emergency vehicles are automatically approved to use the Low Bridge. Additional vehicles including select maritime, government, and West Seattle businesses performing nearby work functions may be authorized to use the Low Bridge and must provide their license plates to SDOT in advance.

Personal information shared (including name and license plate number) is subject to Washington Public Records Act, and may be subject to disclosure to a third-party requestor. At the City of Seattle, we are committed to protecting your privacy and will ensure that any disclosures are done according to law. To learn more about how this information is managed please see our Privacy Statement (http://www.seattle.gov/tech/initiatives/privacy/privacy-statement).

SDOT will be logging the number and time of Low Bridge trips made by each authorized license plate number. By requesting access to the Low Bridge, you are consenting to this use of your Low Bridge travel information for monitoring and evaluation purposes. This trip log is also subject to Washington Public Records Act, and may be subject to disclosure to a third-party requestor.

Freight, transit and emergency vehicles are automatically approved to use the Low Bridge. Additional vehicles including select maritime, government, and West Seattle businesses performing nearby work functions may be authorized to use the Low Bridge.  

While we don't have plans right now to add more authorized vehicles to our database, we are continuing to evaluate and adjust this program, based on Low Bridge traffic volumes and usage patterns.   We have a stakeholder group bring perspectives of community and business groups and they are helping us implement this new enforcement tool now, and in dialogue with us about ways to expand and contract the authorized user pool to ensure that Low Bridge traffic keeps flowing to keep everyone as safe and connected as possible.

If you believe you are eligible, please email us westseattlebridge@seattle.gov or call (206) 400-7511