Sponsored by:

Place your banner or Logo here


West Seattle Bridge 

Click on picture for larger version
Picture kindly provided by K.L Slusher



Open Mondays
Has great pictures of the construction of this project.


The bridge built during 1981-1984 is a cast in place balanced cantilever segmental bridge.

The project won a Honorable Mention Award from the Consulting Engineers Council of Washington in 1985



Freighter Chavez rams West Seattle Bridge on June 11, 1978.

(Information reprinted with permission from  HistoryLink.org)

At 2:38 a.m. on June 11, 1978, the freighter Chavez rams the West Seattle Bridge over the Duwamish West Waterway closing it to automobile traffic for the next seven years. The drawbridge was replaced by a higher six-lane bridge built with $60 million in federal monies.

The Chavez was 550 feet long and carrying 20,000 tons of gypsum under the command of 80-year-old Puget Sound Pilot Rolf Neslund (1897-1980) and its master, Mojko Gospodnetic, when, just before dawn, it struck the east end of the bridge. A Coast Guard board of inquiry found both officers negligent. Neslund retired two weeks after the accident. Gospodnetic, a Yugoslav national, was fired.

Two years later, Neslund's wife murdered him on Lopez Island, claiming that he had returned to Norway. Although no trace of the body was ever found, she was convicted of the crime and died in prison.

Silver Lining

The accident had one positive result: It ended years of debate over a new West Seattle Bridge, particularly a high bridge to accommodate Port of Seattle plans for expanded use of the Duwamish Waterway. The previous effort to build a bridge collapsed in 1975 amid a kickback scandal that sent the City Engineer to prison.

After the accident, Mayor Charles Royer (b. 1939) and City Councilmember Jeanette Williams enlisted the aid of U.S. Senator Warren G. Magnuson (1905-1989) to secure federal funds and the participation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as project manager for the high-level bridge. The new span was dedicated on July 14, 1984, at a cost of $150 million, and a new pivot-wing bridge later replaced the original bascule bridge.

First bascule bridge at Spokane Street is completed in December 1924.

In December 1924, the first of two bascule bridges over the Duwamish Waterway at Spokane Street (from south of downtown to West Seattle) is completed. The steel and concrete structure opens by means of a Van Bobo trunnion gear and lifts up. Earlier drawbridges were of a swing design. The second span, almost identical in design, will open on September 30, 1930.

Originally, the Municipal Railway had planned to build its own drawbridge over the Duwamish. The plan proved too expensive, however. The city had purchased the streetcar system from Puget Sound Light, Traction and Power in 1919 and the system was heavily encumbered with debt. The city engineer agreed to include streetcar tracks in the design of both of the permanent bascule spans.

On June 11, 1978, the north span was permanently damaged when the freighter Chavez crashed into it. A new higher bridge was constructed, which opened in July 1984.



The [Seattle] Weekly, March 18, 1983, p. 29-31; Ibid., May 11, 1983, p. 3-4; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 7, 1984, p. D-1.; West Seattle Story ed. by Clay Eals (Seattle: Robinson Newspapers, 1987)

By David Wilma and Walt Crowley, May 2000



Pictures provided by K. L. Slusher from Open Mondays. Click on picture for larger version.