SEATTLE – Building a safer and more reliable six-lane State Route 520 floating bridge and highway will improve travel times and give people better options for crossing Lake Washington, according to analysis released today by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).
The analysis is included in WSDOT’s final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the SR 520 bridge replacement project, which caps off 14 years of thorough design and public review. This environmental milestone brings WSDOT one step closer to launching construction on Lake Washington and replacing the aging and vulnerable floating bridge.
“A stronger bridge is a more reliable bridge, and workers from all over the state already are rebuilding the SR 520 corridor to keep commuters and the economy moving,” Gov. Chris Gregoire said. “Construction is under way on SR 520 in Bellevue, crews are starting pontoon construction in Aberdeen, and replacing the aging floating bridge is next.”
The final EIS analyzes improvements proposed on SR 520 in the I-5 to Medina: Bridge Replacement and HOV Project. WSDOT plans to build two general-purpose lanes and a transit/HOV lane in each direction, a bicycle-pedestrian path, better transit connections and improved interchanges in Seattle. This summer, the Federal Highway Administration is expected to approve the I-5 to Medina project, allowing permitting and final design, and then construction of a new SR 520 floating bridge beginning in 2012.
“Adding dedicated lanes for buses and carpools on SR 520 completes another link in the region’s HOV network and moves more people across Lake Washington in fewer vehicles,” Washington Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond said. “This helps provide more travel options for commuters in the region.”
The final EIS is the culmination of years of environmental and design discussions dating back to 1997, and builds on analysis included in a draft EIS in 2006 and a supplemental draft EIS in 2010. Along the way, WSDOT shared design and environmental information at more than 500 community briefings, fairs and festivals, workshops and meetings, including mediation and several legislative workgroups. In the final EIS, WSDOT responded to more than 2,000 comments submitted from neighborhoods, commuters, the cities of Seattle and Medina, tribes and transit and regulatory agencies.
The report analyzes the six-lane preferred alternative design announced in April 2010 and compares it to other design options and a “No Build” option. The document also analyzes additional design refinements made in consultation with the city of Seattle, Metro Transit and Sound Transit, the University of Washington and leaders of the Washington Park Arboretum.
“WSDOT’s design for SR 520 incorporates the key design elements and commitments the City Council requested, including an urban interchange and expanded lid at Montlake Boulevard,” Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin said. “The new highway will give people better transit choices for crossing the lake, reduce traffic in the Arboretum and leave room for light rail.”
As described in the final EIS, the preferred alternative for SR 520 from I-5 to Medina:
Improves safety and protects the environment
· Replaces the existing vulnerable structures with facilities designed to modern standards that better resist windstorms and earthquakes.
· Improves safety and reliability with wider shoulders, which provide more space for disabled vehicles.
· Has the fewest effects on the environment of the options studied.
· Treats stormwater to remove pollutants that currently flow into Lake Washington and improves conditions for aquatic life.
· Has the fewest park impacts of the options evaluated, and provides a new 4-acre public park on the Ship Canal as well as eight acres of new public open space on highway lids.
· Reduces vehicle miles traveled on SR 520 by 5 percent to 10 percent annually and greenhouse gas emissions in the corridor by nearly 10 percent compared to No Build.
Improves mobility and cross-lake travel
· Completes the transit/HOV system in the corridor so more people travel across the lake in fewer vehicles.
· Improves travel times for drivers, buses and carpools traveling on key regional routes when this project is complete. The final EIS shows:
o Up to 25 minutes faster on SR 520 between I-5 and Redmond.
o Up to 24 minutes faster on I-5 between I-90 and Northeast 45th Street.
o Up to 12 minutes faster on local streets in the Montlake area.
· Adds new commuting options by connecting the Eastside and floating bridge bike/pedestrian path to local and regional trails in Seattle.
Incorporates neighborhood recommendations
· Incorporates larger highway lids that increase open space.
· Improves transit stops and transit stop locations.
· Reduces height of the floating bridge compared to the draft and supplemental draft EIS design.
· Improves the Washington Park Arboretum by removing the Lake Washington Boulevard ramps and “ramps to
nowhere,” reducing traffic on Lake Washington Boulevard, and funding a number of projects in the Arboretum Master Plan.
“Reducing pass-through traffic helps restore the long-term vision we have for the Arboretum as an oasis in the city,” said Paige Miller, Arboretum Foundation executive director. “We’re pleased with the progress we’ve made working closely with WSDOT, including removing the ramps from the Arboretum, designing a narrower highway and identifying mitigation projects to offset effects of the project. We still have more to achieve and look forward to continuing our collaboration.”
WSDOT’s preferred alternative for SR 520 improves bus travel times in the Montlake area and “makes strides toward more efficient local and regional connections at the Montlake triangle for bus riders, future light rail riders, pedestrians and bicyclists,” said Theresa Doherty, University of Washington assistant vice president for regional affairs.
Three design-build teams are competing to build the floating bridge from Medina to the west side of Lake Washington. The contract is estimated between $600 million and $750 million. Teams submitted project construction proposals and bids on June 8 and WSDOT will announce the team with the best combination of bids and construction proposals in July. The goal for replacing the aging SR 520 floating bridge remains December 2014.
The state Legislature capped the SR 520 program at $4.65 billion for improvements from I-5 in Seattle to SR 202 in Redmond. Future toll revenue along with state and federal funds provide about $2.62 billion for the SR 520 improvements and fully fund construction of the new floating bridge. WSDOT will continue working with lawmakers to identify additional funding to complete planned improvements in the corridor.
More information about the SR 520 program is available at www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/sr520bridge.