The Seattle Department of Transportation is seeking resident and traveler feedback about improving — or possibly rebuilding — the Ballard Bridge. An online survey is available through Sunday, July 7.

The city says the survey’s goal is to better understand how the community uses and values the Ballard Bridge. It takes about 10 minutes to fill out.

The 102-year-old Ballard Bridge connects Ballard to Magnolia, Queen Anne and Downtown via 15th Avenue West and Interbay, according to SDOT. The 2,854-foot-long bridge carries more than 57,000 vehicles per day across the Lake Washington Ship Canal. It is a drawbridge that opens to allow taller ships to use the Ship Canal. 

The Ballard Bridge Planning Study, funded by the Levy to Move Seattle, will explore rehabilitation and replacement options for the long-term future of the bridge, partly informed by the results of the online survey.

The study will identify the costs, risks, benefits and trade-offs of each option. SDOT will work with agency partners, advisory boards and community members to identify needs and values and propose options that meet them.

The city says since the structure is still in good condition today, and they have an opportunity to plan ahead and look beyond just maintaining its current form and function.

That’s why they launched the planning study — to evaluate how to bring the bridge up to current transportation, functional and structural standards, including improving bicycle and pedestrian facilities and keeping buses and freight moving. 

SDOT plans to work with agency partners, advisory boards and community members through the end of the year to identify needs and values and propose options that meet them.

Surveying community members is just the beginning of the study. The survey asks what community members need and value in the bridge. It first asks why people use the bridge — to commute to work, to cross while doing work like making deliveries or moving freight, to run errands or participate in recreational activities.

Then, the survey asks how people cross the bridge —by car, freight, bus, bike, walking, or boat? And the survey asks how often people use the bridge.

It then asks whether people feel the city should make the Ballard Bridge better for people who bike, walk, drive or ride in cars, buses, cars, freight (trucks) or the boats that float under the bridge. The survey also asks what barriers face each mode of transportation, and what people think should be done to address those issues.

Asked how SDOT came up with the list of questions, project manager Wes Ducey said the transportation department wanted to give a brief overview of what they plan to do, “and keep it open to capture how the public felt about the use and value of bridge.”

“We wanted to leave it a little more open to understanding how they feel about it,” Ducey said last week. “We’ve had a lot of interest — over 1,000 respondents have taken the survey so far.”

SDOT hasn’t started going through the survey results to see which areas people are most interested in improving or what are the biggest barriers to getting across the bridge, he said.

“We’re waiting for all of (the surveys) to come in to see those splits,” Ducey said. “We'll look at those results to understand the use of the bridge, taking into account any barriers captured we weren't aware of.”

Asked how SDOT chose the questions for the survey, Ducey said, “We wanted to give a brief overview of what we are doing — and keep it open to capture use and value of the bridge. We wanted to leave it a little more open to understanding how they feel about different options.”

He said planners will come back to the community after doing a feasibility analysis of the suggestions, and give an overview of the options for rebuilding the bridge.

Once the survey is in, consultants will compare options, using a set of metrics. This study will not recommend a preferred alternative but will provide a comparison of feasible alternatives as SDOT works with elected officials to evaluate funding options.

SDOT has been engaging with some of the businesses near the existing bridge to ensure officials understand their operations and needs. SDOT also plans to coordinate closely with partner agencies that have existing properties and ongoing projects along the Ship Canal, including Sound Transit, Port of Seattle and BNSF.

The Ballard Bridge is far more than a link between neighborhoods, said State Rep. Gael Tarleton during a recent Magnolia Community Council meeting. The 15th Avenue Corridor is the alternate route for freight traffic from northern Seattle and Ballard to the Port of Seattle and the Duwamish. Tarleton told MCC that if a mishap closes I-5 or State Route 99, traffic has to be able to move on 15th.

What's next?

Later this summer and fall, SDOT will host an open house addressing all projects in the Interbay area, including the Ballard Bridge, surface transportation and the upcoming Ballard light rail extension.

Click here for more information about the project.