Friday, November 5, 2010

Fremont Bridge Seattle

The Fremont Bridge in Seattle is one of the city's most well known landmarks.

It is also one of the city's biggest headaches for motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

Built in 1917, this drawbridge is the busiest one in the United States and one of the most busy in the entire world, going up and down more than THIRTY FIVE times a day. Given the fact that the bridge does not operate during rush hours or much at night, the span has to be raised and lowered sometimes two or three times per hour. Often the boat traffic under the bridge is a single yacht or sailboat.

The video I took and put up on YouTube is a real time illustration of how long the average wait is for the bridge to go up and down. On this day I was out of a car and walking around so I could take in the view, which I will admit is extraordinary. But at over SEVEN MINUTES you get a sense of how annoying and boring the wait at the bridge can be when you are in a hurry and there is no other way over the Fremont Cut to Lake Union.

I love historic properties and the Fremont Bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places and is also a city landmark and personally, it is very cool to watch the mechanisms of the bridge work. By the way, those gears and motors have to be maintained and replaced from time to time, costing $41 million the last time they were overhauled in 2006. A great deal of money for an antique toy.

The real estate implications here for me are obvious. How many business deals, condo purchases, and other transactions were aborted by people stuck in traffic at the Fremont Bridge? I love the quirky charm of Fremont, an artsy part of Seattle known mostly for its giant bronze statue of Vladimir Lenin which sets the spirit of the neighborhood which calls itself "The Center of the Universe."  But I would not want to live or work there because of the daily inconvenience of this bridge. There is just no other realistic way of getting around it and over it sometimes takes awhile as my video shows.

The policy question here is obvious. Does a modern city really want its neighborhoods connected by a century old relic no matter how charming it truly is?

The bridge is going nowhere. I would probably protest myself if the the city wanted to remove it. But the simple question remains. Isn't there a better way to cross a 502 feet wide ditch filled with water?