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Seattle's University Bridge reopens after being stuck upright for 2 days

The University Bridge got stuck upright due to an electrical malfunction that took crews hours to locate the source within the bridge's electrical system.

SEATTLE — The University Bridge in Seattle reopened to traffic Sunday morning, two days after an electrical failure left it stuck in the upright position.

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) tweeted about the closure about 10:30 a.m. on Friday, and it reopened to traffic about 9:40 a.m. on Sunday.

Originally the agency thought one of the transformers that operate the bridge’s brake system had burned out, according to SDOT. However, SDOT said Saturday that when parts were replaced, it revealed a deeper electrical malfunction, which engineers had to assess. 

To track down the location of the electrical failure, electricians had to trace the full length of each wire in the bridge's electrical system until they could narrow down where the problem was occurring. The bridge's system has thousands of wires, some of which are hundreds of feet long, according to SDOT.

Eventually, electricians found the short circuit near the motor control panel for the southern span of the bridge.

Credit: SDOT
Engineer working to diagnose and repair bridge electronic controls.

Crews brought power to the bridge about 7:30 a.m. on Sunday and tested the system before reopening it to traffic.

SDOT said it will check and inspect the bridge systems in the coming days to make sure the electrical issue didn't damage other systems. However, SDOT said there's no indication the electrical issue is related to the bridge's structural condition.

It is also still working to determine what caused the circuit to fail.

The bridge connects the University District to the Eastlake neighborhood in Seattle.

The closure caused back-ups on the Montlake and Ship Canal bridges Saturday evening as crowds descended on Husky Stadium for the University of Washington football game against Oregon.

City Councilmember Alex Pedersen released a statement on the closure touting his bill to boost funding for bridges around the city. 

"I want to thank the workers who have been struggling to repair and reopen another broken bridge and to urge all City leaders to give them the help they need to do their jobs to keep all Seattle bridges safe and secure," Pedersen said. 

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