The 107-year-old bridge will be dedicated at 11 a.m. Tuesday after a $20 million refurbishment that preserved much of the character of the historic span.
The historic Yesler Way bridge in downtown Seattle is ready to reopen Tuesday, following a 16-month rebuild that preserved its steel décor.
The bridge’s support columns at street level were removed, so a single span of concrete resting upon steel girders crosses the entire distance above Fourth and Fifth avenues.
But the artistic iron guardrails and girders running along either side of the bridge were restored.
The $20 million project provides wider sidewalks to shorten the crossing distances. One general lane and one bicycle lane go uphill, while downhill there’s one traffic lane to be shared by cars and cyclists.
King County Metro Transit has considered the new Yesler bridge as a future corridor for its Route 3 and 4 electric trolley buses, which are powered by overhead lines. A change to Yesler would get trolley buses off James Street, which is crowded by cars reaching Interstate 5. Some other bus route would be adapted for James.
The new bridge lacks overhead wires, a choice that may require spending for trolley- bus upgrades later. However, the new streetlight poles are engineered so transit equipment can be added to draw power from them, said spokeswoman Mafara Hobson, of the Seattle Department of Transportation.
Bill Bryant, Metro’s director of service development, said Monday the agency will take “one last look” at improving James through lane or signal changes, while studying preliminary design and cost estimates at Yesler, before the county makes a decision.
Also, a scenario in the One Center City plan might move hybrid-diesel buses arriving on Metro’s peak-only West Seattle and Burien routes up Yesler to reach First Hill hospitals, getting them off crowded Third Avenue.
The bridge construction caused not only noise and traffic detours, but a constant obstacle to the 9000 Barber Shop just west of the bridge. But it endured.
“I’ve had a bunch of people that have been loyal and kept them coming in, just by treating people right,” barber Tony Brooks Jr. said
He thanks the city’s Office of Economic Development for “having my back.” The city maintained a well-signed sidewalk, Brooks said.
When a few curbside parking spots reopen this week it may increase his mainly walk-up or transit-riding clientele of five to 15 haircuts per day, he said.
A green-tarped fence installed to protect shop windows from flying rubble for several months also inadvertently created a secluded area where people injected drugs, he said.
“This project taught me to have patience, self-control and perseverance,” said Brooks, whose shop was a year old when demolition began. “Sometimes in life, when there’s things you really want, you have to stay with it.”
Brooks said he would like to participate in the city’s official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the bridge at 11 a.m. Tuesday.