News Dec 10, 2009 at 4:00 am

Seattle Leaders Are Ready to Go to War for a Better 520

Seattle wants the dotted lines but Olympia doesn’t.


may as well add the University Bridge and the Ballard bridge, oh and the Fremont Bridge while you're at it.. and maybe 405 as well so people can't use that as a detour to avoid Toll City I mean, Seattle
I know how to make it a lot cheaper: build the new bridge with the same traffic capacity as the old bridge (plus trail and transit capability).
Run shuttle vans between Montlake and the UW light rail stop.
Why do we even need a 520 bridge? Just make everybody go around or use I-90.
This is crazy. Rather than generate the extra $1.5 billion from citywide tolls to build this crossing (more to convert the bridge to light rail, with totally unspecified routing and funding sources on the Eastside), I'd much rather use it for some other city transit priorities, like high-quality light rail to West Seattle and Ballard.
spock is right @2.

Whiners who drive to work all by their lonesome in their cars can whine all they want, but we don't have the exits here to support more lanes and we're not going to build them, unless they're for HOV lanes and transit lanes.

Oh, and the other take home message is that the Billionaires Tunnel is dead - cause we can't afford to do it.

Elections and deficits have consequences.

All your roads are belong to transit.
Um, you will be able to get to MS from UW on light rail by 2021. Train will take you from UW through downtown Seattle and out to Overlake Transit Center. Take about a half hour. Can you do that via 520 during rush hour today?

it is a region. Why won't the rest of the region let us build transit?
If you frame this issue, as this article does, as a roads vs. transit conflict, you are going to lose. Yes, transit is more important in Seattle than it is in the rest of the state, but even in Seattle transit is nowhere near as important as roads.

The fact is, the extra spur is a much better configuration for roads, too. I am a dyed-in-the-wool non-transit-riding 520-driver, and I would much rather speed directly from the highway to the U-district arterials than go through a residential neighborhood packed with stoplights and side streets and occasionally wait for a drawbridge.

Yes, the spur in more expensive. But it also much better for everyone -- road and transit users.
*sigh* I-90 didn't sink in a storm....
4.5 Billion is a lot more than the deep bore tunnel downtown because that figure includes many related improvements that are not specific to the tunnel and have to be done regardless. If you're going to compare to the tunnel, please use a figure that is representative of the cost of the tunnel, not the entire project. If you're going to compare to 4.5 billion, how about saying "the state highway AWV replacement and related costs"? That would be more accurate.
@11: --the sinking was not caused by a storm, rather.
@11, word. He neglected to mention the part about construction crews sawing the pontoons in half in an ineptly-engineered effort to widen the existing span (which was eventually done, along with the new span). People forget that I-90 was for its first 60-odd years really narrow (remember the reversible lane?) and in no danger of sinking.
Help me out here Dominic. Why again should Seattle pay $2 billion more so that people commuting from the eastside don't have to walk a few blocks in the rain to transfer from buses to light rail at Montlake?

Why does The Stranger care so much about light rail on 520 and this connection that will serve eastside commuters?

I'm a little confused...

$2 billion could build a lot of in city light rail that Seattle residents would actually use.

If the eastside wants the connection, they should pay for it.

I wish eastside legislators thought the same way and wanted to tax their constituents to pay for light rail to benefit Seattle.

Putting tolls in places is going to create a massive traffic nightmare. Tolls take time to collect, and it creates a big stupid bottleneck.

I shudder to think what Seattle would be like with tolls on "520 bridge, the I-90 bridge, the West Seattle Bridge, the Alaskan Way Viaduct, the Aurora Bridge, and the downtown corridor of I-5." A complete clusterfuck.

Don't annoy me with tolls, just raise my taxes.

And, if folks in the Eastside don't want to pay for their part, just let the cross-lake bridges sink. People will eventually move closer to work, or work closer to home, and the problem will take care of itself.

But don't create additional problems elsewhere to try to pay for it.
The problem with the "proposed freeway ramp" to the Link station at Husky Stadium is that in current proposals, it's for ALL traffic going to/from the 520 corridor -- a huge facility in order to turn Montlake Blvd into a local access street just for the Montlake neighborhood.

The better answer is to keep the general configuration of the A+ alternative, but downsize it -- and make the "proposed freeway ramp" for transit/HOVs only (and future light rail).
Tolls don't have to create a bottleneck. You can pay for transponders and not stop, or even do what Colorado did on E-470 and just have a camera take a photo of the license plates of the cars that pass by each toll station. A bill is sent once a month for each plate that passes by, listing each toll fare. Easy.
I guess I'm one of those "affluent voters" in the 43rd. Well I vote at least. I used to use the 520 to commute and still I cross through Montlake daily. It's a mess and expanding the bridge as planned in the A+ will be a nightmare, bring an entire quadrant of the city to a halt, even with the extra draw bridge (where is that going to go, pray tell? There's not a whole lot of room around the cut to add more bridges without taking out a hospital, or a stadium).

The neighbors who live close to this boondoggle will fight and fight, adding years of delay and cost to the A+ plan.

Why pay more to link transit? Because if you want transit to work, you invest in it. You make it easy and don't give reasons for the riders to think - decades from now - what the [bleep] were they thinking when they built this stupid bridge as they walk from Montlake to UW.
Fellow Seattleites, now that we’re done electing a mayor who values transit, bicycles, pedestrians, parks and sustainability, and now that we are mostly done arguing over SR 99 it’s time to shift our focus to the other giant WSDOT multibillion dollar highway megaproject in this town and make sure that whatever happens here reflects our values in the second decade of the 21st century. This so-called “A+” plan is an egregious insult to those values.

- This plan widens the highway across Portage Bay from 4 lanes to 7 lanes to speed up buses, and then removes all access to those buses in the area. Stops for 355 buses a day to the Eastside — simply removed. Not what you would call “transit-friendly”. Put the stops back. Duh.

- Big transit problem #2: Like Sen. Ed Murray says, it requires a lengthy walk across multiple busy streets when you emerge out of the UW light rail station and look for a connecting bus — to anywhere north, south, east or west. In this plan, that walk is fully exposed to the weather. It will take as long as a drawbridge opening (6 minutes), or as long as it takes to ride light rail from Westlake to UW (also 6 minutes.) It’s so easy to do better — why doesn’t this plan even try? Put bus stops directly in front of the rail station. Build some transit-only lanes to support that. Duh. Next:

- It’s too damn wide and too damn high in the Arboretum. There’s too much cut-traffic through the Arboretum to get to 520. There’s too much new traffic on neighborhood streets. Scale this sucker down. Eliminate the cut-through traffic. Duh.

- The second bascule bridge does not make transit more reliable but does take out homes, overload the intersections on either side, and require borrowing $81 million we don’t have. As a bonus it removes historic homes on an Olmsted Boulevard and ruins the historic context of a landmark bridge. It doesn’t really solve any problem and it creates a lot of new ones. Nix the new drawbridge. Scale this sucker down.

- Front yards are taken out for all the houses along 24th Ave. up to the new branch library at McGraw to widen the city arterial to move more That may be what we’d do in 1959, but it’s not what we do here in Seattle in 2009. Don’t do that. Scale this sucker down.

- The bicycle-pedestrian environment in Montlake is a disaster in this plan. It’s a 1950’s style interchange, like what’s there, but on steroids. The lid is a joke — it’s connects nothing and has highway ramps running through the middle of it. Instead of restoring the greenbelt from Union Bay to Portage Bay, this plan paves all that remains of it. Good luck walking a little kid or a slow dog across an on-ramp with a high-speed free right turn. There must be a better configuration.

- Meanwhile, while we’re busy planning to tear down the viaduct in downtown Seattle, WSDOT is busy planning to build a new one across Lake Washington — all the way across — 30 feet up on stilts, unlike all the current bridges, twice as wide as what’s there now, with super-sized pontoons to make it expandable to 8 lanes. Scale that sucker down.

Meanwhile, Eastside legislators are openly plotting to get rid of the measly lids this plan includes, even though the state has continued to promise them for each of the last twelve years.

So, basically, it’s a plan just like what we’d build in 1975, to be built using borrowed funds paid back through tolls on I-90 and other taxes and tolls, with dysfunctional transit. At least it continues to move cars... if you drive through our beautiful Arboretum, or the Montlake mess, or the mess on I-5, to get to it.

Mayor Nickels has been missing in action while this project has run off the rails, quietly selling us out on 520 to get what he wanted on the Viaduct. That’s one of the untold stories of this saga. It’s time for our city to come to its own defense, reject this “A+” plan, and send WSDOT back to the drawing board, this time with some oversight from the city.
Citizen R is right. Keep the Montlake exit and make it Transit/HOV only from 7AM to 7PM. Build the exit just like the Totem Lake flyers stop. This will keep the footprint only eight lanes wide and eliminate the huge wasted space caused by the clover leaf. If you do away with the break down lane built into the rest of the corridor the exit and flyer stop need be no wider than the bridge deck. Dress up the new overpass with plantings keeping the boulevard feel of Montlake between 520 and the cut. This would eliminate the costly lid proposed in option A+. The ramps returning to 520 from the flyer stop would be down hill to aid buses getting back up to merge speed. Unloading level with Montlake would eliminate the stairs for transit riders making the stop ADA compliant.
1) thousands (tens of thousands?) of us Seattle types commute to the eastside everyday -- it ain't all Bellevuites that would like that commute fixed.

2)Is it too fucking late to fix the Lightrail stop? Great, connect up the bridge and lightrail, but why the hell is the connection in the middle of nowhere parking lot?

citizen R - I thought there was going to be a spur to the station, not that 100% of 530 traffic would be routed through there

if that's the case, fuck that
whoops, meant 520
Can anyone who supports light rail from UW to the eastside explain where they want it to run? What's the route? Entirely along 520 to Microsoft? Where are the stations and where do the riders come from along the 520 corridor? Where are the transit oriented development opportunities? Does the line go to downtown Bellevue? Where does it turn off and why?

Light rail on 520 is a ridiculous waste of limited resources to improve transit in Seattle. If you live on Capitol Hill and work at Microsoft you have the MS funded Connector service and soon you'll be able to take light rail across I-90 and onto Redmond. I'm not sure it's worth it for Seattle tax payers to spend a few billion for light rail on 520 when you'll soon have the I-90 line up and running. We'd be spending a few billion to shave a couple of mins off your trip. Not worth it.
J-Dub. Seattle may have elected a mayor who values transit but this new mayor's notion of Light Rail on 520 is just nutty and wasteful. Look at the graphic. First, it dead ends right at the station. What a waste. Keep in mind this is an underground station with no where to go from there. Second, look at the dotted line. That shows a 90 degree turn in the underground interchange. It looks nearly impossible for light rail to make such a turn.

Third, those dotted lines represent an underground interchange that is proposed to be built by freezing all the ground around it. Highly risky and simply not afforadable. And environmental laws and Indian treaties will not allow that underground interchange to be built in a million years. No matter what Ed Murray has to say, he can't force the impossible to become possible. The elected people need to quit thinking they are deities and realize they're just ordinary humans.
"Highway workers have sealed more than 30,000 feet of cracks on the floating span between Seattle and Medina in just the past 16 years."

Is that a significant number? It is presented as if it is a put-away home run QED which is offered to prove that we should do...something...big. But is a significant fact?

It might also suggest that WSDOT is taking very good care of the bridge and is repairing things as they need repair or maybe even beforehand.

I ask sincerely.
Can we just have a dropoff at Montlake, at which point there are individual free car rides to your individual residence? Also: free blowjobs?

Because failing that, someone is going to bitch.
What I want to know is why it's going to take TEN YEARS to get rail to the UW?! Other countries (like Japan, which has mountains and earthquakes to worry about too) manage to get rail projects done much faster.
First of all, 520 shouldn't even be where it is-- right in the middle of fragile marshland. Why don't we move it out of there while we have the chance? The bald eagle and blue heron who fish from a light pole by Foster Island may appreciate it. Instead it should go over by husky stadium.
Also, no tolls please. They make the northeast suck even more than it already does. Raise the gas tax or something. That'll make people take the light rail more as well.
King County METRO supports A+. It has the best transit connection for crosslake and local buses. A+ builds a transit only westbound Montlake Boulevard East and a transit/HOv eastbound ramp Montlake Boulevard East to the Bus/HOV lane of SR 520. All the plans for Montlake Cut tunnels put buses into mixed traffic lanes at the tunnel approaches and in the tunnel and removed the transit only lane by University Hospital on N.E. Pacific Street. During rush hour this mixing of traffic caused significant delays in transit travel times.
None of the westside designs incorporate light rail for crossing the Montlake Cut between SR 520 and the UW/Husky Stadium Sound Transit Station. A+ would be the most adaptable. Light rail requires a much more gentle grade than highway grades. The tunnel designs all exceed federal and state highway standards in the steepness used in digging under the Montlake Cut. None of the tunnel designs have any capacity for accommodating light rail west of Marsh Island.
This infrastructure is only needed because of the decisions people make in where they live and work. If I make the responsable choice and buy a small, expensive place down the street from my office, why should I subsidize your commute from a suburban McMansion? Tolls are the only fair option. If some good modern technology is used, it doesn't have to slow the commute, and it has the double benefit of both funding the projects AND efficiently shaping transportation behaviors.

Between 520 and the Viaduct we're acting like a bunch of fucking spoiled children. We want it all, we deserve it all, hell we're entitled to it all, and we don't want to personally pay for what we'll be using. We'd rather spread it out as far as possible for as long as possible. Buy on credit today, let the next generation figure out how to pay for it.

I say we tear them both down now in the name of public safety. We can throw some bake sales, perhaps have a garage sale or two, take some donations, and when we have the 10 billion dollars in our pocket (or at least some reasonable expectation that we could afford it!) THEN we can start engineering our dream solutions.

Until then I suggest dusting off your bike, wedging into a bus, or learning to enjoy your time spent in traffic.
My what a prococative and eye catching headline you have.... is it intended to GENERATE ideas of spending government money on political fodder, or are you just tied to phone chat services and rate increases in RENT?

I believe we need an improvement LID on Capitol Hill right there on 11th ave east... and you should start with the one who ends his column with the beavers and boobs as if they were hard abs and cute little platonic kisses.
In addition to tolling the bridge, the Lake Washington Boulevard should be tolled to both cut traffic through demand management and also to raise funds for maintaining the Arboretum.

We simply must prioritize parks over concrete and we can not stand by and allow the state to roll over urban neighborhoods.
Hmmm. Well, there's a way to work together (not) ... call it "going to war?" There have been a bazillion hours of staff presentations, endless hours of community members and elected officials from everywhere sitting through and sorting through meetings full of incredible minutiae ... The Seattle City Council has NOT been involved, for a variety of reasons, and I expect that to change now ... although it sure as hell would've been better had Seattle been a full partner in discussions to date ...

This stuff does not lend itself to sound bites about parks over concrete, or dividing us into suburbs versus city. The young people living in cheaper housing on the eastside (it's not all McMansions) while trying to catch a bus to the UW for the few classes they can afford deserve our consideration as much as those of you who already live downtown ... and the mom working a tech job ancillary to Microsoft shouldn't HAVE to sell the house she already owns in Wallingford in a down market just to move closer to her job, just because it's more enlightened to do that.

Geographic boundaries are arbitrary and pit us one against the other. The mobility functions of this region should not be arbitrary, but should be focused on efficiency and effectiveness, least-cost and least-carbon-impact. The fact that after over 10 years of working on this project, it's now declared to be a "war" with a single legislative district (talk about an artificial boundary!!) is really really really sad ...
I know the feeling. We hav a similar battle going on here in VT, The state closed a bridge just prior to winter with no plan for traffic..

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I know the feeling. We hav a similar battle going on here in VT, The state closed a bridge just prior to winter with no plan for traffic..

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In fact some people have to drive 3 hours now when the trip used to take them 5 mintutes.

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@32 One might also argue WTF is that fragile marshland doing in the 25th largest city in the nation? We sluiced an entire hill (Denny) off the map, so can't we shake off this damned 'nature' preserve?
In all seriousness, why is this even the site/route for a floating bridge/520? It's not even the shortest jump across the water: SandPoint to Kirkland would be a logical place to put a bridge. Might even be able to put a Suspension there instead of a floater...

@34: you can't spend your logic and idealism dollars here, my friend. They seem to only take dream rubles and entitlement Euros.
And the exchange rate is murder.

@41 sounds like the perfect inspiration to change driving habits and boost transit funding, no? Also sounds like responsible budgeting on the part of VT. Gawd, wish we had some (more) politicians like that here...

Doesn't anyone in this city care about the beauty of the last remaining human scale Lake crossing? Approaching the Mountlake Bridge from either side by water is a view not unlike a Thomas Eakins painting. The twin Montlake crossing to widen that road is an excelling solution. The freeway spur will be an environmental disaster. Just look at the Fremont Bridge Crossing and the University Bridge crossing and see what real visual and noise blight is. How "green" are we?

Architects and those of us who use the waterways should get engaged.
It's alarming to read that the 43rd District State Senator, Ed Murray, has a false understanding of how Alternative A+ buses carry passengers from the Eastside to UW.

These transit riders will be carried on buses directly to or from a transit station in UW, next to the future light-rail station. HOV lanes on 520 and on Montlake Boulevard will give bus service in Alternative A+ a real boost, compared to the plan the neighborhood seems to want which would have buses backed up in mixed traffic in the tunnel. WSDOT says transit speeds from the Eastside to UW are better under Alternative A+.
I'm with #3. The cheapest solution is to start weening people off the use of 520 all together. Move closer to your job. Use 405 or I-90. When the rail system is ready for it, build a train/bicycle only bridge to replace it.
@Mr. X - I didn't say was going to happen, of course. Not a chance in hell. But at least it's an idea. How do you propose this replacement bridge should be paid for? Are you happy with a tax hike to pay for it? Getting across SHOULD be inconvenient to inspire alternative commuting options. Move closer to work/school. Can't bear to part with your adorable Wallingford house? Rent it out and rent an apt close to work/school. Any ideas Mr. X, or are you just gonna post another pointless comment?
Mr. X - I didn't say was going to happen, of course. Not a chance in hell. But at least it's an idea. How do you propose this replacement bridge should be paid for? Are you happy with a tax hike to pay for it? Getting across SHOULD be inconvenient to inspire alternative commuting options. Move closer to work/school. Can't bear to part with your adorable Wallingford house? Rent it out and rent an apt close to work/school. Any ideas Mr. X, or are you just gonna post another pointless comment?
Elitist? Know-it-all? Um, that is exactly what you sound like in these posts. Tell people how to live? How are you not doing that? Publicly funded projects sometimes require some people to be 'monumentally inconvenienced' for our own damn good. I'm not saying roads are evil. I drive a car. But unlike fucktards like you, I'm not going to defend my right to drive it anywhere, all the time, funded by public money. Look, we both know what I'm talking about will probably not happen, and A+ probably will. So you propose we should not even think about different options? And yes, tolls would be a decent compromise - why shouldn't the people who use it pay for it?
No really, go fuck YOURSELF. I'm not telling people how to live. What I made was a SUGGESTION on how to deal with the daily commuting nightmare. What I'm saying is that maybe some people should drive on a different road so we don't spend billions of tax dollars supporting an outdated transportation model. Maybe we should actually embrace progress.
Nope. Not for a second. It's still ridiculously logical to move closer to your job. But hey, if you want to sit in traffic for a couple hours a day, go for it, dipshit. Build a new bridge, add a few lanes, then find yourself STILL sitting in traffic. Hmmm....
"I'm not a 520 commuter myself" - But I'm sure it's ok to for you to assume what they'd say. I was trying to talk about policy, but you insist on dissecting quotes. As you won't answer actual questions, I suppose I have to lower myself to your tactics. I'll say anything to your face. If you'd just pull it out of your ass long enough. If your identity isn't really much of a secret, then why is your name Mr. X? Needless to say, I will certainly end my post with some smug comment about my credibility. I mean, I need to look up to you, right?
Yes, good work. Another successful trolling. "Good luck with that." Classic troll comment - adds nothing, only posted to incite.
Holy shit. I really didn't think you could get more sophomoric, but there it is. It WAS polite of you to congratulate me on my victory though. Keep at it, sport. You'll get there someday.
Nope. I actually have a life.
@64 for best rejoinder.

Transit for the win.

Seriously, I'd love to understand how far most of everyone's heads are shoved up their asses. What kind of world do you think we operate in? One where no one drives, or where no such thing as semi-trucks and panel trucks exist?
"You may not like the fact that I acknowledge that people make life choices for lots of reasons, but I'm certainly not trying to dictate them - you are."

That's rich, coming from a guy who expects the rest of the state to subsidize his expensive commuter lifestyle with their tax money.
So now rebuilding state highways is "subsidizing [an] expensive lifestyle". We have come far.

There is no doubt that the use of automobiles is heavily subsidized, that is true for pretty much all use. An urban commuter is arguably making the most efficient use of resource for the role that they play (520 gets more bang for buck than highway 821, which is beautiful although probably a waste of money).

The rest of the state is subsidized by the economy that the urban dwellers make possible and sustain with lives bound to schedules. Get the hell off your high horse, and start commuting before you condemn someone for not living in a residential bunker next to an office park. You may be fortunate enough to be able to eliminate car travel on a daily basis, but there are lots of us who don't enjoy the luxury of living next to the office. Try not to be an asshat as you go about your social engineering.
I am from that "one legislative district" mentioned in one of the posts. I live in Montlake and our neighborhood will be significantly impacted by the A+ option. I am very disturbed by the addition of 2nd Montlake bridge and more lanes added to Montlake Blvd for only a couple of blocks. Even DOT says A+ will not improve the traffic on Montlake BLVD. The lack of creativity with this project amazes me. Small towns in Europe are building underground by passes of their entire cities and another town in Germany is doing an underground tunnel to save a beautiful city from 8 lanes of traffic. And we can go underground a short way to save a neighborhood. Also is it true that the University of Washington asked for $500 million compensation if the K or M option was built because they would lose parking spaces and that cost was added to the cost of the K and M options. Is it also true that no compensation was added to the cost of A+ for the neighborhood impacted in the Montlake, Madison Park and Roanoake areas? If the answer is yes to both questions then the cost figures are all bull anyway
I have a great question why dose Seattle think that my tax money should go to adding a transit connection(to an not even built system! what wrong with buses Bellingham/whatcom county seems to have no issue with them) to the 520 bridge? I'm sorry I but I live in Bellingham, I could care less about Seattle's transit desires, and they have to be kidding about toiling for the "privilege" of driving threw Seattle, they can watch their tourism dollars drop off nice and fast. its bad enough they want the rest of the state to fork over the extra cost of a tunnel as opposed to an elevated replacement for the AWV now this. Seattle can shove it if they think the rest of the state is going to go along with that B.S.

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