After almost two years of detours, a new concrete-supported Fairview Avenue North bridge will open Saturday morning, replacing an old structure on rotting wood pillars.

The $52 million project is funded by the Move Seattle property-tax levy and state bridge money.

Fairview Avenue passes over a muddy bend in the lake, making a direct road link between the Eastlake and South Lake Union neighborhoods. Its new bridge provides sidewalks on both sides of the street, and a two-way, 12-foot-wide bicycle lane on the west edge, next to the lake.

Traffic Lab is a Seattle Times project that digs into the region’s thorny transportation issues, spotlights promising approaches to easing gridlock, and helps readers find the best ways to get around. It is funded with the help of community sponsors Madrona Venture Group and PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company. Seattle Times editors and reporters operate independently of our funders and maintain editorial control over Traffic Lab content.

Opening ceremonies begin at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, followed by two hours to walk, bike, and skate the deck until 11:30 a.m.

Motor vehicles may be allowed soon afterward, once crews remove detour signs and clean up from the event, said Ethan Bergerson, spokesperson for the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).


In addition, for bridge traffic to begin Saturday afternoon, parked cars must first be removed from Fairview Avenue curbsides between Yale and Minor avenues, he said. SDOT is asking owners to remove parked cars there before 5 p.m. Friday, or risk towing. Parking was allowed on those two surface blocks during construction because through travel was blocked anyway. SDOT says new bridge traffic will flow “by Sunday” at the very latest.

The old bridge’s southbound side, built in 1948, was the city’s final timber bridge supporting a public road. The northbound half, built on concrete in 1963, didn’t pose immediate risks but project managers chose to replace both directions at the same time.

Approximately 8,900 vehicles per day traveled the old bridge in 2018 before demolition, SDOT’s annual traffic report said.

Workers extracted a submerged motorcycle, and left a sunken boat in place, during bridge replacement.

Commuters, delivery vehicles and bicyclists have detoured slightly uphill onto Eastlake Avenue East, where they also slowed for workers building a scientific research building. With the Fairview route restored, travelers should save a few minutes reaching Mercer Street, South Lake Union or Seattle Center.

The Fairview bridge is the only full bridge replacement funded by Move Seattle. It’s the city’s 30th seismic retrofit since 1990, and the third funded by the current levy, with nine remaining by 2025.

Five other seismic projects will be deferred because the city discovered extreme costs, for instance to drill deep foundation shafts near train tracks in the Duwamish Valley.

SDOT currently lacks money to replace the old Magnolia Bridge or retrofit the Ballard Bridge, and the City Council hasn’t decided whether to fund $8 million in drawbridge repairs.