Low Bridge (Spokane St Bridge)

Background

When the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge closed on March 23, we also had to restrict access to the Low Bridge - a critical detour route for many. Access to the Low Bridge was immediately restricted to freight, transit, and emergency response vehicles. We've been adjusting our Low Bridge Access Policy since then to safely accommodate additional users. 

Low Bridge Policy

Policy as of November 2020

With public safety as our top priority, Low Bridge access is restricted primarily to ensure efficient emergency vehicle access across and around the bridge. 

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
  • People with placards* 
  • People driving personal vehicles at night (from 9 PM to 5 AM daily)

Who CANNOT use the Low Bridge

  • Ubers, Lyfts, or other ride-sharing vehicles, during the day (from 5 AM to 9 PM daily)
  • People driving personal vehicles, including motorcycles, during the day (from 5 AM to 9 PM daily) 

*Placard distribution: A limited number of placards was distributed among: Maritime/industrial users proximate to Harbor Island, International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the West Seattle Chamber.

Automated Enforcement

Since we closed the High-Rise Bridge on March 23, in an effort to ensure traffic volumes do not impact emergency vehicle response times as we develop our automated enforcement system and policies, Seattle Police Department (SPD) officers have been ticketing or turning around people using the Low Bridge. Starting in early 2021, the automated enforcement system will use photographs of license plates to identify unauthorized Low Bridge users. SPD Traffic or Patrol officers, as well as other localized police agencies may continue to identify, stop and enforce the sign restrictions as part of their normal duties.

Automated enforcement on the Low Bridge allows us 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 potentially a small number of additional authorized users, to be identified through the Low Bridge Access Subcommittee. The subcommittee will inform a dynamic policy and recommend an equitable approach for Low Bridge access. This subcommittee currently consists of seven members who provide perspectives across these subgroups: West Seattle small businesses, the maritime industry, other official users, and heath care workers/patients. 

Starting in early 2021, SPD will mail $75 citations to unauthorized trips across the low bridge within 14 days of the violation. Some courtesy warnings may also be issued in early 2021. SPD officers 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, and are prohibited from being used for any 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. 

Most recently, we installed signs around the Low Bridge to notify people driving that we're using automated (photo) enforcement on the Low Bridge. Cameras will be installed in November. 

Photo of Low Bridge enforcement signs installed in October 2020

Frequently Asked Questions

Attempting to shift all the traffic from the High Bridge to the Low Bridge would create traffic congestion and long traffic queues, even while there is reduced traffic due to the Governor's "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order. The High Bridge carried significantly more vehicles because it has seven lanes compared to the two lanes on the Low Bridge. We prioritize the movement of transit, freight, and emergency vehicles on city streets and used this prioritization to limit vehicle demand on the Low Bridge in a way that keeps people, goods, and essential services moving.

Signs notifying people driving that the Low Bridge is closed except for buses and authorized vehicles, as well as detour signs, are posted at multiple points at either end of the Low Bridge.  

We acknowledge it is critical for doctors, nurses, researchers and first responders to get to their jobs. At the same time, we must reserve access to the Low Bridge to emergency vehicles transporting critically ill patients. Many people who live and work in West Seattle serve many kinds of essential functions — we need to maintain equity for all of them. The Low Bridge is currently open to essential workers who get to work by taking transit, walking, and biking. It's also open to people using emergency vehicles and transporting freight as part of their jobs. For essential workers who are driving private vehicles, they are directed to the 1st Ave S Bridge.

Under the existing Low Bridge Access policy, a freight vehicle is defined as a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight of 10,000 pounds and higher. 

The types of authorized freight vehicles may change as we move to automated enforcement in early 2021. 

At this time, people driving freight trucks can access the Low Bridge. We are monitoring traffic on the Low Bridge and as new traffic patterns develop, we may be able to adjust access. We acknowledge it is critical for members of freight and maritime community to get to their jobs. At the same time, we must ensure efficient access across and around the Low Bridge to emergency vehicles transporting critically ill patients. Many people who live and work in West Seattle serve many kinds of essential functions - we need to maintain equity for all of them. With public safety as our top priority, Low Bridge access is restricted primarily to ensure efficient emergency vehicle access across and around the bridge. 

The Low Bridge remains open to pedestrians, including people who use mobility devices, and bicyclists.