The state of Washington is slowly (oh so very slowly) building a nice landscaped pedestrian bridge to sit on top of a small segment of the SR 520 scar that cuts through the city. And they'd like to hear your thoughts about how you'll use it—because who wouldn't enjoy a nice stroll above roaring lanes of carcinogenic traffic?
Not to be ungrateful—anything that covers up a freeway is an improvement!—but it's a little hard to imagine this small strip of green, bounded on all sides by wide streets and the racket of automobiles, becoming an enjoyable place to walk the children in nature. But hey, maybe there's something special about it that we're just not seeing! Fortunately, WSDOT is holding an online open house to show off their plans right now, including a survey for community stakeholders (that's you!) so let's dive in.
Okay, so there are three main parts left to the Montlake Project: a new bridge for cars to get to the east side; a landscaped "neighborhood open space" over part of the 520 trench; and a small land bridge to connect the north and west sides of the freeway. (Other nearby projects, like the more westerly Roanoke lid, are being handled separately.)
Of those components, the neighborhood open space seems like a real mystery. It's a big green field, which sure sounds appealing, but it's adjacent to seven (!) lanes of private automotive traffic on Montlake Boulevard, plus more for buses. Would you like to go for a stroll there, with the noise and smell and hazard of cars that close by?
Project designers really have a no-win situation here; the only real solution to the problem is to reduce the presence of cars to the point that they're an infrequent bother, which would of course whip car-owners into a seething froth. So that leaves us with a curious compromise of nice open park space paired with churning traffic sewers.
Perhaps feeling a bit befuddled about how to proceed, the state is seeking public input on how you might want to use that open space. Which is more important to you, "outlooks and views" or "transit stops and connections"? Do you prefer drinking fountains or bicycle guide signs? Will you use the new lid for "walks or rides in my leisure time" or "for relaxing and playing games"? Alas, tearing up the pavement and turning the whole thing into a park does not appear to be an option.
Once this input period is done, construction is scheduled to begin sometime in 2021, and last until 2023. Maybe when all that's done, we'll be ready to talk about calming the streets that surround the area like a game of Frogger.