First bascule bridge at Seattle's Spokane Street is completed in December 1924.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 8/25/2001
  • Essay 3513
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In December 1924, the first of two bascule bridges over the Duwamish Waterway at Spokane Street (from south of downtown to West Seattle) is completed. The steel and concrete structure opens by means of a Van Bobo trunnion gear and lifts up. Earlier drawbridges were of a swing design. The second span, almost identical in design, will open on September 30, 1930.

Originally, the Municipal Railway had planned to build its own drawbridge over the Duwamish. The plan proved too expensive, however. The city had purchased the streetcar system from Puget Sound Light, Traction and Power in 1919 and the system was heavily encumbered with debt. The city engineer agreed to include streetcar tracks in the design of both of the permanent bascule spans.

On June 11, 1978, the north span was permanently damaged when the freighter Chavez crashed into it. A new higher bridge was constructed, which opened in July 1984.


Myra L. Phelps, Public Works in Seattle: A Narrative History, The Seattle Engineering Department 1875-1975, (Seattle: Seattle Engineering Department, 1975), 41-43; HistoryLink Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History "Freighter Chavez rams West Seattle Bridge on June 11, 1978," (by David Wilma and Walt Crowley), (accessed August 25, 2001).

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