Eastside community members, political leaders and residents joined together at Bellevue City Hall on Wednesday to review the latest progress of the State Route 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Project.
The open house gave the public a chance to view the current progress of the four key components associated with the project including: the proposed toll on the existing bridge, the pontoon construction, the design of the east side corridor and the proposed alternative plans for the west side corridor.
The SR 520 floating bridge stretches across Lake Washington, connecting commuters between Redmond and Seattle. The four-lane bridge was first built in 1960 and over the years has slowly begun to deteriorate, becoming vulnerable to earthquakes, strong winds and damaging waves.
For nearly two decades, ongoing debates surrounding the replacement of the floating bridge have resulted in little action — until now. A tremendous amount of progress has been made over the past two years and the momentum continues to build.
According to Julie Meredith, the project’s program director, the recent work done by the Legislature and the Govenor has allowed the project to move forward and helped to get the ball rolling. This includes Gov. Christine Gregoire’s decision in 2006 to incorporate a 4-plus-2 lane configuration for the new corridor. Most recently, Gregoire announced an accelerated project schedule, moving the completion date of the six-lane corridor to 2016.
For a program like this and of this nature, it takes a lot of partners to dream, to envision, and then to implement, explained Meredith. She went on to thank many of the Eastside Mayors, including Redmond mayor John Marchione, for their support along with Representative Ross Hunter who was in attendance at the open house.
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and project partners were on hand to address the current status of the project’s key points. This included the mediation process currently overseeing the design proposals for the west side of Lake Washington, including the three alternative plans that were chosen last week.
The mediation process was designed to make timely decisions to help move the project along and to identify the appropriate interchange design, community enhancements, and mitigation for the west side of the corridor.
The three alternative plans feature different key elements involving the SR 520 Evergreen-Montlake Bridge. The plans are still under review and according to Larry Kyle, a 520 project team member, they have not gone through a detailed analysis to determine which alternative is more efficient. However, narrowing it down to three options is a step in the right direction. Next the mediation group will develop a Project Impact Plan to be presented to the Governor and Legislature by the end of the 2008 year. Once a west side corridor design plan is chosen, the project will progress to environmental review and engineering plans.
Additionally, the WSDOT displayed the improved design mapped out for the east side of the corridor, stretching from Lake Washington to 108th Avenue Northeast in Bellevue. The improved east side corridor will include transit improvements, new bicycle and pedestrian paths, and noise walls. Construction on the east side of the corridor is on schedule to begin in 2010, with the complete six-lane configuration to reach completion in 2016.
Project partners from Sound Transit, King County Metro, SR 520 Tolling Implementation Committee were all present at the open house. Representatives of the Lake Washington Urban Partnership responsible for the launch of the environmental proposal to toll the existing SR 520 floating bridge were also on hand to answer questions. During the 2008 legislature session, two tolling bills were passed, and in March Gregoire signed them into law. A toll rate has not yet been established.
The open house also gave the public an inside look at the Pontoon Construction Project currently in the environmental review process. The project’s draft Environmental Impact Statement will be completed early next year. The project hopes to begin pontoon construction at the existing facility in Tacoma until the new pontoon facility will begin the construction phase in 2010.
“We have a ways to go,” Meredith explained after giving an overview of the progress made. “But we’ve come a long, long way since the project started.”
For more information on the SR 520 Replacement and HOV Project visit wsdot.wa.gov/projects/SR520Bridge or call 1-888-520-6397.
Lindsay Larin can be reached at HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org” email@example.com or at 435-453-4602.