Thursday, January 21, 2010

The new 520 bridge: higher, wider, noisier and butt ugly to boot?

The State’s so-called Plan A+ for replacement of the SR-520 floating bridge is not getting much respect from those neighborhoods, such as ours, that will be impacted most directly by the $4.6 billion project. Opponents of the plan, organized as the Coalition for a Sustainable 520, say that the proposed bridge is aesthetically challenged, environmentally degrading, and doesn’t even meet the region’s transportation needs.
Tomorrow, however, the State moves one step closer to implementation of the locally unpopular plan when it releases the supplemental draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the project. Opponents are bracing for a rough time trying to convince the powers that be (the Governor and the legislature) that Plan A+ (which they jokingly refer to as “Plan F”) is too flawed to be implemented. They propose a temporary retrofit of the seismically unsafe floating bridge while a better plan is developed for a replacement.

As we reported in November, a legislative work group recommended Plan A+ as the best of several options. According to the Coalition, however, the input of the affected communities was given short shrift in the decision-making process. A mediation group created by the Governor, which included Seattle neighborhood representatives, failed to come up with a consensus recommendation. So what we’re left with is something the opponents consider to be—both figuratively and literally--a very ugly potential outcome.

The likely negative impact on the lakefront communities of the proposed new bridge is laid out in detail by two of our community council members, president Ken Myrabo and Kathleen O’Connor, in a guest column in the current issue of the Madison Park Times (“Viaduct on the Lake?”). They point to the visual impact of the proposed bridge on our community, noting that “the roadway base at Foster Island will be about 10 feet higher than the island. It will then slope upward to about 30 feet above the water in front of Canterbury Shores and Edgewater and rise to 45 feet and possibly higher at the west high-rise.”
(This is what the current high-rise looks like from the Edgewater Apartments)

And the proposed bridge won’t be any more pleasing to the eye, say the opponents, as it heads east across the Lake. Here’s how the Coalition describes the visual impact: “The roadway…is 30 feet (three stories) above the water. Above the pontoons is a service area, then columns holding up the main roadway. This hulking overbuilt and overly expensive structure will permanently block views up and down the lake, from its swimming beaches, from tourist and recreational boats, and from homes on both sides of the lake.” The diagram above shows a side view of the bridge as it will look from the Lake.

The aesthetics and cost of the bridge are not the Coalition’s only concerns. There’s also the potential negative impact of the bridge’s wider roadway and entrance ramps on the Arboretum and the surrounding waterways; the creation of a massive, neighborhood-destroying highway interchange in Montlake; the lack of noise abatement as a design element; and the absence of adequate provisions for future light-rail and bus usage.

In addition to Madison Park’s, the Coalition for a Sustainable SR 520 is made up of the community councils of Laurelhurst, Roanoke Park, Portage Bay, and North Capitol Hill. Also involved is the local boating community, consisting of the Seattle Yacht Club and the Queen City Yacht Club, as well as other concerned individuals and businesses. The Coalition, which is coordinated by Capitol Hill resident (and longtime Seattle private equity investor) Fran Conley, has hired a lawyer and is actively fundraising to support its efforts to stop Plan A+. (Additional information on the Coalition, its anti-Plan A+ arguments, and how to get involved is available on its website.)

Here’s what’s coming next in the replace-the-520-bridge drama: 1) the supplemental draft EIS will be issued by the State Department of Transportation (SDOT) on Friday (and should be available for viewing here); 2) interested parties will have a fairly short period during which to give input in response to the EIS; 3) the EIS will be approved, amended, or withdrawn; 4) the Governor will approve the resulting plan (or not); the legislature will fund the plan (or not). Throughout the process, the Coalition, in conjunction with the Sierra Club and the Transportation Choices Coalition (and possibly Seattle’s new mayor), will try to kill the plan by lobbying the Governor and legislature to have SDOT go back to the drawing boards and produce a more “context-sensitive” design. And I’ll be covering the whole saga here on the blog.

As an aside, here’s an interesting photo I unearthed showing the Lake as it looked in 1963, before the existing Albert D. Rosellini Bridge had been built (although it and Park Shore, in the foreground, were both under construction):

[Upper graphic courtesty of SDOT, with labels added by the Coalition for a Sustainable SR 520; lower photo courtesy of the Museum of History & Indlustry.]


  1. Pretty simple solution to this problem. Did we learn nothing this week with the MA election?

    Next race for Governor, find a candidate who will oppose this monstrosity, and donate money to them at the maximum allowable level.

    Buh bye Gregoire.

  2. Fyi: The photo from 1963 has the Park Shore being built on 43rd Ave E. The Washington Park Tower did not start until about 1969. Lincoln Thompson

  3. Oh, and by the way, tolling starts next year. Don't won't need to hoard quarters..those days are done. You'll need a part time job to cross the lake.

    I've been looking at Montana and Arizona.


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