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West Seattle Bridge is dedicated on July 14, 1984.
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On July 14, 1984, the West Seattle Bridge is dedicated. This six-lane cantilevered concrete structure is more than 150 feet high and cost $150 million to build. The bridge spans Harbor Island and the Duwamish Waterway at the point it enters Elliott Bay. In 2009 the City of Seattle will rename the bridge the Jeanette Williams Memorial Bridge (as a secondary designation).
Controversial from the outset, the bridge's construction was made inevitable when on June 11, 1978, the freighter Chavez, piloted by Rolf Neslund, rammed its predecessor bascule bridge and permanently damaged it. A lower pivot-wing bridge was later built to connect West Seattle and Harbor Island.
The need for a high bridge at this crossing, where the Duwamish Waterway enters Elliott Bay, was long debated. The Port of Seattle pushed for the project in order to open the Duwamish to larger vessels. Citizen opponents put a referendum on the Seattle ballot but voters endorsed the project. The project was owned and managed by the City of Seattle.
In 1985 the bridge won a Honorable Mention Award from the Consulting Engineers Council of Washington. In 2009 the City renamed it for Jeanette Williams (1914-2008), a long-time city councilmember who worked hard to get the bridge built. The "Jeanette Williams Memorial Bridge" is a secondary designation, meaning that the new name will have signage on either side of the bridge, but that maps and signs on Interstate 5 will continue to call it the West Seattle Bridge.
Craig Holstine and Richard Hobbs, Spanning Washington: Historic Highway Bridges of the Evergreen State (Pullman: WSU Press, 2005), 156; "West Seattle Bridge," Bridgepros website accessed October 22, 2007 (http://bridgepros.com/projects/West_Seattle_Bridge/); "West Seattle Bridge to Bear Jeanette Williams' Name," The Seattle Times, July 13, 2009 (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/).
Note: This essay was corrected on October 22, 2007, and updated on July 22, 2009.
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