The high-level West Seattle Bridge, officially the Jeanette Williams Memorial Bridge, is a cantilevered segmental bridge that serves as the primary connection between West Seattle and the rest of the city. It was built between 1981 and 1984 and spans the east and west channels that form the mouth of the Duwamish River at Elliott Bay.
The West Seattle Bridge is the first permanent bridge along the line of Spokane Street. In the early 1900s there were three temporary bridges in its place. The first one was basically a swinging gate in what had been primarily built as a water main, and the second two were swing bridges.
The original bridge was a low-level bascule bridge constructed in 1924. By the 1970s, it was one of Seattle's worst bottlenecks, due to the large number of ships in Duwamish Waterway and the frequent bridge openings. City leaders began planning a higher bridge, without a drawbridge, in the 1960s.
It was difficult to receive funding for the bridge, mainly because it was not a designated highway. However, the community voted that a budget be put aside to fund it. The drama didn't end here though. While three companies submitted bids for the bridge that came in at $1.5 million, the city engineer chose a fourth that bid at tripe the price. This fourth company was financially connected to the speak of the state house and after a series of bribes the state withdrew its urban streets money, despite a 68% support in the ballot measure.
After the scandal, the project was considered dead. It wasn't until the bridge was struck in 1978 by a ship that it qualified for repair funds. The funds would cover part of the project, but it was Seattle City Council member Jeanette Williams who lobbied Congress for the bridge and secured the remainder of the funds. It was completed in 1984.
Before the bridge opened, many of the neighborhoods in West Seattle had low property values because of the difficulty in getting downtown. The bridge caused an increase in property values as well as a development boom, as developers constructed new multi-family housing. This new development also led to an increase in traffic volumes throughout the neighborhood.
The Spokane Street Viaduct section was one of Seattle's first freeways, built in 1940. Upon completion of the West Seattle Bridge in 1984, the road comprising the Spokane Street Viaduct and the West Seattle Bridge was referred to as the "West Seattle Freeway". However, in 1997 the speed limit was reduced and the word "Freeway" removed from entrance signs. It was renamed the Jeanette Williams Memorial Bridge on July 6, 2009.
Cover image by SounderBruce is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. Information courtesy of Wikipedia.