SEATTLE - When temperatures are excessively hot, it can actually damage streets and bridges. Crews with Seattle Department of Transportation are taking action to keep roadways and drivers safe.
The Fremont, Ballard, and University bridges are made of steel and are more than 100 years old. Ethan Bergerson, a spokesperson for SDOT, explained that steel expands when hot and can cause problems for drawbridges while opening and closing. He said people shouldn't be surprised if they see bridges around town getting a cold shower.
"If we let the bridges get too hot, they can get stuck. And that might not be a long-term damage, but it is really inconvenient when that happens. If we have a drawbridge getting stuck on the up position, that means people on bikes, walking and cars aren’t able to get through it," said Bergerson.
Crews will spray cold water from trucks on all three bridges during the heatwave in an effort to keep them cool. To protect the environment, the water is treated with a small amount of Vitamin C to neutralize the chlorine. The bridges will be treated at least once per day for up to 10 minutes. The work is scheduled for Saturday through Monday between 12-5 p.m.
It’s a bit unusual to see this kind of maintenance in the Pacific Northwest, but Bergerson said it’s necessary as the unusually high temperatures continue to climb.
"We pay close attention to the weather reports, and when we start to see three days in a row over 85 degrees, that’s a trigger for us that we know we need to go and spray down our bridges as part of our preventative maintenance program," said Bergerson. "Heat can cause other problems. For example, things like fissures or sinkholes. So our crews are standing by and ready."
Anyone who travels on Fremont Bridge knows there is always a slight traffic jam when the bridge is up.
"It’s an absolute nightmare when it’s up. So, the longer it can stay down, the better off it is for everybody," said Luke Hammond, who works near Fremont Bridge.
Aside from the preventative maintenance during the excessive heat, all three drawbridges will still be used by large boats passing through. Bergerson said drivers should expect delays.
"It’s just going to be a really tough weekend for traffic. Make sure you plan ahead, give yourself lots of time, think about different ways to get around," said Bergerson.
"I’ll just make sure I stay in that direction," said Hammond while pointing away from Fremont Bridge.
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