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.


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

We’re updating…

Ride the Ducks to take new route over Fremont and Ballard Bridges


Nearly four months after the tragic accident on the Aurora Bridge, Ride the Ducks Seattle is taking steps to return to business, KOMO News reports.

According to the article, late on Wednesday the City announced their new agreement with Ride the Ducks Seattle and our neighborhood is on the new route. When they return to business, instead of crossing the Aurora Bridge the Ducks will now use the alternative routes of both the Fremont and Ballard Bridges.

Fremont Bridge will be primarily used with Ballard Bridge being used for the “Maintenance Facility to new route” and the “Salmon Bay for Foul Weather” route.

According to KOMO, a total of seven ducks have now passed their annual Coast Guard inspection and three more are likely to before the end of January. Ducks 15, 16, 17 were out and about on Wednesday, driving through the streets, crossing the Fremont Bridge and practicing safety drills on Lake Union.

“We make sure it’s safe for passengers to go out on the water,” Lt. Sarah Rodino, a Marine Inspector with the U.S. Coast Guard’s Sector Puget Sound, told KOMO News. “We look at the hull of the vessel, steering, rudder, propeller, structure inside, life saving equipment and fire fighting equipment.”

After the tragic accident the ducks were taken off the road and a three-month investigation was undertaken by the Utilities and Transportation Commission. According to KOMO, the investigation found a large number of violations that were mostly minor or corrected.

Back in December, Ride the Duck’s Seattle president Brian Tracey promised to resume operations and make his fleet the safest on the road. According to KOMO, since December’s announcement the Ducks and drivers have been back into training under the new regulations. The biggest change, insisted on by SDOT before the company’s tour routes were approved, is that a deckhand will now run the tour and the captain will be focused solely on driving the vehicle.

According to KOMO, the Ducks may be back on the roads before the month is out.

Photo courtesy of Ride the Ducks Seattle.

Suspicious package closes northbound lanes of Ballard Bridge

All northbound lanes of 15th Ave NW, including those on the Ballard Bridge ,were closed by authorities on Tuesday evening as SPD and SFD officers investigated a suspicious package found at 15th Ave W and W Emerson St in Magnolia.

Close to 9 p.m. SFD officials confirmed that the suspicious package was harmless and reopened the closed lanes.

Four car collision blocks Ballard Bridge

At approximately 12:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, Seattle firefighters responded to a four-car collision on the Ballard Bridge.

One possible injury was reported and the bridge was blocked in both directions.

By 1:30 p.m. the traffic cleared and both lanes were reopened.

Further information regarding the possible injury has yet to be reported.

Local on the lookout for witnesses of Ballard Bridge hit and run

My Ballard reader Danielle emailed in to report a hit and run incident that occurred on Monday on the Ballard Bridge at approximately 10 a.m.

Danielle was driving north on the Ballard Bridge in a red Mitsubshi Gallant when a black Jeep Wrangler driving south bound on the bridge crossed into her lane. The vehicle side then swiped Danielle’s vehicle and kept driving.

“I’m hoping to if anyone saw this they can come forward with any information or the drivers license plate number. WSDOT apparently doesn’t record the footage they have of the bridge,” writes Danielle.

If you have any information about this incident email us at