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Aurora Overpass

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"Editor, The Times:

It seems fashionable at this time to criticize bridges, viaducts and other parts of our new freeway complex, and, I might add, with good reason.

Just to be different, let me offer praise for what I consider an excellent piece of design which could well be emulated by our State Highway Department.

I am referring to the very fine work of City Engineer Roy W. Morse on the recently completed Oak Lake School overpass over Aurora Avenue.

This is a bridge of charm and grace. Even the rhododendrons, skimmia and other shrubs massed at the base of the spiral ramp indicate a thoughtful appreciation of the value of planting.

I wish that more of our highway structures showed such use of good design."

If he liked one spiral on Oak Park, he would have loved the two spirals on Delridge if he ever had reason to get down to that part of town.

It's time to name names. The Alaskan Way Viaduct had been completed in 1953. Interstate 5's Ship Canal Bridge was completed in 1961. The 520 Evergreen Point Floating bridge and especially the Portage Bay connection from Roanoke to Montlake was looming on the horizon with completed design plans. Seattlites were sick of highways, and proceeded to blaze trails with fights against R. H. Thomson Expressway and then Interstate 90. The continued fights against highways -- led now by Mayor McGinn -- may seem like naysaying or NIMBYism, but really it's part of a 50 year legacy of never again.

It would be interesting to find out just how much the commission changed the pedestrian overpass designs created by Seattle structural engineering firm Worthington & Skilling (now Magnusson Klemencic Associates, by the way). Were the original designs completely utilitarian like the freeways?

It's also not clear to me how the second key feature of this bridge came about: accessibility. Morse went back to the city council to ask for a 30% additional appropriation for bridge costs. The money would cover "a new curving ramp-approach design" instead of stairs, in order to offer "many advantages to users".

- Noble Hoggson in a letter to the Seattle Times


Concrete rigid frame bridge over Aurora Avenue on Pedestrian Pathway
Seattle, King County, Washington
Open to pedestrians only
Built 1961
- Roy W. Morse (Engineer)
Concrete rigid frame
Length of largest span: 96.1 ft.
Total length: 253.9 ft.
Also called
Oak Lake School Overpass
Approximate latitude, longitude
+47.70286, -122.34462   (decimal degrees)
47°42'10" N, 122°20'41" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
10/549168/5283483 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Seattle North
Inventory number
BH 61516 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • June 25, 2014: Added by Luke Harden


  • Luke