As Will mentioned a few minutes ago, a group of state legislators have settled on a proposal to replace the 520 bridge between Seattle and Medina (a leaky, crumbly deathtrap to be sure). But the plan, rather than accommodating light rail and neighborhood needs, mostly bulks up the old design: big cloverleaf exits, wider roads, and a second drawbridge over the Montlake Cut.

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The proposal has already racked up enemies in Seattle. Speaker of the House Frank Chopp (D-43) and district-mate Jamie Pedersen cast the two dissenting votes against the plan on the 12 member group. Meanwhile, City Council President Richard Conlin is ready to fight the proposal in the legislature. “If we are talking about something to last 50 to 100 years,” Conlin says, “we should consider making it a worthy investment instead of having people stuck in traffic for that length of time.”

Conlin has long held that the 520-bridge replacement must accommodate transit, such as light rail. But so-called Option A, preferred by Olympia lawmakers, would only provide onramps and exits on the south side of the ship canal, several blocks away from the light rail station planned at Husky Stadium, which is north of the ship canal. Connecting 520 buses to light rail makes sense for obvious reasons, and if McGinn gets his way—he wants light rail across the 520 bridge—connecting 520 light rail to the Husky Stadium would be more important than ever.

CONLIN: What he wants
  • OPTION M: What Conlin wants
Unless the exits are better planned, Conlin warns, “we are just offloading congestion from the freeway onto Seattle streets, and I am very concerned about that.” The Montlake Bridge is already a pinch point for traffic; letting the traffic increase as the population grows for a century “makes it more difficult for people to go from north Seattle to south Seattle."

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Conlin prefers other alternatives—so called Options K, L, and M—that include off ramps and onramps from 520 to the north side of the ship canal. On the right, you can see option M. One challenge with Conlin’s preferred options: a second onramp would add an estimated $1 billion. But that figure comes from the state, which Conlin calls “just guesses.”

At 9:30 a.m. on November 24, representatives of the WSDOT will present the plans to the full council, followed by public comment. “My impression is that they are not going to find very many people happy,” Conlin says. “I don’t think it meets any of the communities’ requests.” He adds that “I am hoping [city council members] will be very engaged as the legislature convenes.”

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