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

Driver rolls car on Ballard Bridge


According to KIRO News report, a 47-year-old woman was pulled from her car after rolling it on the Ballard Bridge at about 1:30 a.m. this morning.

The driver was heading north when she lost control of her VW Jetta which ended up flipping and came to a stop on its roof.

A Seattle Fire Department technical rescue team pulled the woman out of the car window and transported her to Harborview Hospital.

The current condition of the driver is not known. According to a Seattle Times report, the woman lost consciousness on the way to hospital.

The crash closed the bridge for about one hour. SPD officers are currently investigating the incident.

Click here to see the KIRO’s full video news report.

Photo courtesy of KIRO News.


Throwback Thursday: Ballard Bridge back in the day

With the recent media coverage of the Ballard Bridge, in particular the safety concerns about the pedestrian walkways, we thought it was time to take a look back at more photos of the bridge during its early days.

The photo below, taken in April 1917, shows the north view from the underside of the first wooden Ballard bridge during construction.

ballard bridge

The photo below shows the Ballard Bridge opening for a boat in March 1918.


The photo below, date taken unknown, shows a panoramic view of Ballard as seen from Queen Anne Hill, showing the first wooden Ballard Bridge.


The photo below features Maud Reid Adams standing on the Ballard Bridge in 1920.


The photo below shows the “new” Ballard Bridge during the opening day ceremonies in June 1940. The first Ballard Bridge opened in 1917, however, by 1940 the old wooden bridge was considered unsafe to cope with the increased traffic and was replaced by a newer, higher span.


Photos and information courtesy of the Ballard Historical Society and MOHAI.