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Pedestrian, biking bridge slated for Overlake neighborhood
The 1,500-foot-long bridge will begin south of the Northeast 40th Street interchange with State Route 520 and cross over 156th Avenue Northeast to connect the west side of the Microsoft campus with the company’s east campus. The bridge will also connect with the SR-520 trail located on the west side of the highway, as well as the Overlake Transit Center (OTC).
Jim Stanton, Microsoft’s senior community affairs manager for real estate, said the earliest conversations about the bridge took place in 2005 when the company began developing plans for its west campus, which is 1.3 million square feet of office and other work space.
At the same time, conversations were just starting for Sound Transit’s East Link light rail extension, which will run from Seattle’s International District, across Interstate 90, through Mercer Island and Bellevue and end at the OTC. Plans to extend the line through downtown Redmond are not yet funded.
Stanton said they have been talking with Sound Transit about a possible walking/biking bridge for several years, but actual negotiations did not begin until about two years ago. Through these negotiations, Microsoft and Sound Transit came to a funding agreement that had the tech company contributing $33.3 million to the project. This would pay for the bridge as well as various improvements at the OTC that are beyond the basic scope of adding a light rail stop to the center. These improvements included things such as an expanded bus loop and increased weather protection.
Construction is set to begin in just a couple of years.
“We are expecting the bulk of that construction to occur between 2016 and 2019,” said Don Billen, East Link deputy project director for Sound Transit.
He said while light rail is not expected to be operating until 2023, the bridge is planned to be complete in early 2020.
“It will provide benefits to bus riders in advance (of light rail),” he said.
Once construction on the project is complete, the City of Redmond will take ownership of the bridge and maintain it.
Joel Pfundt, a principal planner for Redmond, said the bridge will be open to the public and with the city developing Overlake into an urban center, the bridge will help connect the neighborhood. He said the new bridge will make it easier to get around on foot and bicycle and it allows a more direct and comfortable transition between Microsoft’s two campuses. Another benefit of the project is that it will separate bicycle and pedestrian traffic from vehicle traffic, reducing conflicts and improving safety.
“It really is a win for everyone,” Pfundt said, adding that the City of Redmond has been working with Sound Transit to develop a similar bridge for the upcoming Overlake Village station.
As of right now, the proposed walking/biking steel bridge will be 14 feet wide. It will be lit and covered so users will be protected from the weather. In addition, Billen said bicycle ramps will be installed so cyclists can just ride on or off the bridge without having to carry bikes up or down stairs or take an elevator.
Billen said Sound Transit held an open house for East Link, which included the plans for the bridge, at the end of last year and they have received positive responses to the idea of a walking bridge. There will be more opportunities for public input coming up regarding the bridge’s design, though dates have not been set.