Several cars collide on the Ballard Bridge

Update: Lanes have been reopened nearly three hours after the crash.

Earlier: All lanes of the Ballard Bridge closed after 12:15 today after several cars collided.

Police are re-routing traffic through the exit and on-ramp on the north end of the bridge. Traffic is backed up in both directions. Check our traffic cameras for the latest conditions.

Heavy rain has been moving through Seattle for the last couple hours.

No word on any injuries.

Upcoming lane closures on Ballard Bridge

Earlier this month, maintenance work on both directions of the Ballard Bridge (above) triggered massive traffic backups and prompted a flood of complaints. SDOT delayed additional work in an effort to consolidate its projects and minimize the impact on drivers.

Today SDOT has announced the new maintenance work, and it will impact only the northbound lanes. On April 3rd and April 10th, the curbside northbound lane on the bridge will be closed from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Bike and pedestrian traffic will not be impacted. The bridge will have normal marine traffic closures “as SDOT is required to close the bridge to vehicle traffic and open for marine traffic crossings per federal law,” SDOT says in the advisory.

SDOT postpones next week’s bridge work

Seattle Department of Transportation has decided to postpone its Ballard Bridge maintenance work scheduled for March 12-16th “so that additional maintenance can be done at the same time.” The new dates have not been scheduled.

It’s unclear if the change is related to the backlash associated with this week’s unannounced lane closures (above) that sparked long backups heading in and out of Ballard.

Ballard Bridge maintenance work frustrates drivers, more lane closures coming

Update: Next week’s work has been postponed

Earlier: With backups of 30 minutes or more, drivers attempting to cross the Ballard Bridge yesterday and today were met with long lines of cars in both the northbound and southbound directions.
The RapidRide D Line bus experienced delays from the backup, as well.

SDOT crews had closed the curbside lane in both directions to do scheduled maintenance work.

“Who thought doing maintenance on the Ballard bridge in the middle of a work day was a good idea?” wrote one frustrated driver on Twitter. “This is crazy! I waited 30 mins before I turned around and went a different route.”

“Who scheduled this smack in the middle of the day on a weekday?” wrote another. “Can’t this be done off hours or early weekend mornings? There are no signs up alerting commuters that this is coming so we could plan around.”

The closures were a surprise to motorists — as well as My Ballard — so we contacted SDOT to find out what was happening. SDOT said the lanes were closed for maintenance and cleaning until 3 p.m. today, and new maintenance work is scheduled for March 12th through the 16th, closing one of the northbound lanes from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

SDOT then issued a blog post this afternoon with news of today’s closure as well as the upcoming maintenance work. “SDOT would like to thank the public for its patience while this work is being completed,” it said.

(If you’re ever wondering about Ballard Bridge traffic, check our traffic cameras here.)

Fremont Bridge to light up at night, Ballard Bridge is next

On Thursday night, the Fremont Bridge will fire up its new lights, a permanent art installation celebrating the centennial of Seattle’s historic bascule bridges. The Ballard and University bridges are next on the list.

The Bridge Lights project is a collaboration between SDOT, the Office of Arts and Culture and artists Hayley Buckbee and Ian Campbell (with RSVR). The city says the lights are designed to “gently reflect seasonal, solar and lunar patterns,” and the Fremont design “beautifies this city landmark and celebrates the vibrant artistic spirit of the Fremont community.”

Unlike most major U.S. cities, Seattle’s bridges lack artistic light, the city said. “Lighted bridges serve as symbols of local pride for residents and become a significant part of a city’s story, attracting regional visitors and tourists, like other city landmarks including the Fremont Troll and the Space Needle,” SDOT explained in a press release.

This Wednesday evening, the city will provide a 6-minute preview of the lights (“including four seasonal palettes”) for the media, sometime between 6:30 and 7 p.m. Then on Thursday evening, the light display switches on permanently.

SDOT tells My Ballard they don’t have a date set for the Ballard Bridge lights as of yet, and it’s “not in the immediate future.”

Correction: Happy 77th Belated Birthday, Ye Olde Ballard Bridge

Correction: The Ballard Bridge’s actual birthday is May 25, 1940. Many thanks to Sue Pierce from West Woodland for notifying us of our mistake. So – Happy Belated Birthday, Ballard Bridge! (We’ll get it right next year!)

Original: Whether you love it or loathe it, be sure to tip your hat to the faithful Ballard Bridge today. On June 8, 1940, the Ballard Bridge as we know it opened to the people of Seattle, making it 77 years old.

The first Ballard Bridge opened in December 1917. By 1940, however, the old wooden bridge was considered too dangerous to carry the increased traffic and was replaced by a newer bridge with a higher span.

In honor of its birthday, we’ve compiled a list of your best, worst, and funniest moments on the Ballard Bridge (as told on our Facebook page):

Ellen Williams Ackroyd I got engaged at Fisherman’s Terminal. Every time I drive over the bridge and see those boats, I remember that moment.

Nathan Baker Three of us in a pick-up with about 100 fathoms of purse seine corkline piled in back. End of the corkline fell out about mid-span and we set out about half of it before we realized. Complete chaos stopping all 4 lanes. The driver backed up through the mess while we restacked it back aboard faster than humanly possible. No police. No harm. No foul.

Deanna Haala: My car died on the bridge years ago. I was so afraid because the bridge went up right in front of my car. Too close for comfort. I was lucky!

Kimberly Greene: Crossing it. While in Labor. In the SUMMER boat season. White knucking it and Hoping that it would not go UP this one time!

Angela Spiotto Jacobs: When it got stuck open and it took me 3 hours to go 2.5 miles…

Catherine Weatbrook: I was driving on it during the Nisqually quake…If you’ve seen the Tacoma Narrows video from the wind storm? That motion, though clearly not as bad. Light poles snapped. Was an interesting time handling the car.

Peggy Sikes Millar: One night at 1 am it got stuck in open position. The police turned everyone who were heading north into Ballard back. I begged to wait because I didn’t know an alternate route. We had already waited 45 min. As soon as everyone left, the bridge lowered and I was the only car waiting. The police and I laughed and on I went!!!!!

Mary Benfield Clayton: When someone shot a blow dart into the butt of cyclist. Those things are not that accurate and it was moving target. Impressive skill.

Lori Zilko: I owned a 69 Lincoln Continental, in the late 70’s. The gas gauge was broken, thought I had more gas in the car than I did. Coming home from work I ran out of gas in the middle of the bridge during rush hour!! Made a lot of friends that day….NOT!! A very nice and understanding police officer pushed me safety.

Shauna Mann: My two year old peeing in my old Starbucks cup since the bridge was up and we were not going to make it home in time

Patty Hynds: Once I was stopped on the bridge in my convertible & the Blue Angels flew overhead. My daughter & I stood up cheering! It was exciting but it soon became hilarious when the woman behind Me with out of state plates started screaming in fear, I don’t think she knew about Seafair!

Natalie Merry: 20 years ago I got stranded in Discovery park after a rainy 4th of July party with some friends. One of the guys also lived in Ballard so we walked home talking all the way, crossing the Ballard Bridge while sharing an umbrella. He walked me past his house and all the way to my house where he was met by my father who was disappointed I came home so late but was very thankful to the young man who made sure his 16 year old daughter made it home safely. We started a friendship that night that eventually led to more. Monday will be our 12th wedding anniversary! And it all started with a walk across the Ballard Bridge.

Photo courtesy ElTico68, Flickr/Creative Commons

Bridge data researcher: avoid Ballard Bridge at 6pm in the summer months

It always happens when you’re late.

Those flashing lights come on, traffic slows, and you’re stuck on your bike, in your car, or on the bus, waiting and watching enviously as a sailboat glides under the bridge, heading towards the Locks or Lake Union for a blissful day on the water.

Beacon Hill resident Ondrej Sklenar can relate. But, he took it one step further than most of us, and decided to do some hard research.

A historical map from 1894 and a present day aerial highlight how the area has changed. (Ondrej Sklenar)

“After being stuck on the bus during an unusually long Ballard Bridge opening, I wanted to learn more about the Ballard Bridge and how the openings vary throughout the day and year,” Sklenar told My Ballard. So, he requested five year’s worth of Ballard Bridge opening data from the city (from 2011 – 2015), and created a data-storytelling piece about the bridge and the traffic on the Ship Canal.

Sklenar is a civil engineer, so he used his data analytics and visualization skills to distill the data into infographics that show the total open hours per year, the average number of openings per hour of the day, and the types of vessels that require openings. He even researched the bridge’s opening angles, which have an effect on the duration of the opening. For example, when the bridge is open to 72 degrees, it’s typically open for six minutes. When open to 30 degrees, its opening duration is usually four minutes.

Sklenar found that in 2015, 34 percent of the annual bridge openings happened during the summer months, and 6pm has the most number of openings per day, which is likely because the bridge won’t open for recreational boaters during rush hour – between 4 and 6pm. The second busiest time is at 9am, again because of the 7 – 9am rush hour restriction. Sklenar found that a majority – 60 percent – of the vessels that pass underneath are sailboats.

For more information from Sklenar’s research, click here.

SDOT releases Ballard Bridge informational video

SDOT operates and maintains over 149 bridges throughout Seattle, including ours here in Ballard.

Have you ever wondered how and why the Ballard (and Fremont) Bridges open for marine traffic? SDOT released the below video blog to provide locals with more information:

The city is required to open the bridges to marine traffic when requested, but is allowed to restrict boat and marine traffic openings during the morning (7 a.m. – 9 a.m.) and afternoon (4 p.m. – 6 p.m.) commutes on weekdays (except national holidays).

The openings average about four minutes, from stopping traffic to letting traffic resume. SDOT appreciates the public’s patience during the openings as marine traffic passes through.

Click here to learn more on SDOT’s blog.

Ballard Bridge reopens after 1.5 hour closure

Update 5:15 p.m. The Ballard Bridge has reopened!

Earlier: The bridge closed around 3:40 p.m. due to “malfunctioning bridge gates,” says SDOT. Crews are working to fix the problem, but rush hour is underway and it’s very ugly out there.

The usual alternate routes, i.e. Nickerson to the Fremont Bridge, are showing red on traffic maps. “Traffic going north on 15th is backed up way onto Queen Anne (Dravus),” says Elizabeth on our Facebook page. Metro said to expect delays on bus routes that take the bridge, but it has re-routed 15, 17, 18, 29, RapidRide D Line and 994 to the Fremont Bridge (which is sloooow going).

You can see the small gap in the road (above), and pedestrians are able to cross. SDOT did not offer an estimate on how long it will take to fix.

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Take a look at live traffic cameras showing the bridge and traffic nearby.

We’re updating…