There are other bridges out there, other Fremont bridges in fact, but the history, color combo, and operation of our Fremont Bridge adds up unlike any other. Of course its unique, its Fremont!
The Fremont Bridge opened on June 15, 1917 (it’s 97!) and the centennial is not that far off. The blue and orange paint job was chosen by a 1985 poll by Fremont residents and facilitated by the Fremont Arts Council. Below the surface, the Fremont Bridge had some serious maintenance done starting in 2006. It was a $41.6 million restoration to be specific, with the final tests conducted in 2008.
Pedestrians, cars, buses, trucks, motorcycles, bikes, and boats. Every day the Fremont Bridge sees it all. The bridge crosses the Fremont Cut, part of the Lake Washington Ship canal, which is part of several inter-connected bodies of water linking Lake Washington to the Ballard Locks and through the Locks, the Puget Sound.
It is a “double-leaf bascule bridge” yes, we had to look that one up. For the casual observer it is essentially a drawbridge and opens in the center. What the casual observer may not see but might appreciate knowing is that it is opened with a weighted system using huge concrete weights and minimal motor power. Oh and there is someone up there in that tower! The bridgetender!
While it’s obviously shorter than the neighboring Aurora Bridge, by any standards the Fremont Bridge is not very tall at all. The clearance below the bridge is only 30 feet! This means any sailboat with a mast taller than that has to signal (one long horn, one short horn) and request the bridge be raised.
For obvious reasons the bridge isn’t raised from 7-9AM and 4-6PM. However, it is still very frequently raised, sometimes as often as 35 times a day. Often times the Fremont Bridge is referred to as one of the busiest drawbridges in the U.S. or even the world. Since we don’t have the data to back that up we’ll just say it is a VERY busy bridge.
Some other fun bridge facts:
The Bicycle Counter is Seattle’s first bicycle counter and came to be through the efforts of the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and the Cascade Bicycle Club. It is located on the Northwest side of the bridge and greets cyclist and pedestrians alike with the count of how many bicycles have cross the bridge for the current day and over the current year. Bonus: The data collected by the bike counter is presented with Tableau software, a Fremont-based tech company!
Rapunzel, Rapunzel! Let the bridge down! Oh…wait a minute…
Located in the Northwest tower of the Fremont Bridge Rapunzel stands out just above the Bicycle Counter and enlivens our imaginations as we pass by. The artist, Rodman Miller, is a Fremonster and had a hand in much of the art that characterizes Fremont. Be sure to wave Rapunzel a “hello” next time you go by! It looks rather lonely up there.
The Elephant and the Alligator located in the Northeast tower of the bridge is based on a tale from Just So Stories For Little Children by Rudyard Kipling, the author of The Jungle Book. The scene depicted here is from “How the Elephant Got His Trunk.” (Hint: the alligator tugs on it!) This is another neon installation by local artist Rodman Miller.
More information about these two neon installations can be found in the Fremocentrist’s Public Art Inventory.
So next time you find yourself crossing the Fremont Bridge, take a look around and consider just how old, colorful, well-functioning, and quirky that bridge is!
Also, an interesting piece from the Seattle Times archives by Connie McDougall which includes the bridgetenders’ perspective.