Moving forward on SR520

Submitted by Virginia Gunby and Jorgen Bader

Jorgen Bader serves as representative of the University District Community Council and Virginia Gunby is a RBCA Board Member. Both served on the recent Westside 520’s Seattle Community Design Collaborative (SCDC) representing the interests of the University District and Ravenna-Bryant neighborhoods.

On October 26th, The Seattle Times reported that, thanks to project savings and an approved Federal loan, the funding gap for the construction of the Westside SR 520 segment had been reduced from $2 to $1.4 Billion. If the 2013 state Legislative Session approves I-90 tolling to fund the balance, then WSDOT will move forward with the construction/stabilization of the “Land to Lake” section on SR 520.

On the mornings of November 26th and December 10th, WSDOT staff will be briefing the Seattle City Council on the most recent plans for the new SR 520 Project at the City Council Chambers. The hearings will be open to the public. We urge that you let the city know your 520 thoughts and questions by testifying or by e-mail to the Council members or Mayor. The latest SR 520 designs are on the WSDOT website at   Visit the site to check the graphics out!

I-5 to Medina Project Map

Current Issues awaiting Decision

After 15 years of study, many Public Meetings and input on the recent SCDC design refinements, consultants hired by the City of Seattle have recommended the removal of the second parallel Montlake Bridge across the Cut. The second bridge was part of the FHWA FEIS for SR 520 Westside Design as stated in Resolution 34111 approved in 20xx. With the forecasted increase in foot, bus and light rail traffic for the new Husky Stadium area Light Rail Station scheduled to open in 2014, planners expect traffic congestion for all modes will increase on the existing bridge.  With increased number of traffic lanes on the south and north sides of the Montlake cut there is little support from the city transportation planners to improve the space for movement of Transit, Autos/Freight, Bikes or Pedestrians to move on Montlake Boulevard. (The Montlake Community has opposed the second Montlake Bridge, since they believe it will bring more traffic through their neighborhood.)

The design of the Portage Bay Bridge

Should the bridge be designed using a Box Girder design, similar to the current one, or a new cable-stay bridge? For those who don’t know the finer details about bridge design, the Box Girder supports the roadway with many pilings in the water whereas a cable-stay Bridge has a mast like a sailboat. The cable stay bridge’s cables spread like a sail down to hold up the roadway with less in water construction work on pylons, thus lessening the future impacts on the Portage Bay environment or users. Cable stay supporter believe the unique design for Seattle would be an appropriate “welcoming” design to the city entrance, consistent with the, surrounding moorages and water related activities.

An Additional Bike/Pedestrian Lane to connect with a bike trail at Roanoke to the Lake Union Trail and connecting to other N/S existing Trails as an alternative to using the hill climb route up Del Mar drive is planned. The bridge neighbors want a narrow design, and METRO opposes losing one lane, which could become a reversible lane, even though they connect only to the I-5 Express lanes that are only operated south in the AM and north in the PM. Bridge experts claim retrofitting it later for a Bike lane after it is built would be expensive. The bike community is strongly in favor of the addition of this Bike/Pedestrian lane.

Wetlands, lagoons and upland shorelines rehabilitation around Lake Washington Blvd, Foster Island Drive in order to reduce SR 520 impacts. The 520 plan includes the removal of existing SR 520 ramps. WSDOT has offered to give the City the adjacent west side wetlands for mitigation in exchange for dry lands by the roadways. So far the Council and the Mayor have not shown any interest in acquiring this area adjacent to the Arboretum.

West Side impacts and construction

Due to limitations of project funding, and the need to rebuild aging Pontoons and in water transition road supports, built before current earthquake standards, the Seattle land- side between I-5 and the Lake is the last scheduled to be funded and constructed. When completed, it will have six not four lanes, with two-way center Transit/HOV lanes, a bike/pedestrian lanes on the North side of the bridge and new safety shoulders. The design calls for construction of two lids above the 520 corridor near the Arboretum and Roanoke Avenue.

Lid Development

Another Community landscaped lid will be located on Capitol Hill near Roanoke. The design also requires collection and treatment of the all 520 roadway rain run-off in natural ponds, before releasing the clean water into the adjacent waters. In addition, traffic mitigation and calming on Montlake and pedestrian underpasses are included in the project. Construction best management practices will be used to reduce disruption and noise to adjacent Communities and protect or restore the surrounding community and roadside environment.

West Side Open House – WSDOT plans to have another SR 520 West side “Open House” to get Public Input in January, 2013.  Stay tuned.