Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn cited the threat of a lawsuit over the 520 bridge in a letter sent today to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Yesterday, the software company—which is based in Redmond and has scads of employees who live in Seattle, commuting across the 520 bridge—took out a full-page ad in the Seattle Times to demand that the 520 bridge construction proceed immediately. But McGinn says the existing plan "will delay replacement given its divisiveness, likelihood for a lawsuit, and failure to address the reality of climate change."

The letter, in which McGinn proposes A TOWN HALL, is after the jump.

Steve Ballmer
CEO Microsoft Corporation


The current 520 bridge is unsafe and its congestion is a serious regional problem. I believe the thousands of Microsoft employees who spend far too much time away from their families stalled on that bridge deserve better.

The proposed A+ 520 bridge replacement plan will delay replacement given its divisiveness, likelihood for a lawsuit, and failure to address the reality of climate change.

The Coalition for a Sustainable 520, House Speaker Frank Chopp (D-43), Senator Ed Murray (D-43), Representative Jamie Pedersen (D-43), Seattle Councilmembers Nick Licata and Mike O’Brien, the Sierra Club, the Cascade Bicycle Club and I support a 520 bridge replacement that maintains its current auto-
capacity and features light rail from the start. We are encouraged by a recent poll showing that 69 percent of those living in affected Seattle neighborhoods and 71 percent of those living in affected Eastside neighborhoods support light rail across the 520 bridge.

Bill Gates demonstrated tremendous leadership in addressing climate change during his speech at the recent TED Conference:

“Until we get near to zero [carbon emissions] the temperature will continue to rise. That’s a big challenge. It’s very different from saying we’re a 12-foot high truck trying to get under a 10-foot bridge and we can sort of just squeeze under. This is something that has to get to zero… We have to go from rapidly rising, to falling and falling all the way to zero.”

I appreciate your efforts to inform Microsoft employees of this issue and encouraging them to participate in the discussion over how to build the best replacement of the 520 bridge. In that spirit, I would ask that you share my response below with your employees as well. I would also welcome the opportunity to discuss this important project in a town hall with you and fellow Microsoft employees on your campus in Redmond.


Mayor Mike McGinn

I think McGinn's hope for light rail from the outset is propbably unrealistic, given the economy and other transit investments that were paying for and planning for (Sound Transit 2 and McGinn's proposal for a line to West Seattle and Ballard). But the current bridge design, which lacks dedicated transit lanes, and the A+ option approved by state lawmakers for the Montlake neighborhood is a huge mistake. However, McGinn may have hit the real issue: The Coalition for a Sustainable 520—a group of wealthy neighborhood groups—has amassed "a war chest" for a legal fight. Building a bridge sooner could require appeasing these people.