Yesler Way Bridge in 1920, 10 Years After Completion (SDOT – Flickr)
Yesler Way Bridge in 1920, 10 Years After Completion (SDOT – Flickr)

Beginning next Monday, May 23, the Yesler Way bridge over 4th avenue will close for up to 16 months for a $20 million structural and seismic renovation, funded jointly by Move Seattle’s predecessor (Bridging the Gap) and by a Federal Highway Administration “Historic Bridge Replacement” grant.

The 1910 y-shaped steel structure is Seattle’s oldest bridge, covering Yesler Way from 3rd-5th avenues and Terrace Street from 4th to 5th Avenue. The desire to preserve the historic steel facades adds both to the timeline and to the cost, and after rehabilitation the bridge will look much like it does today.

Regrettably, Metro and the City have declined to fund the addition of trolley wire on Yesler, despite the closure being a perfect opportunity for concurrent construction. The Yesler trolley wire project was included in the original draft of Move Seattle, then dropped in later revisions without public explanation. Moving routes 3 and 4 to Yesler would allow riders to skip the interminable and unfixable jams on James Street, and make use of the precious commodity that Yesler offers, namely a street over I-5 immune from freeway queueing. We’ve also opined about other changes such a project would enable, such as moving Route 40 to serve South Lake Union, First Hill, and possibly Cherry Hill.

In terms of transit impacts, the closure will primarily affect Route 27 and routes that use the Terrace/5th pathway to access the I-5 Express Lanes, including Community Transit routes 412, 413, 416, 421, 425, 435 and Metro routes 304 and 355. Additional full closures of 4th Avenue on select nights and weekends will also affect Sound Transit routes 510, 511, 512, 545 and 594.

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33 Replies to “Yearlong Yesler Closure Begins Monday”

  1. There is a small bit of good transit news buried in the SDOT project website: permanent parking removal in two areas to speed buses.

    “Parking will no longer be allowed on the east side of 4th Ave between S Washington and Jefferson Streets to improve transit reliability”

    “Parking will no longer be allowed in the east curb lane of 5th Ave between S Washington and Terrace St to accommodate the contraflow lane that was installed in February 2016 to improve transit connectivity and travel times”

    1. So will the “active stop” at 4th and Washington serve 304 and 355? These routes don’t seem to be traveling in the right direction to serve that stop.

  2. The D Line also serves the Terrace/5th stop and was not mentioned in this article.

    1. An educated guess would be that the D Line will turn left on James and right on 5th S and service the 3/4 stop at 3rd & James. Not sure of that though. I’ll find out soon for sure if Zach doesn’t find out first.

  3. While I’m nowhere near giving up on Move Seattle, there definitely is a bit of truth to some of the naysayers’ claims at election time last year. Primarily that the City dangled a bunch of carrots in front of us and now that Move safely passed, they are yanking projects with no explanations or public comment. The trolley wire and the downtown bike network are two examples that have come up in the recent days.

    That said, I’m still in for Move Seattle and am confident it will still be an overall very positive effect on our City.

    1. What makes you so confident? These last few weeks have seen the best projects either yanked or still on the drawing board. Granted, if the Rapid Ride + comes anything like advertised, it’d be a huge benefit well worth the package… but what makes you think that won’t get downgraded or indefinitely postponed like everything else?

      1. Blind optimism? Plus the fact that our previous levy ended up doing a lot of good for our City.

        I also think that SDOT is smart enough not to muff this levy, because doing so would endanger any future levies. Let’s hope I’m not wrong.

      2. Which projects were yanked or postponed? You mean the downtown bike lanes? As for trolley wire on Yesler, if it wasn’t in the final ballot measure then that’s not a failure of Move Seattle. There were so many worthy projects that the city raised Move Seattle’s budget and even that wasn’t enough for all of them. So no conspiracy, just budget reality, and the many other unment transit needs in the city. If we had addressed these needs fifty years ago, there wouldn’t be a backlog of them now.

      3. What Mike said. That is the sad reality. While ST thinks about spending billions, SDOT, even with the proposal it passed, deals with a very tiny sum. Remember, there is money for all sorts of things (like sidewalks) as well as things that would simply be part of the regular budget in most cities (like fixing roads and bridges). Blame Eyman (and idiots who supported him). The city is severely restricted in how it can pay for basic infrastructure, and has to pass grand sounding proposals just to pay for regular upkeep.

        Case in point, the Magnolia bridge. There is still no money for it. It is falling down. I’m sure more than one city staffer has joked that what we really need is a good earthquake to damage the thing, so we can get federal disaster relief money to fix it.

    2. I voted “no” for Move Seattle and glad I stuck to my intuition. After living here for 13 years and watching the debacle known as the “Missing Link” cycle through 4 mayors and still be “Missing”, then reading the fine print of Move Seattle to see this was a political play to fill a budget gap to keep 25% of SDOT employed, you really, really have to be a short-sighted voter to think the city was or will be interested in utilizing the funds for Move Seattle as advertised for long-term taxpayer benefit.

      1. So how else do you think we’ll get better bus lines? Will they fall off a tree? Or are you just giving up on better transit for you and your children?

      2. @Pablo96 — That is an idiotic thought. I am not calling you an idiot, exactly (that would be inappropriate for this blog) but, like me, you sometimes have idiotic thoughts. This was one of them.

        First of all, the only reason the Missing Link is not complete is because it is held up in court. If you are a lawyer who specializes in EIS disputes, then please, share your wisdom. [Expletive]

        Second, hell yes this was meant to fill a budget gap. That is the only way they are legally allowed to fill the budget gap! You get that, right? You understand that in most cities, this would simply be part of the regular budget. If you didn’t like it — if you thought the city was spending too much money maintaining the roads, bridges and transit system — then you would vote for a different city council. In this case, you would have to vote against the entire council, because every single member supported it! Yes, that’s right, even members that actively campaigned against each other (if you think their is a love fest in city hall, you are more stupid than your comment). That is because the entire city council understands that maintaining, and enhancing, our transportation system is worth it.

        But hey, feel free to feel smug in thinking that you are different. You are happy that we live in a country with an aging, crumbling infrastructure. No sense fixing it. That is the (new) American way. Just don’t complain to me when your kids (and grand kids) wonder why the rest of the world passes us by.

    3. so what would be the justification for canceling planned projects? they have the money, where is it going?what else would they be doing with the money?

      1. We’re still waiting for evidence that any project was canceled; it may be a false rumor. However, I don’t think the ballot measure made hard-and-fast promises about specific projects; it was a representative list and can be revised if SDOT decides conditions have changed. However, we should expect most of the original projects to be built as specified.

        The one thing I’ve heard being postponed is the downtown bicycle lanes. I don’t understand what’s happening there. Are they being postponed? Why?

      2. SDOT’s been pretty mum on downtown bike lane cancellations, from what I’ve heard. Seattle Bike Blog has had a few articles on it.

        Whether or not a project has been hard promised to us, I think we should get an explanation of why, rather than “nothing was hard promised to us”.

  4. The 27 is already conveniently timed to get stuck behind the streetcar(*) when it crosses Broadway, but at least the few blocks getting in and out of downtown were fast. Not anymore. James St. during afternoon rush hour is going to be awful. Westbound, the delays will also propagate to Magnolia-bound riders, since the 27 is thru-routed with the 33.

  5. I really want to know if they’ve tested the inbound 27 routing with all types of coaches used on the 27/33 (which includes all five types at Ryerson Base). 6th Av S between Yesler and Main is very steep and has relatively high approach/departure and breakover angles. I would have expected the inbound routing to go past Harborview and use James.

  6. In that olden days pic, where are: All homeless in City Hall Park, pedestrians walking their dogs, parking meters, and painted crosswalks?

    1. In the shacks down by the railroads racks to the South. Starbucks at 4th and Union has old pictures for your historical education.

      1. You answered a question I didn’t ask. I didn’t ask, in 1920’s Seattle, are the any homeless people and, if so, where do they stay? I’m asking why don’t I see any homeless people in that one particular park in the photo?

        Sam, 2016 People’s Magazine’s Sexiest Commenter Alive!

      2. Sam, you don’t see any homeless people in the photo because there weren’t any homeless people present in that one particular park at the time the photo was taken. Now tell me, how are you able to write so clearly despite having been born with several missing chromosomes?

  7. OK. What’s good political move to get the trolleywire back. And those extremely good re-routes established? James Street would justify cable car, let along trolleybuses- if there were necessary stops between Fifth Avenue and Harborview.

    Is still think the 106 should stay in the DSTT. Which can handle that and a lot more when Metro starts exercising any control at all of DSTT operations. But different view of the latest route supporters, from the picture of them.

    These aren’t overbearing corporate interests, but decent working people who’ve worked hard to make the political system get them a result lot less destructive than mostly-eliminating the 43 and canceling the trolleywire on Yesler.

    So what we need to do is meet some of them for coffee and learn some strategy and tactics. Starting with some local support on routes that need and electric Yesler. Anybody besides me want to wire the 27 all the way to the lake?

    A cable car, often way-finder for trolleybuses, did that in the past.

    Mark Dublin

  8. Greetings Mark from Lisbon. Just rode the Tram 28 up the hill to Sao Jorge Castle on this 1930’s era, wooden tram car. Steepest grade is 10%, and we did that in the rain, with crush loaded cars to the top on narrow gauge. Tracks are mostly bi-directional, except where the buildings are about 2 feet from either side of the car.
    We even had to make 3 taxi’s back-up hill backwards to clear our path. Now that’s priority. Cabbies acted like it happens everyday.
    What hoot, for only 1,40 E
    Drivers make change and do it all with a smile.

    1. All RIGHT!!! Mic, you’ve got to put link some pics from flickr, so Seattle can see a working- and plenty hard, am I right?- transit system on the only place in the world steeper and narrower than Seattle.

      Would be great if you’ve got some time read-outs to confirm my hunch that from purchase to tap, putting those tram-drivers on DSTT buses will let fareboxes outpace ORCA every time. Am I also right that drivers being murdered for their fares is not a problem because speed and curves will fling these guys screaming down rocky pavements and hills?

      Also: any chance ST can send LINK drivers there for training? Though SLU(T) and FHS probably have priority. I’ve already got an active search going world-wide for world-class trollebus instruction. Have my favorite for a long run- sort of a Crimean Route 7. But MUNI’s 24 Divisadero is probably still unbeatable.

      Keep us filled in, man! This is really solid info!


      1. We’re halfway through our month long odyssey riding trains and buses in Spain and Portugal.
        The Talgo AVE trains are so smooth that vibrations in wine flutes barely move and are nearly as fast at SNF TGV stuff. I got a kick out of the single pole on small trams, using a 3″ brass puilley for a contactors, instead of our Kiepe poles. I’ve yet to see a de-wire and the overhead is every bit as complicated as ours.
        I’ve got some good shot, so will post some when I get back.
        It astounds me why the US is so far behind the rest of the world on electrification of our trains and busy bus routes.
        Yesler should have been a ‘no-brainer’ for trolleys, using the ~$200 mn ST slush fund for FHSC, with piles of cash left for miles more.

  9. Wish we could stop saying “Sam” . Or doing that either.

    Because certain candidate who’s rented his head to the Forest Service for a marmot sanctuary only gets stronger each time somebody, read Public Radio, who named him “Front Runner” before Election One says his name. And Congress is already cutting funding for other viral things like Ebola and Zika.

    Still having some affection for Ballard, and hoping that someday a modern, non-pollutionary, but unacceptably productive industry drives out current rulers and residents and regains control, my own worst fear is that Sam will become homeless and set up a decrepit mobile home under the bridge.

    Thereby putting Ballard permanently last for ST 3000, far behind not only West Seattle but also Jefferson Missouri.

    Counter-measure: give him a map to Magnolia. And even more savage approach to cure latest self-awarded title:

    Your fault, STB. She’s transit-related because I got her off an ad at the now-usual top of a posting. Also because I’m putting her in for Miss Proof of Payment because we don’t have turnstiles like New York IRT.

    But mainly because those fingernails she’s hiding in her hair are doubtless for dealing with false transit-related product claims. Which will leave only the problem of veterinary care for scrap-poisoned dogs and vultures.

    Also, please nobody tell her my name is:


  10. The urbanist in me absolutely loves the way the buildings at this Yesler bridge embrace the multiple street levels and grade separation. There’s a great Dominican café literally under the sidewalk of Yesler that is also at street level on Prefontaine. Meanwhile the larger building next door surrounded by 4th/Prefontaine/Yesler even has a covered public stairway built into it connecting 4th to Yesler. Too bad some buildings have been torn down like at that vacant lot behind the new fire station. Would love to see this area filled in with more urban buildings holding the street edge and embracing the multiple street levels.

  11. “The Yesler trolley wire project was included in the original draft of Move Seattle, then dropped in later revisions without public explanation.”

    This sort of thing is why people don’t trust city government.

    Honestly, at this point in some cities it would make sense to have an ordinance saying that trolley wire and streetcar tracks must be installed in every single road reconstruction and that the city must submit a ballot initiative to get an *exemption*. It seems like the only way to keep them honest.

    1. For contrast, in cities which manage to successfully bundle improvements like this into simultaneous projects, the city government becomes *popular*.

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