Monday, March 15, 2010

Butt ugly? You be the judge

We have a suspicion that for many civil engineers, the above illustration of what the new SR 520 floating bridge might look like as it transverses Lake Washington represents a thing of beauty. For it’s well known that civil engineers are more likely to be in the “function over form” camp than the other way around; and the new bridge does, after all, accomplish its principal mission of moving more vehicles from east to west and then back again than is true of the current bridge. So on that score alone, we suppose, it’s a job well done.

But here’s what the bridge looks like today, as viewed from the same Madison Street pier location:

Though it’s not a bridge deserving of any design awards, at least its profile is a relatively low one. But what about that new bridge? Is it likely to be a blight upon the water, as some opponents believe? And then there’s the bigger issue of whether the new bridge will even accomplish the purpose of improving cross-Lake transportation in the long term.
We’ve covered the 520 issue in some detail on this blog, but there’s much more to come. Since our last report, the bridge’s proponents have ramped up their efforts to convince the public that the project in its present form is a grand thing (see posterous), while the opponents have been equally vociferous in their outrage (although they apparently took their website down). The Legislature has also gone on record with a recent action approving a bill to allow tolling on 520 to begin in 2011. The majority of State lawmakers, apparently, would like to see work begin on the eastside approaches to 520 even if the design of the west side has not been finalized.

MEETING NOTICE: We will have another opportunity to hear about all of this at an upcoming community meeting to be held at Park Shore on Monday, March 22, from 7 to 9 pm in the chapel. The speakers will be Fran Conley, Coordinator of the Coalition for a Sustainable 520, and Ethan Raup of the Seattle Mayor’s Office, where he is Director for Policy and External Affairs. Meanwhile, you can learn more about the anti-Option A+ position here.
[As an aside, it is interesting to note that the beautiful and still utilitarian Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco was not designed by a civil engineer, but rather by a liberal arts major! The story is told in an excellent book, The Gate, by John Van Der Zee, which I highly recommend.]

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