Monday, June 24, 2013

The 'West Approach' is upon us

It's perhaps more easily seen by our neighbors across the Bay in Laurelhurst than by most of us here in the Park, but the Western anchor of the new floating bridge, Pier 36, is rapidly rising out of the Lake, just to the north of of us. The new pier, which is best viewed from the grounds of the Edgewater Apartments complex, is mostly obscured by the old floating bridge, which sits just to the South. But as work platforms are added to the four bridge columns over the next few months, this structure will become a much more prominent fixture of the "lakescape."

Pier 36, as it happens, is a pivotal component of the new bridge, since it will also be the Eastern anchor of the new West Approach Bridge, the first phase of which is being called the  West Connection Bridge.  Confusing?  Well, here are some illustrations to help us unravel the situation:

The above graphic shows (in blue) the Western endpoint at Pier 36 of the new floating bridge. To the left of the blue (in yellow and orange) is the path of the new West Connection Bridge, a 1,330 foot-long span that will intersect with the old floating bridge at a point just to the North of Madison Park.  Eventually, the new West Connection Bridge (referred to by WSDOT as an "interim structure") will become the south lanes of the new West Approach Bridge:

Unfortunately, other than for the West Connection Bridge, there is currently no funding for the rest of the south lanes of the new West Approach Bridge.  The North lanes (which are shown in orange on the graphic immediately above) are funded, however, and construction will move forward on them in the summer of 2014. The cost of the unfunded South lanes is estimated to be $1.4 billion, according to WSDOT.  When the Western Approach Bridge North has been completed in the fall of 2016, westbound traffic will travel on the new structure while Eastbound traffic will travel on the existing West approach and the West Connection Bridge.

This graphic gives a better picture of how the West Connection Bridge intersects with the old 520 structure and shows the placement of the eleven other piers, besides Pier 36, that will make up this portion of the highway:

Madison Park is going to be increasingly impacted by work on this construction phase (increased construction noise, at a minimum); but our pain will inevitably be less than that of neighboring Montlake, which will have to endure most of the collateral impact of the West Approach Bridge's construction activity.

This week you will have the opportunity to ask WSDOT all about the project, and you will not have to venture very far from home to do so. There will be a "pre-construction" meeting about the West Connection Bridge held at Pioneer Hall (1642 43rd Avenue E.) on Wednesday, June 36 (4:30 until 7 pm).

Things are about to get interesting.

[Graphics, other than photos, courtesy of the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).]

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