The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) announced Tuesday that it will turn on enforcement cameras and mail $75 citations starting Jan. 11 to car drivers who cross the low West Seattle swing bridge without permission.

Buses, cargo trucks, and emergency vehicles may cross freely, but the city continues to ban most general traffic for fear that the bridge will clog.

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Those restrictions remain in effect from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.

A limited number of Longshore and Harbor Island maritime workers, along with commuter vanpools and small-business vehicles, may also use the swing bridge, and their plates are being pre-registered with SDOT.

Traffic volumes on the ground have tripled since March 23, when the six-lane upper West Seattle Bridge closed due to dangerous shear cracks. The 150-foot-high crossing, which normally serves 100,000 vehicles per day, is scheduled to be repaired and reopened by early 2022.


Cameras will replace traffic police who have patrolled the bridge entrances since April, where they order drivers to U-turn, give warnings, or issue a standard $136 ticket.

The bridge cameras, installed in December, can read license plate numbers, which are correlated with a database of vehicle owners and mailing addresses.

SDOT is taking advantage of a law passed in March, in the 2020 Legislature, designed to help Seattle try automated enforcement to keep cars and other vehicles out of transit-only lanes, such as the highrise bridge and West Seattle arterials where the C Line and Route 120 buses travel. As part of that law, the Legislature set a $75 limit on citations because the expansion of traffic cameras for this purpose is an experimental project. Cameras were already legal to enforce 20 mph school-zone speeds and to cite red-light runners.