On Tuesday night, March 1, at the Museum of History and Industry, people from the Seattle neighborhoods around the aging 520 floating bridge--areas like Montlake, Eastlake, and the University District--crammed into the McEachern Auditorium for a "520 Summit." They'd invited city leaders to join them, so they could discuss state plans to replace the bridge, plans that the neighborhood residents think are inadequate.

"None of the plans that [the Washington State Department of Transportation] have come up with work for Montlake, the surrounding communities, the city, or the region," says Montlake Community Council President Ken Schubert. Moreover, Seattle's four members of the 27-member executive committee overseeing the project--City Council Members Richard Conlin and Jean Godden, Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis, and city transportation head Grace Crunican--have been "asleep at the wheel," Schubert says. Their lack of focus on 520--in favor of higher-profile transportation projects like the viaduct or the monorail--means the Eastside and the state has had a stronger voice in the project, resulting in a plan that increases capacity at the expense of Seattle's neighborhoods.

Those city leaders, Shubert says, need to stand up for Seattle, where the bridge causes traffic backups in Montlake that snake north to the University Village shopping center. Neighbors are peeved that the new bridge would cut a 300-foot-wide trench through Montlake, will not alleviate the bottlenecks at Montlake Boulevard, won't hook up with a light-rail station at Husky Stadium, and won't significantly ease traffic crossing the lake, they say. Neighbors want WSDOT to put the brakes on studying their current plans, and would prefer to go back to the drawing board, pronto.

That's where city leaders come in. Neighbors want the city to spend as much energy on the 520 project as they have on other transportation issues, like the viaduct. "We want the city's full participation in the 520 project, which has been the redheaded stepchild of transportation projects," says Montlake Community Council member and 520 activist Jonathan Dubman.


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