Thursday, April 10, 2014

The latest on those Arboretum ramps

Outta here by 2016

There may be three or four people out there who are still unaware that as a result of the construction of the new SR-520 floating bridge, the existing bridge's on- and off-ramps in the Arboretum will be demolished, along with the infamous "ramps to nowhere."  Those thousands of people who regularly traverse E. Madison Street or Lake Washington Boulevard in order to access or pile off the freeway in the Arboretum will just have to find another channel through which to flow. This re-direction is a major concern for many East/West commuters, as well as for many residents of Madison Valley and Montlake who are going to be negatively impacted by the new heavier-volume traffic patterns once those "convenient" ramps are gone.

We've covered this story in some detail (for that background see here).  At this time two years ago we reported that the Arboretum ramps had received a stay of execution. Although the westbound exit to Lake Washington Boulevard had originally been scheduled to be demolished in 2012, WSDOT decided to delay that effort until sometime this year.  The eastbound entrance to 520, however, was always scheduled to be removed next year, and that plan, at least initially, did not change.

However, we learned something new as a result of doing the update (above) on the new bridge's progress. We asked WSDOT for a current estimate of when drivers will no longer have access to 520 through the Arboretum, and this is answer we got from Roger Thompson, spokesperson for the SR-520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Program: "While we don't know the exact date and month, we anticipate that the westbound Arboretum off ramp will likely be removed by late 2015. This is because before the contractor can build the bridge portion of the West Approach Bridge North, the westbound off-ramp must first be removed--as it physically lies in the area we need to construct the bridge." Drivers exiting 520 westbound will have a new 24th Avenue East off-ramp through which to access Montlake and the Arboretum.

With regard to the Eastbound entrance ramp to 520, that demolition will not take place until "Stage 3" of bridge construction.  Tentatively, construction of that ultimate phase of the project is scheduled for the fall of 2016.  But that timetable is subject to factors beyond the direct control of WSDOT. As Thompson noted, "Future construction phases for the west side--primarily from I-5 to Montlake Boulevard--have yet to be funded. Timing and sequencing the removal of the eastbound Arboretum on-ramp depends on additional funding.  We're working closely with the Governor and Legislature to identify this funding and will have more information once funding is secured."

So there you have it.  At some point in the not-too-distant future, the Legislature willing, those ramps will be history.

Enjoy them while you can.

The ramps as seen from Google Earth
[Upper photo courtesy of WSDOT.]


  1. Can't wait! Can we close it now? Anything to turn the park back into a place for a leisurely drive and not an extended on ramp onto a highway for a select few.

    1. Awesome completely self-serving comment. Some of us do rely on those ramps and have done so for many many years. Sorry that you see me as part of the 'select few'

  2. I was wondering if there have been any traffic impact studies regarding the closure of the on-ramp. Although traffic through the Arboretum will be reduced, Madison Park and Madison Valley might have much heavier traffic on Madison, the major street that connects to any other entrance. I do want to preserve the park, though I'm not sure the net effect of closing the ramp will have as much effect on park preservation as people seem to think. I'm assuming this is a done deal and that nothing can stop it?

    1. Yes, it is a done deal, decided by the Governor, no less. There has been a traffic study which shows that major changes will need to be made to 23rd Avenue E. to accommodate the new traffic that will descend on the Montlake neighborhood channelling off of Madison going north rather than coming down the hill to go north to 520 through the Arboretum. It should be some mess for that neighborhood.


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