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Montlake Bridge from the east
The Montlake Bridge is a double-leaf bascule bridge that carries Montlake Boulevard (State Route 513) over Seattlemarker's Montlake Cutmarker--part of the Lake Washington Ship Canalmarker--connecting Montlake and the University Districtmarker.

It is the easternmost bridge spanning the canal. The bridge is 104.9 m (344 ft) long, and was designed by Carl F. Gould, one of the original architects of the University of Washingtonmarker. The bridge and its control towers were designed in conjunction with the university's Collegiate Gothic style. It provides a clearance of 14 m (46 ft) and is reported as providing 14.6 m (48 ft) of vertical clearance above the mean regulated level of Lake Washingtonmarker for the central 30.5 m (100 ft) of the bascule span. It is one of four original bascule-type drawbridges over the Ship Canal, the others being the Ballardmarker, Fremont, and Universitymarker Bridges. It was the last one to be completed, has the highest clearance of the four, and is the only one that is part of the state highway system. It is also one of six bascule bridges based on a design derived from the Chicago bascule bridge, but is unique because of its trunnion supports, employed to avoid a patent infringement lawsuit by the Strauss Bascule Bridge Company.

Piers and abutments for a permanent bridge were built in 1914 as part of construction for the Ship Canal, but a serious proposal for a bridge at Montlake didn't come until 1916. The first bridge in its place was a makeshift walkway made from a series of barges, set up by graduate manager Dar Meisnest to allow football fans to cross for the Washington/Dartmouthmarker game in 1920. The temporary bridge was so heavily traveled, it demonstrated the need for a permanent structure, which was finished in June 1925.

A report from 1993 states that the Montlake Bridge averaged a volume of 60,900 vehicles each weekday, while another report from 2001 puts normal weekend traffic across the bridge at about 40,000 vehicles each day. In addition to the vehicular traffic, the bridge conveys pedestrians and bicyclists across the canal by way of sidewalks on each side of the roadway. The bridge does not open during morning and evening rush hours. It opens at designated times (usually on the hour and half-hour) during the hours just prior to and after rush periods, and on demand at other times. Most of the openings are for sailboats, as most of the tugs that operate this far east are able to pass under the bridge in its closed position. The bridge creates a bottleneck for traffic heading to and from State Route 520, and the creation of alternate routes has been proposed multiple times over the years. Traffic can become backed up for more than a mile when the bridge is open, as can be seen in aerial photographs.

Historical Signifigance

The Montlake Bridge is celebrated as the site of boating season's "opening day" festivities the first Saturday in May.

The bridge and the Montlake Cutmarker together are a City of Seattle Designated Landmark (ID #107995), and the bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, as well as the Washington Heritage Register. It is owned and operated by the Washington State Department of Transportation.


Image:MontlakeBridgeHAER.png|HAER descriptionImage:MontlakeBridgeAxonometric.png|Gears and MachineryImage:MontlakeBridgeCenterLock.png|Center lock mechanism


  1. lwsc - Bridge
  2. Drawbridge Operations Regulations; Lake Washington Ship Canal, WA | Federal Register Environmental Documents | USEPA
  3. Montlake History by Jim Gould
  4. News: Historic Gearheads Tour (Seattle Weekly)
  5. 110 Wn. App. 731, MONTLAKE CMTY. CLUB v. HEARINGS BD
  6. Drawbridge Operations Regulations; Lake Washington Ship Canal, WA | Federal Register Environmental Documents | USEPA
  7. Landmarks Alphabetical Listing for M, Individual Landmarks, Department of Neighborhoods, City of Seattle. Accessed 28 December 2007.

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