Tuesday, July 27, 2010

And so it begins: initial work on the new SR 520 is officially underway

I received a press release last week from WSDOT (the Washington State Department of Transportation) reporting that field work has begun for the new SR 520 floating bridge. If you’ve looked across the Lake or driven over 520 recently, you’ve probably noticed the large barge crane that’s been moored alongside the floating bridge for the last several weeks. That crane has been involved in a project replacing pontoon cables. The arrival last week of the barge pictured above, however, presaged work on the new bridge, which officially started on Friday.

This barge is the first of several that will be involved in “field work” to study the lakebed in places where support columns and anchors will be placed for the new bridge. Drill rigs on the barges will explore 40 separate locations alongside the floating bridge, taking borings to a depth of up to 100 feet beneath the bottom of the Lake. The results of the bore sampling will then be shared with the design teams working on plans for the new bridge. To quote WSDOT, “Smaller efforts were conducted previously on the preliminary anchor design. This more robust geotechnical work allows WSDOT to advance the design of the anchors prior to issuing the contract documents for the floating bridge.”

It’s been some time since we last did a posting regarding plans for the new 520, so perhaps the beginning of actual work on the project is a good time for an update. Let’s start with the opponents. They remain opposed to the Governor’s “Preferred Alternative” and are currently up in arms about a recent graphic from WSDOT which shows the bridge terminating at our end of the Lake with an “Interim West Approach bridge and bicycle/pedestrian connection.”

Larry Kyle, Program Engineering Manager for the SR 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Program has provided this explanation: “Per the legislature’s authorization and funding, the project is limited to replacement of the floating bridge and the connections to SR 520 at either end of the floating bridge. At the eastern shore of Lake Washington, it will tie into the SR 520 alignment just east of the new approach structure approximately at the Evergreen Point overcrossing. At the west end, it will connect the transition span at the end of the floating bridge with the existing west approach north of Madison Park.” In other words, there’s no money appropriated or identified at this point to do anything with the western approach to the new floating bridge other than to create in the water just north of us an interim connector to the old approach. One opponent’s reaction to the new schematic: “Laurelhurst and Madison Park will have years of extra trauma” as a result of WSDOT’s plans.

WSDOT, meanwhile, recently posted a spiffy new video on YouTube of the “Preferred Alternative” for the western approach which will be constructed when funding becomes available. Although the computer-generated graphics show cars traveling over the bridge west to east and provide dramatic aerial side shots the Portage Bay section of the new 520, conspicuously absent are any side shots of the floating bridge itself as it crosses Lake Washington. Take a look here.

I suspect I'm not the only one wondering what WSDOT's reason might be for not showing us what the bridge looks like from the side view.

[This, by the way, is the 250th posting in the 17-month history of Madison Park Blogger.]

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