Has great pictures of the construction of this project.
The bridge built during 1981-1984 is a cast in place balanced cantilever
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
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
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
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.