Photo by Zachariah Bryan

With report of citywide bridge conditions, Ballard Bridge ranks 'Fair'

Old as it may be, the Ballard Bridge isn't so bad. Especially when you compare it with the overall condition of Seattle's bridges.

A report from the Seattle Department of Transportaton suggests that Seattle's bridges have a backlog of about $1.8 million, with one in three bridges in such disrepair that they're candidates for replacement. Furthermore, the city should be spending about $190 million on road and bridge maintenance every year, but has been spending $40 to $50 million.

In a good/fair/poor ranking system, 59 percent of SDOT bridges are in "Good" condition, 36 percent are "Fair," and five percent are "Poor."

The Ballard Bridge falls in the "Fair" category.

SDOT Spokesman Rick Sheridan says this means there are some age related deficiencies such as cracks in the concrete, but that overall the bridge is "sound and very safe." A few other, non-damage related things result in the rating as well, including travel lanes and width of sidewalks. If you've walked on the Ballard Bridge, you know.

"Fair" is understandable, considering parts of the bridge are pretty old. The bascule (movable) portion was built in 1917, making it 95 years old, and the approach portion was replaced in 1939, 74 years ago.

Meanwhile, the machinery and electrical controls are only 11 years old, and a new paint job was completed over the last two years. (Paint is important to keep the steel from deteriorating due to corrosion, Sheridan tells us.)

And, of course, there was the 2001 Nisqually earthquake, which surprise-tested most Seattle structures. Sheridan said that damage was limited to the south approach structure near the shoreline, where movement caused collisions between separate concrete portions. Damage was repaired quickly, he said.

Some improvements are on the way. A seismic retrofit project is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2014. The project will harden the bridge to resist the forces of an earthquake. It will include steel column jackets, floor beam stiffeners and tying the deck to the support beams.

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