Clio Logo

The West Seattle Bridge is an unsung widely used icon of the Seattle area. The Bridge has a rich history going back to the 1910s and still makes headlines today. The Bridge is more than a modern path. It connects two areas in a natural and dynamic way that benefits the community beyond the economics. Every 20-30 years the bridge becomes highlighted in history for a short amount of time, whether it is a new revision that helps expand the community or a new important function. The West Seattle Bridge has grown up and around every expanding greater Seattle community.


  • West Seattle Bridge (2019)
  • Spokane Street Bridge (1852)
  • The final concrete pour to join the sections of the West Seattle Bridge main span (1984)

In 1889 Seattle became a recognized city in Washington state. The newly found city started to grow at a exponential rate. In 1907 in what is now known as West Seattle, residents voted to become incorporated into the Seattle metropolitan area. West Seattle and Seattle are separated by the Duwamish river delta so a bridge had to be built to further connect the cities. In 1911, the Spokane Street swing bridge was opened to the public and allowed free travel across the river. Before the bridge, there was a fairy across the Puget sound which allowed commuters to go to what is now downtown Seattle. The fairy service was shut down in 1921 putting more stress on the Spokane street bridge (West Seattle Bridge). In 1924 a revision of the West Seattle Bridge was made. The new bridge was a concrete and steel bascule bridge that opened in the middle to accommodate the growing shipping growing on in the Duwamish River. 

During World War II harbor island saw an influx of use due to wartime preparations. An addition to the West Seattle bridge was made to allow access to Harbor Island. During that time the population of West Seattle doubled. The West Seattle bridge stayed the same for decades until 1972 when the current revision of the West Seattle Bridge was planned. The Construction of the high rise bridge was delayed until 1980 and was opened in 1984. The Latest revision of the West Seattle Bridge planned to connect the newly constructed supper highway of I-5 to West Seattle and provide the modern luxuries of the freeway to West Seattle and beyond. The bridge also was designed to allow the established boating traffic and water commerce to continue to grow. The modern revision of the West Seattle bridge continues to be a modern necessity for the traffic and commerce between the sub-cities.  

History is defined by the interaction between individuals and other powers such as governments; looking at the West Seattle Bridge the interaction show between people and the community, the city, and further up the government show the scale and impacts it has on us and our history. The interactions the bridge has shows the disproportionate impact a government has on a community and how an individual can impact that government. The West Seattle Bridge impacts many different interactions up to the state government. First, the individual uses the west Seattle bridge to commute between the two communities. Second, businesses either directly use the bridge to send supplies between West Seattle and Seattle or they use the bridge's design to commute underneath it via a boat. Third, the community uses the bridge as a means to stay connected. Lastly, the state and local government are responsible for the upkeep of the bridge and managing funds to conduct renovation which impact the people of the community directly via taxes and other money-raising tactics. Today the Bridge is in a state of disrepair, showing the impact it had on the others by the lack of interaction it has.  

As of March 23, 2020, the current ideratation of the West Seattle Bridge is closed to only government-approved vehicles and they are only granted access to the lower bridge. The vehicles approved to cross the bridges include emergency vehicles, transit buses, and freight vehicles. The West Seattle Bridge has major cracking in the foundation of the upper bridge. The crack in the upper bridge has been known about for some time, but they were being monitored to make sure the bridge stayed in a safe operating condition. As of the time of writing, discussion about the bridge has faded due to Covid-19. Plans are still up in the air on how to repair the bridge in a timely manner. Two possibilities for the fate of the current West Seattle bridge, the first of which is that it gets extensive repairs which could be finished in late 2021 to 2022, or a whole new upper bridge is constructed in hope that it will prevent any future issues. With the reopening of King County (the county which Seattle resides in), the impact of the closed West Seattle Bridge will become apparent. Now the West Seattle Bridge has had an important role in the history and development of the Seattle area. 

“West Seattle Bridge Is Dedicated on July 14, 1984.” West Seattle Bridge is dedicated on July 14, 1984. Accessed June 1, 2020. https://www.historylink.org/File/8167.

Schofield, Kevin, Kevin Schofield, ChefJoe, Kevin Schofield, Peter Miller, and Martin J. Banel. “What Happened to the West Seattle Bridge?” Seattle City Council Insight, March 29, 2020. https://sccinsight.com/2020/03/28/what-happened-to-the-west-seattle-bridge/

“West Seattle Bridge.” West Seattle Bridge. Accessed June 1, 2020. https://www.triposo.com/poi/West_Seattle_Bridge.

“West Seattle Bridge.” West Seattle Bridge - CityArchives. Accessed June 1, 2020. https://www.seattle.gov/cityarchives/exhibits-and-education/seattle-segments/west-seattle-bridge.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

https://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/editorials/west-seattle-bridge-a-regional-crisis/

https://pauldorpat.com/2014/06/28/seattle-now-then-spokane-street-from-west-seattle/

https://sccinsight.com/2020/03/28/what-happened-to-the-west-seattle-bridge/