Last week WSDOT and the city of Seattle released a draft design report containing the final conceptual design recommendations for improvements to the SR 520 corridor in Seattle. Planned but still unfunded improvements in this west side section of the highway include a new Portage Bay Bridge, the new west approach bridge south, lidded overpasses in the Montlake and Roanoke neighborhoods, and enhanced facilities for bicyclists, pedestrians and transit riders.
Got an idea or opinion to share about the design? We love residents taking an interest – tell us what you think! The official public comment period is open, and will run through Feb. 13. You can review the full final report here (as a 22.5 mb PDF) or find it on our website split into smaller bites (better for the digestion).
We have developed a short survey for people to fill out in response to the report.
If you wish to provide your own free-form comments, you can submit them via e-mail or snail mail:
Mail: SR 520 West Side Project, SR 520 Program Office, 999 Third Ave., Suite 2200, Seattle, WA 98104
Thanks for your participation as we finalize plans and seek funding for the Rest of the West!
The design seems lazy and uninspired. While I enjoy seeing all of the new connections across 520, I don’t see any real benefits for residents in the area nor do I see any ‘place’ being made.
“Noise levels will not be any noticeable louder…” they are already too loud!
I don’t see how this project will be improving the quality of life for any residents near it.
Bob Owen says
I am most upset at the moment by the WSDOT/City of Seattle process for the Portage Bay bridge replacement. We might have had an elegant cable-stayed structure, but the Seattle Design Commission quietly recommended a box girder design. This might be OK if I could trust WSDOT/the legislature to read the fine print and build the Design Commission’s tapered/slender form for a little more money, instead of the WSDOT standard blocky ugly and cheap version we have now.
Starting at page 26. Their cable stayed options are not the best. A few Capital Hill folks are worried about their views.
The box girder examples on pg.30 show an evolution to the Late 2014 w/ the elevated lights-humanizing the scale.
Even I see two towers when I look at pg.30 early 2014, and can see that the overall height for both might drop a bit if split evenly. My complaint is that the early 2014 design on pg.31 has only one tower rather than two, or one big honker on the east end, like this:
http://www.calatrava.com/#/Selected%20works/Architecture/Seville?mode=english or perhaps this:
We do not have the will to hire the best to design a great work of art, and he is not that expensive.
Maybe, WSDOT knows that the east end soils are just not competent, and don’t want to say so. Or maybe they know that they might have to go twice as deep at the east end to find a good bottom and don’t want to. This has been marketed as a “design” solution, and WSDOT and the Design Commission have not really designed much. might drop a bit if split evenly.
The “continuous” boat traffic is important, but the people who are driving this live in Roanoke Park and around Seattle Prep, uphill-worried about their “views”. They don’t want to live next to the grey gate, could paint it silver to help it disappear, or paint it blue and green.
I think what we have is a done deal, and getting even the pg.30 early 2012 design as opposed to the tapers and lights of 2014 will be a struggle. The legislature/WSDOT and City will settle for the lowest cost option and damn the esthetics and daylight and the experience of beauty and lightness of structure and grace.
Lionel Job says
Much better but still short of our rightful expectations.
The Community Review Process has yielded some good results. The involvement by the City has helped create better pedestrian and bicycle access across and on SR 520. WSDOT has done a good job of integrating many ideas.
Fundamentally, though, this refined design of SR 520, now about to be reviewed by the Council, does not resolve the main problems with the SR 520 interchange:
1- Arboretum protection over neighborhood protection:
– more traffic than ever is redirected into a tight interchange as the direct result of the removal of the Arboretum ramps.
– enhancing the quality of pedestrian safety, air, noise and other pollution in the Arboretum was far more important to the city than that of the neighborhood
2- Insufficient integration of transportation systems:
– an enormous highway comes to an abrupt end in Montlake
– there is a poor integration of transit solutions resulting in
a- the disappearance of the bus fly-over stop at Montlake which reduces the transit options to downtown (and their quality)
b- access by Montlakers to the Light Rail Station gets harder
– additional traffic on Montlake arterials and streets
– traffic patterns are still not well understood.
3- Pedestrian and bicycle movement and safety improved for visitors or passerbys but not as much for residents:
– pedestrian safety and convenience of movement on foot for commuting purposes along and across Montlake blvd and pl. does not receive the level of attention and design that park access gets (tunnel and land bridge).
– The land bridge and the tunnel are out of sight, and isolated: this makes them unsafe for kids alone, or for anyone unaccompanied, slower or handicapped. They are great for park access but not as links to the school, the library, the Light Rail station and the UW hospital.
– people of all ages and abilities, kids, older adults will have to cross up to 16 lanes of traffic or busier than ever on and off ramps.
– kids and older people will have to choose between isolated, out of sight tunnels and land bridges located at the edges of the land or facing the interchange traffic.
– the neighborhood is still -more than even- fragmented into isolated islands separated by rivers of cars.
The Community Review Process is not at fault. WSDOT, SDOT, DPD and their consultants worked hard and well to try and improve the design.
The real problem is that the interchange design is underpinned by constraints that the city and the state have not bothered understanding, challenging and revising. These assumptions fall in several categories: property constraints, standards (ADA etc..), design preferences not resolved.
This is largely a political problem, a case of an absence of leadership by the city stretching over decades, and there is a current rush to bring the process to a conclusion without a political will to design a good product that will stand the test of time.
1- Property constraints: the footprint of SR 520 in Montlake is very small. It dictates the configuration. Yet, through the removal of the Arboretum ramps, the City is asking that more capacity be integrated. Neither Kemper Freeman -owner of the land on which the Montlake Market and gas station are located- nor NOAA have been included in looking for a mutually advantageous solution. This doesn’t make sense and should be a prerequisite to creating a better interchange.
2- Standards: WSDOT designers do not see enough space to build the long ramps they think would be needed to allow traffic separation for pedestrians or cyclists and they are concerned that the structures would be high. Other options such as elevators and staircases giving access to simple bridges have not been studied. A west land bridge solution runs into both standards and property constraints issues. This doesn’t make sense. The standards need to be interpreted with more imagination and maybe loosened.
3- Design preferences: while there are 3 pedestrian bridges between the Light Rail station and University Village, somehow, similar bridges south of the cut are deemed unacceptable. This is nonsense. Similarly, any change to the Montlake blvd cannot be seriously discussed because the old trees of the boulevard must be preserved. More nonsense. These trees are old, and the boulevard is a very pale imitation of what a boulevard ought to be anyway. The middle island is unusable by people. It is not sacred.
I firmly believe that the city needs to recognize the basic needs of the neighborhood and clarify its stance on these three constraints.
The SR 520 interchange design is at 5%. Yet if funded, it will be funded at 100% of design. This means that the design main features will be locked and we will end up with a poor imitation of the kind of interchange that is necessary to accommodate our basic needs over its 80 years life span.
For these reasons, as much as I applaud the work done by the design teams over the last years, I cannot support this design. It incorporates good ideas and was refined to its current stage through a much improved community design and review process, but it remains fundamentally flawed. To be made acceptable, the constraints need to be loosened. Only the city council, and the mayor can achieve this.
Eric Schreiber says
I certainly like the updates – the land bridge, the larger and more-open tunnels, lots of pedestrian and bicycle connections. My current biggest concern is still crossing Montlake Blvd / 24th among all the vehicular traffic going every-which-way, but it does seem to be improved.
To those of you who have been more directly involved: are there issues you’ve seen that are particularly negatively impactful to us Montlake residents, and which we should comment about to try to affect additional change?
Eric – Please see Lionel’s detailed comment below in response to your question. Thanks